Response: The Audience of Your Audience

That funny video you just made will only work if people want to share it.

As noted by Cassie Boorn in her article about four trends affecting PR departments, “every brand wants a viral video or social media campaign that drives major buzz, but few brands realize what it takes.” The main problem is that the company makes the video for different reasons than the viewer shares it

Let’s say I’m Newcastle Brown Ale and I make a video with Anna Kendrick with her talking about how she was supposed to be in a Super Bowl ad but there was no Super Bowl ad. (See my previous blog post regarding that campaign for more.) If people don’t think it’s worth sharing, my video won’t get beyond that viewer. In order to “go viral,” my video has to meet the needs of my company in telling some sort of worthwhile message, as well as the needs of the viewer in their role as a content creator on social media. Regardless of the fact that they had nothing to do with the video, the likes, shares, and comments associated with their post affect their personal brand just as much as it does my company’s brand. In this case, the video works because the video’s 3,000,000+ views in just a few days mean people want to share it.

So when Boorn writes that her fourth problem affecting PR departments is that the success of a brand is in the hands of the consumer, what I think really needs to be learned is that those viral videos and ads need to meet several different needs. I see plenty of videos that I like that I don’t want to share. That’s partially due to the fact that I don’t want to necessarily be known as the guy who directs you all over the internet and spams your feeds with links, but that also ties into the other part of it, which is that the videos I don’t share don’t meet my needs as a content creator.

In order to be shared, that funny viral video needs three things. First, the viewer has to find it funny. Second, the viewer has to think that his or her followers will also find it funny. Finally, the viewer has to find it appropriate for his or her followers.

Currently flooding my feeds is this bizarre Australian PSA (which could also be fake) about staying in school where out of nowhere, people get blown up. I guess I can see the humor in it, but whoever wants me to share it, whether it be an Australian public agency or some hit-hungry YouTube account, didn’t take into the account that I don’t really want to share a video of people getting blown up because I don’t find that appropriate for Facebook.

In an age where each one of us on social media is a consumer and a producer, it’s crucial for PR pros looking to go the humorous route to take into account the audience of their audience. The success of their campaign depends on it.



Newcastle Brown Ale Doesn’t Need A Super Bowl Ad

This Newcastle non-ad campaign is out to prove that you don’t need to spend Super Bowl commercial money to make a splash. It’s all centered on the “Mega Huge Football Game Ad Newcastle Didn’t Actually Make.” (They refer to it slightly different each time.) For the past week, Newcastle has been releasing short videos about an ad they didn’t make because they “don’t have a ridiculously large marketing budget” or something like that. Although the videos seem confusing, especially out of context with each other, by taking a step back, I think it’s pretty obvious they’re just going for brand recognition here. And it’s working!

I first came across this campaign a few days ago when several of my friends posted the Anna Kendrick video on Facebook. I think it’s fair to say that these friends who posted the video were not likely to be Newcastle drinkers. Landing somewhere between your average national domestic and a lower end micro brew, Newcastle Brown Ale doesn’t really strike me as something most 20- or 30-somethings would be into. It’s not a bargain beer and it’s not a craft beer that we’re all so into these days.

The great thing about this campaign is that it got people outside of their current market share talking about their product. Even Kendrick admits in the ad, which hardly talks about the beer itself, that she doesn’t drink Newcastle. By releasing a similar video with formal NFL player Keyshawn Johnson, both the Pitch Perfect audience and the nostalgic football fan audience are talking about Newcastle Brown Ale! The Kendrick video is by far the most successful video with over 3,000,000 views, and it seems to be spreading quickly through new audiences.

The masterpiece, though, to me, is the video they released today. This narrated storyboard is complete with “everything a good commercial should have.” Sex appeal, aliens, superstars, robots, beer, sharks, beer, you name it. Not only is it way over the top ridiculous, but also it brings together the loose ends of all the previous videos. Clearly appealing to a younger beer-drinking audience who may not have explored the beer scene too much, Newcastle’s ad just makes me so curious about Newcastle that I HAVE to try one next time I see it at the store.

As someone who’s done some home brewing and brewery tours, I consider myself to be somewhat brew-savvy (just don’t call me a hipster). I’ve had Newcastle, but I can’t really say I remember what it tastes like other than the fact that it was unique. The brilliance in this campaign is that its only real message is “find out more about us.” The videos all direct you to, a site with all of their videos for this campaign, and the videos are penetrating new markets. Their name is now associated with the lovable Anna Kendrick and hysterical storyboard videos. Not bad.

The real question is whether or not there actually will be any Newcastle Super Bowl ads. I don’t really think they need one. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. In the mean time, I think they’re doing just fine.


