August 31, 2018
Learn from stand-up comedy to punch up your brand communications
By Artur Akhmetzyanov, Commercial Director
Recently, I did my first solo stand-up comedy show. I worried more not about forgetting the material, but my ability to hold the audience attention for an hour. Once you lose them, it’s tough to get them back. Don’t ask me how much painful empirical research went into this statement.
If you work in marketing & communications, you are in the business of attention. You get attention, you get business. Simple success formula. Comedy is a great way for companies to grab and hold attention while communicating specific brand messages.
As many artists, comics seek attention because they crave deep meaningful connections with other people. As a brand, you want their attention because you want them to listen and hear. Humour humanizes brands and lets them emotionally connect with their customers, makes communications more personal, and creates trust and engagement.
Know your audience and keep it relevant. Comics enter the venue and try to read the room in terms of the demographics and mood and adjust their sets accordingly on stage if they feel they are ‘bombing’. Companies know their customers better than anyone so you should naturally feel what type of comedy to do and where the boundaries are. ‘Write what you know’ rule applies here as well. Keep your humour on point and on brand.
People come to watch comedians not because they like their jokes. They like them. They like their unique point of view and comic perspective. Comedy can help to make your brand unique and differentiate it from the ocean of other companies. You want brand awareness, you want to be on top of their mind, you want to win their hearts. Be funny. Be different.
Companies are obsessed with their products, technology, and the accompanying incomprehensible jargon that poor customers fight to understand. Comedy is simple: if they don’t understand the premise of a joke, they won’t laugh at the punchline. Comedy writing pushes brands to clarify and sharpen their messages. Make them easy to digest and share. Write like you talk. KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Comedy is fun to create. There is a high chance that you joined the marketing & communications industry because you wanted something creative and fun in your life. Creating comedy content can let your dreams come true. Brainstorm crazy ideas, experiment with form and substance, test & learn.
That’s how stand-up comics craft their material hitting the open mics where they fail night after night, testing different versions of the same joke and trying various words, delivery, and emotions in attempts to nail it. It’s hard work but there are no shortcuts. Stage time is the only way to grow and become a better comic.
Always seek feedback. It’s much easier with the brutal art form like stand-up where you are being judged every 20 seconds and receive immediate audience response in the form of encouraging laughter or awkward silence. Similarly, companies have to listen carefully to the audience reaction for their comedy efforts and adjust accordingly. Ideally, you’ll refine as you go and find your unique comedy voice and strike a tricky balance between being funny and professional.
Talking about balance, you have to accept the fact there is always a victim in every joke. Every joke offends someone. If there are no stakes involved, there is no tension to be released in the form of laughter. Stand-up comics can get away with a lot of controversial, edgy subjects but brands have to be very cautious to make fun of sensitive topics like politics, war, religion, death, racism, sex, critical illnesses. George Carlin said, “I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately." For businesses, this could be the bottom line so watch out.
Timing is everything. This mantra works well for both comedy and brand communications. A joke can be funny but it won’t get big laughs if the delivery is wrong. Similarly, you might have created great branded comedy content but releasing these funny videos the day after a huge PR crisis or management changes is probably not a good idea. Consider the bigger picture and context and time your campaign or content release properly to maximize the impact and avoid fiasco.
To sum up, comedy is a powerful communication tool to get attention, engagement and trust but be cautious to avoid an embarrassing flop and alienate your audience. Start small, experiment and grow organically. Every overnight success takes long time. It’s true for stand-up comedy, it’s true for brand marketing & communications.
As a Commercial Director at Click2View, Artur is responsible for driving company's business and increasing its revenue, identifying and developing new business opportunities and partnerships, as well as building and expanding the presence of the company. He's also Singapore's only Russian stand-up comedian. One day you'll see him on Netflix. At least he thinks so. You can check his upcoming shows at his site here..