I’ve been watching a lot of stand-up comedy specials lately. I don’t think this needs a lengthy explanation as to why, suffice to say that binge-watching Netflix and laughing is a winning combination.
With a huge degree of variance in comedic styles, there are a few things I’ve noticed across all accomplished comedians from a communications perspective, no matter their material or comedic slant.
Firstly, they are excellent storytellers. There is always a clear beginning, a middle and an end. They take you on the journey of their tales - the highs, the lows, the weird and the wonderful. They demonstrate the emotions they want you feel, captivating their audiences throughout the entirety of the story.
Secondly, when they appear on stage, they demonstrate an elite level of self-awareness. As professional observers and entertainers, they have the ability to pin-point, scrutinise and poke fun at their own eccentricities and flaws. Utilising their gifts of analysing human existence as well as mastering knowledge regarding their primary material base, such as politics, comedians are commonly known for having both high IQs and EQs (emotional quotient / intelligence).
Thirdly, they are the masters of ‘closing the loop’. They open with an initial topic or story, make references throughout their performance and at the very end, they cleverly close off the initial story, to end the show and, usually, deliver comedic gold in the process.
So, what lesson is this for marketers and the brands they represent?
1. Telling the story matters
If you want to engage your audiences, you need to take them on the journey. This refers to your product or service as well as your brand. Don’t give them the final paragraph of the story, then expect them to immediately purchase or to engage your services.
Your audiences and customers want to understand and know the context, the background and why your product or service may appeal to them. They don’t just want a parade of characters and places, then the ending. They want the details about who you are, what you’re about and why you do the things you do.
The unfolding of the story cannot be experienced by your audiences through just one social media post or eDM and you, as a marketer, can only build and demonstrate this story over time.
2. Understand and stay true to your brand personality
Consistently demonstrate what your brand is about. Behind the creation of every successful brand there is a story, which is built over time through communications, products, operations, design, innovation, creativity and more. A brand is the sum of many parts, so dig deep to understand the brand story and how that drives your decisions.
Remember that your brand doesn’t just sit within ‘the marketing department’, it spans all levels and facets of your organisation and there are specific reasons why your loyal customers connect with it.
Understanding your brand and the brand archetype and making business decisions based on this, is a lot like exercising emotional intelligence. When you are faced with a difficult situation on a personal level, what are your guiding principles to help you navigate it? With your deep inner knowledge of self, how do you respond to criticism, to falling short of your goals or to making a mistake? Do you make light of the situation, do you have a heart-to-heart with a trusted friend, or do you carry yourself with pride and perhaps not admit a mistake at all?
It’s the same with your brand. That’s why playful brands like Oreo and Smirnoff can get away with some super cheeky social media responses and advertising campaigns. You will find that numerous FMCG brands, particularly in the junk food space, fall under The Jester brand archetype. If you’re not familiar with archetypes, The Jester brand archetype, is all about fun and being irresponsible and self-indulgent. On the flipside, there is an archetype called The Sage, which encompasses brands such as Google, the BBC and the University of Oxford. As the name suggests, The Sage, is the seeker of truth, knowledge and wisdom and aims to share this understanding with others.
Considering these brands and their archetypes, a specific situation could be that as a consumer, you wouldn’t want Google to issue a press-release making light of a system crash or a data breach, but if Oreo were to make a joke on social media about ‘falling apart’, it could be hilarious.
Prominent comedians are great at staying on brand with both their content and their delivery. Jerry Seinfeld started stand up back in 1976 and over 40 years later, his material has evolved but he still delivers the observational, deadpan humour he is so known and loved for. I find this so fascinating because he was quite young when he started out (so presumably he would have changed a lot over that time), and he came from nothing. Despite being in a position now where he could likely get away with a lot more due to his fame, he still doesn’t use excessive profanity or vulgar jokes in his repertoire like many other comedians – he knows who he is and stays true to that.
There is a profound takeaway in this – brands will evolve over time, but the core essence of your brand should remain the same.
3. Close the loop for your customers
The third lesson for marketers is closing the loop. Don’t leave your customers hanging!
Whether it’s an event, a point of sale interaction, your office environment, your website or product packaging, these are all brand cues and they are opportunities to communicate what you are about to your customers and stakeholders.
Don’t expect your customers to connect the dots – that’s your job. It may be operational, it may be customer service, it may be communications or a whole myriad of items tied to customer experience, but customers want you to close the loop for them, not to put together the complex jigsaw puzzle that is your organisation or brand.
Make the story clear from beginning to end. Throughout everything you do, provide context and make it easy for people to understand, to purchase and to connect with your business or product.
Close the loop and deliver that gold for your customers.
Oh, and by the way, in case you are interested in some stand-up comedian recommendations, based on my recent ‘research’, here are a few of my favourites: James Acaster, Chelsea Peretti (you may have seen her in the hilarious police sitcom, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Trevor Noah and Ellen DeGeneres. Happy binge-watching!
Louise Donellan is Senior Marketing Executive at Two Crowns Marketing Communications. A high-level consumer of Netflix content, Louise particularly enjoys stand-up comedy specials and is in no way, shape or form in a promotional agreement with Netflix (she just likes to find ways to justify her binge watching).