It’s a gloomy Friday with sad news coming out of Japan and tsunami warnings in many countries including our own.  With all due respect to the news of the world, I am turning to a little humor for today to help put myself in a lighter mood.  Humor is a great marketing technique used in a lot of B2C advertising (my favorite recent example is the Toyota Superbowl ad “The Force”).  The B2B world has shown humorous videos can work, as well.

Back in 2005, a virtual unknown B2B firm called Live Vault took a chance and did a viral video called The Institute for Backup Trauma, starring John Cleese.  Of course it was an instant success – it had John Cleese in it!  And it was really well done – even though it is really long at almost 7 minutes, it keeps you hanging in there.  Within a few short weeks of launching, it had generated 150,000 hits, more than 200 linking sites and increased their web traffic ten-fold.

IBM did a great viral video called “Mainframe: The Art of the Sale, Part One” that generated over 270,000 hits and increased blog traffic 25 times.  Although this is a B2C example, my friends at Shadenfreude did some nice work for the Cubs and the Blackhawks in Chi-town to drive ticket traffic.

Okay, so now you’ve had some laughs looking at the fun videos – here’s the advice for the day.  First, even if a humorous viral video is completely outside of your current brand identity, you can still experiment with it through social networks.  Keep it separate from all your formal marketing and branding and just put it out there to see if it goes anywhere.  Second, just posting it on YouTube isn’t going to help – just like any asset you need to market it.  If you truly want it to be viral, get your employees, friends, family sending it out over all their social networks to see if it takes off.  And third, make sure you have a call-to-action in the end.  If people just have some fun laughs and walk away, you haven’t really spent your money well.  I remember my advertising professor in undergrad telling me the guy who made the famous Barbie – GI Joe commercial got fired because everyone knew the commercial but no one knew what it was for.  Advertising principals still hold here.

Have fun marketing!

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