Is There a Place for Humor in Marketing (Part 2)?

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Examples of Humorous Marketing Wins and Failures

Humor in Marketing

In our last post, we talked about whether there is a place for humor in marketing (we think there is, if done right). Now, let’s take a look at some examples of humorous marketing wins and one very big failure.

Humor in marketing win: Kmart’s “I ship my pants” campaign

The strategy: Word play is a smart strategy when you want to inject some humor into your marketing campaigns. Kmart uses phrases like “you can ship your pants” and “I just shipped my bed” throughout this television spot (when you hear the phrases spoken out loud, you’ll get the joke).

Why it works: It’s bold and unexpected for what many might consider a “family” type store. It’s silly and fun, even as it straddles the border of Offensive Land (and, yes, it’s received its share of complaints – see the second point we made in our first post about humor in marketing).

Humor in marketing win: Arlen’s Transmission Center
We wanted to share an example of a small business doing something fun (and a little risky) with marketing, and this “Shift It” ad for Arlen’s Transmission fits the bill. This spot went viral back in the spring.

The strategy: Trot out popular clichés when it comes to cars (e.g. pretty women) and re-invent them by creating a sassy commercial that makes sure the viewer knows that the business is aware of the clichés, but is going to have a little fun with them anyway. It’s important to note that the owner of the company moonlights as a singer—and is known in his local community for this.

Why it works: There’s something about the homemade, amateurishness of the commercial that makes it incredibly watchable and memorable. The creative team behind the commercial took one of the owner’s songs and re-wrote it using lyrics about cars and transmissions. Again, this context is important (and will likely be understood and better received on the local level). Note: click here if you’re interested in the creative team’s background and how they came to create this spot.

Humor in marketing win: The J. Peterman Company
The J. Peterman Company is known for its clever and amusing marketing copy, as evidenced by the product description below for its Toile Print Dress, which it labels “French Remedy for Stuffyness.”

j peterman copy

The strategy: Create fun, witty narratives instead of boring, no-frills product descriptions.

Why it works: It turns expectations upside down. When you read about products, you expect the basics, like size and color. With J. Peterman, you get an experience, and the product “stories” force you (albeit in a subtle way) to linger longer on the product page. That’s brilliant marketing.

Humor in marketing fail: Mountain Dew
The original commercial has been pulled from YouTube, so we’re embedding a clip from a news program that shows some of the commercial’s incendiary content and discusses the outrage that ensued.

The strategy: There’s pushing the envelope, and then there’s pushing the envelope so far over the edge that there’s no turning back. Guess which strategy PepsiCo used for this commercial?

Why it doesn’t work: Are jokes about rape ever funny? That’s clearly not a debate you want people to have over your soda commercial.

Do you have other examples of marketing failures? What about some favorite funny campaigns? We want to hear them! Share in the comments.

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