Is marketing a laughing matter?

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Marketing is no laughing matter. Or so many marketing experts would have you believe.

Armed with complex charts and spreadsheets, newly minted buzzwords and clever acronyms they will build a convincing case in sombre terms that marketing is something akin to science.

Put in the right inputs and out pops a sale.

And there is some truth to this. Campaign targeting matters. Conversion rate optimisation is important. ROI is something it would be foolish not to measure.

But having a singular focus on the data can obscure some fundamental truths about what cuts through the noise and captures imaginations.

Because if you are in the business of building a brand you want to inspire your prospective customers to seek you out specifically instead of searching generally for what you do.

You want your existing customers to keep coming back to you, not look to your competitors.

You want to be remembered.

Beautiful design, clever wordplay and – yes – humour can help achieve this.

A recent Pew Research Poll in the United States found that viewers of comedy news programmes, like the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, remembered much more about current events than those who got their news fix from only newspapers or the television news.

And in another study it was found by researchers that people who watched an amusing video clip just before taking a brief short-term memory test recalled twice as much information as those who did not.

In marketing this intuitively makes sense.

Ads that raise a smile are much more likely to be remembered – whether it is Peter Kay inadvertently confessing to a crush on “Claire from work” for John Smiths, or KFC playfully rearranging its name into FCK when they famously ran out of chicken in 2018.

Humour is just one way that brands can form an emotional connection with customers.

Some brands tug on our heart strings, others aim for happiness, others again use fear or even anger. All are using creativity to evoke a response that leads to an action.

The numbers may not lie – but they can also hide the truth.

A version of this article was published as part of a weekly column by Guy Cookson on marketing, design, trends and strategy in the Lancaster Guardian, Blackpool Gazette and Lancashire Post. See our brand, web design and marketing recent projects.
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