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Marketing messages bombard us from all directions: watching the Sunday night football game, during the local news broadcast, billboards on the side of the road, or the ads in your Facebook news feed! So just how many ads are we exposed to each day? Researchers and marketing experts do not have a definitive answer but estimate the number to be upward towards 3,000. Only a handful get through and manage to rise above the visual “noise” to leave a lasting impression. So what is it about these messages that break through our consciousness and make a real connection?
It’s pretty funny…
Turns out, the answer isn’t all that surprising. According to a 2013 Forbes Insights report, 67% of consumers said that funny wins out when it comes to ads they remember. While we all don’t share the same sense of humor, there are a number of brands out there that have successfully melded humor into their message in such a way that we can’t possibly ignore what they have to say.
“Humor has virtually no media limits,” says Phil Saifer, President of Vertical Marketing Network, a top 100 integrated marketing agency. “Whether humor is incorporated in traditional media from out-of-home to broadcast, or through electronic media touch points, or even with the physicality of the brand with the product itself, when done right it can help fly under the consumer’s natural radar and deliver and important brand message.”
Breaking through boundaries with billboards
The first “Eat Mor Chikin” billboard, complete with live-size model cows, debuted in 1995. Since then, the cows’ self-serving message (after all, if you eat chicken, you’re not eating them) has reached millions. Why has this campaign been so successful? It’s surprising, entertaining, easily identifiable with a specific brand, and it keeps delivering: over the years, consumers have come to expect and look forward to seeing the latest clever billboard.
In fact, both Chick-fil-A and the Richards Group, the Dallas-based advertising agency that came up with the concept, credit the campaign with helping spur the growth for both companies.
Wayne Hassler, a 27-year food industry veteran who operates two Dallas-area Chick-fil-A outlets, says he saw a sales jump of at least 10 percent when the cows appeared.
Today, the cow is “truly a celebrity and our customers react that way,” he says.
From the moment the billboards went up in Atlanta and Dallas, “we were getting comment from all over town,” according to agency president Stan Richards. “We saw an immediate response from consumers and potential clients,” says Richards.
A company doesn’t have to have laugh-out-loud humor to connect with consumers. Sometimes it’s simply about not taking themselves too seriously. You’ve probably stopped in your tracks when you noticed the custom paint jobs on Alaska Airlines planes. These paint jobs are truly spectacular! The airliner’s fleet of 737s are adorned with images as diverse as a giant salmon to Genie from the Disney movie “Aladdin” to a Q400 with San Diego State University on the side.
While Alaska doesn’t have data available specific to whether the custom paint jobs on their planes directly leads to more customers, the company acknowledges that one of outcomes is that they are known as “the planes with the cool paint jobs.”
Using humor to break through internet clutter
One of the most groan-inducing aspects of the web is when you click on a link to a news story (or the latest cute-kitten video) but a pre-roll ad pops up, that 15 to 30 second advertisement you are forced to sit through before you can watch what you want. Pre-roll ads may actively annoy Internet users, adding to the challenge of making a real connection. But here is where doing specific pre-roll communications, versus a rehash of the TV spot, can work its charm. And if that pre-roll video involves humor, the brand has a real shot at higher engagement and click-through rates as well.
Burger King has developed a series of pre-roll ads that admit that, yes, pre roll ads are annoying. Each spot features a couple of guys making fun of pre-roll ads. The actors groan in sympathy about the viewer to watch yet another pre-roll ad. There are sixty four highly customized and universally hilarious spots that show of the burger chain’s sense of humor.
Impossible to ignore
According to a 2013 study by International Journal of Advanced Research in Management and Social Sciences 75% of the respondents said that the humor appeal used in ads increased the likelihood they would purchase that item. 62% even admitted that they have purchased a product just because they liked the commercial. According to International Business Times, funny ads are “more appealing and more memorable than their unfunny counterparts.”
“Humor, when executed properly, helps cut through the noise and helps you stand out,” notes Tim Washer, a senior social media and marketing manager for Cisco Systems. “If you can make someone laugh, there is an emotional connection with them. And anything you say beyond that is going to be more meaningful.”
The most important challenge for advertisers isn’t merely to attract attention but to hold attention and focus it. However humorous an ad may be, ultimately messages must have substance. Consumers need to know what is great about a product, not just that their advertising team is clever. Humor should be used as a supplement — not a replacement — to create the most effective ads.
So thinking back, what are the ads that you remember most? Was it the humor that made them stand out for you or something else? Do you think they were effective? Enlighten us with your stories in the comment section below.
Brought to you by Vertical Marketing Network, a Leading Integrated Marketing Agency.
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