Marketing to CEOs: Harness the Power of Humor
Well, marketing is no joke—any marketer can attest to that. It involves sophisticated processes and techniques to share the right message and capture your target audience. Plus, you have to measure the success of every campaign to determine the return on investment (ROI).
Still, that doesn’t mean it has to be all serious. Craig Conard, Sudden Impact Marketing’s president, believes humor can be a great tool in marketing, particularly when marketing to CEOs. Here, he helps us understand the impact and implications of humor in marketing.
Why is humor avoided when marketing "serious" products and services?
Conard: We tend to assume that C-level executives are very serious and have no time for nonsense. Well, we can leverage a no-nonsense approach to woo them with humor.
It sounds like an oxymoron.
Conard: You can spend about 15 hours getting a C-level executive on the phone. Even so, this 1:1 approach might not be successful. In this case, you can use humor to get through to them, catch their attention, and deliver a value proposition.
Why humor instead of a white paper or executive roundtable invitation?
Conard: C-levels get lots of boring marketing communication every week. So, humor is a great way to catch their attention, given that few people joke around them. If you make a C-level executive laugh, they might end up liking your company. Be sure to serve the humor creatively while not wasting their time or sounding silly.
How can a marketer get started using humor?
Conard: As noted before, C-levels get lots of marketing communications, so you want to strive to get through the clutter to earn their attention. They’re likely to look at your message if it’s extraordinary. Ensure the message doesn’t focus on your product or service. Instead, it should highlight a potential problem they have and how they can address it using your product. Ideally, the message should cover the things they talk about with other C-levels—in a humorous way.
It reminds me of the joke, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"
Conard: Exactly. Marketing is all about practicing and preparing. Whenever I come across content that covers the profiling of IT executives, I share it with the account people. Reading such content allows us to understand our target audience better.
The focus is not just targeting C-levels, but finding out what they care about. You must determine whether they’re the decision-makers on matters concerning your solution or product. If not, then they might not be the ideal audience for you.
Just because you are targeting C-levels, it doesn’t mean you’ll close a sale quickly. This might be true for smaller companies, but it doesn’t apply to large companies. The most important thing is to share something that C-levels care about or are eager to know.
Can you share an example of a humorous campaign?
Conard: Sure. When I say humorous, I don’t mean "side-splitting comedy." Instead, it should be something that covers a topic with a bit of irony. In one example, we created characters representing our target audience and their business challenges. We even humanized those challenges to create supervillains who were responsible for slowing down business workflows.
This was a fun experience as we created graphic novels, interactive games, and even an action figure. Yet, beneath the fun, we shared valuable and insightful content. We just used humor to cut through the clutter while sharing hard-hitting information. Interestingly, this campaign got a 12% response rate, and we earned $1.7 million in revenues within six months.
How do you tell your marketing or sales team that you're planning to use humor to grow your numbers?
Conard: First, expect to get heckled—some internal clients might say that your plan sounds ridiculous. Still, share your idea with them regardless of their response. Don’t be surprised when all will be supporting you when the campaign gets 8% to 10% or better response rates.
Can you share an example of humor that works and one that doesn't work?
Conard: First, one should avoid crude humor or stereotyping content—this can push away your target audience. Instead, good humor should make fun of a challenge that your audience can relate with. This shows you understand the problems they experience.
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