29 July 2019
Funny business: what brands can learn from stand-up comedy /
Matt Box, a senior strategist at George P Johnson Experience Marketing, offers some tips on advertising that he's picked up from the comedy circuit
'They laughed when I said I was going to be a comedian ... Well they're not laughing now.' - Bob Monkhouse
I’ve worked in brand strategy at various agencies for just over seven years, but in the last seven months I’ve started writing and performing stand-up comedy. That means half of my time is spent trudging between various venues, trying to get a reaction out of people, often while being shouted at by drunks…and the other half is spent doing stand up.
And that’s just one of the many lessons that brands can take from comedians in their battle to gain attention, communicate effectively and provoke an action from their audience. As David Ogilvy said ‘the best ideas come as jokes.’ So I’ve pulled together the jokes of 3 comedians and the lessons that can be learnt from them, for brands.
1. Own the Prejudice
The first joke is from the conveniently named Jo Brand. An expert in controlling an audience from her opening line. Jo would open her sets with the following.
'I’ll move the mic stand, so you can see me' – Jo Brand
A better fat joke than any heckler would be able to manage and it’s something I call owning the prejudice. Taking a negative audience perception and giving the power back to the speaker. Something that can be incredibly effective for businesses as well.
For example, US retail store RadioShack knew it was considered to be stuck in the past. The brand acknowledged this with its 2014 Super Bowl ad, ‘The 80’s called, they want their store back’. It was widely reported to have ‘won the Super Bowl’ and delivered an overnight 7% bump in share price, overturning decades of decline. All from calling out a weakness and embracing a bit of self-deprecation.