Pushing the Boundaries: Go Daddy

Given that we’re a week out from the Super Bowl (even though my Niners didn’t quite make it there), I can’t help but start to dream of what wonders lie ahead of us. With the whole nation watching, the highly coveted Super Bowl ad spots are really a chance for companies to shine. I have countless friends who only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. With all that pressure, it can also be a moment where companies stumble.

Although some commercials go the serious route, such as Dodge’s phenomenal “Farmer” ad last year, most take their 15 seconds and try to be the funniest commercial of the entire game – the one you’ll quote on Monday with your friends. As a serious sports fan, I’ll admit that we definitely need this humor to get the tension created by the game. Okay, it’s often needed to make me laugh when I can’t stand either of the two teams playing. I’ll laugh at the good ones and forget the bad ones, but sometimes an ad can go a little too far.

Internet domain name vendor (I guess that’s what we’ll call them) Go Daddy, known for it’s racy commercials starring racecar driver Danica Patrick, pushed the boundaries with it’s Super Bowl commercial last year featuring a close up kissing scene between model Bar Rafaeli and Walter, some nerdy kid with glasses and overgrown curly hair. Although I personally thought it was hysterical (which made me concerned at my comfort level with PDA), many were repulsed, with the Wall Street Journal even calling the ad an “epic fail.”

By simply asking why this didn’t work, I’d be doing critical thinking an injustice. It wasn’t just that it was a makeout session in full zoom. Obviously, many people at Go Daddy had to have believed it would be a good idea otherwise they wouldn’t have spent the enormous amount of money it takes to buy a Super Bowl ad. Maybe they didn’t want it to “work.” Maybe the point was to have the audience feel so passionately about the content of the commercial, that they would be forced to remember Go Daddy’s name. After all, in order to get their name known in the first place, they followed one of the cardinal rules of advertising: sex sells.

Maybe we don’t all know exactly what Go Daddy does, but I think it’s fair to say that the average citizen knows it has something to do with the Internet. And that’s fine, because most of us aren’t out there buying domain names. Maybe for Go Daddy, they’re okay with not everyone finding the Bar and Walter spot funny. I guess I’m in that minority here. Since humor is different to everyone, in this case, Go Daddy chose to overdo it so much that you would HAVE to notice.

As one of the more memorable ads that year, it’s interesting that it wasn’t the funniest (per average opinion, though I sure thought it was a riot) that resonated. In fact, it was the ad that purposely overstepped humor’s boundaries in order to make a lasting impression. We shouldn’t be too surprised it was Go Daddy, after all. Their ads have been pushing the boundaries every year, and that’s their brand. That’s their angle.


Response: A Balanced Twitter Diet

As part of one of my public relations courses, each week I’ll be responding to one of the posts collected by my professor Kathryn Thier in her weekly, yet-to-be-named, blog post. She’s still looking for some sort of clever or catchy name for her weekly gathering of PR-related blog posts. If you’ve got any ideas, leave it in the comments.

This week, I’ve got a few responses to Tim O’Brien’s blog post, Perfecting a Platform: A PR Pro’s 5 New Year’s Resolutions for Twitter. This blog emphasizes ways to effectively increase tweet volume as well as choosing tweets that reflect your brand. As someone who considers myself not only a tweetaholic, but also someone with a distinct personal brand on Twitter, I decided that a few of these Twitter resolutions tied in nicely with by blog on branding and humor. The first resolution that I found important was to decide what type of tweets would best reflect your brand. When incorporating humor into a tweet repertoire, it’s important to remember that humor always has its place. In the same way that a poorly timed joke can be inappropriate during a serious moment, tweets that attempt to bring humor where it doesn’t belong are equally unfit.

O’Brien notes that “a healthy mix of tweets includes a wide range of content.” In other words, just because you want to be funny doesn’t mean you ALWAYS have to be funny; the humor should always be organic. If you told 15 jokes a day, it might seem a forced. Similarly, 15 humorous tweets a day might be a bit much, unless you’re a comedian. Or Taco Bell. You can be funny, but always mix it in. “Everything in moderation,” as my dad used to say.

The second resolution that I found noteworthy was to make sure that you integrate Twitter into everything that you program for public relations. This one is more about business tweeting than personal tweeting, however there is still something to be absorbed for a personal account as well. When running a company’s Twitter account, the story told collectively through your tweets should reflect the overall story told through all channels of public relations. It might be in a different voice, but it should convey the same message. One tweet, or even five tweets, probably won’t be able to cover all the material that’s covered in a news release, but the audience should still be able to find the same news value.

This second resolution really hits home for me. Whether it be my use of #Spotted whenever my people-watching prompts me to share a gem, my semi-sarcastic live tweeting of episodes of ABC’s The Bachelor, or the fact that I list myself as a Hashtag Architect in my bio due to my habit of grouping together tweets with hashtags of my own invention (after all, that is the point of hashtags), I make a sincere effort to make sure that my jests and jokes aren’t the only thing on my timeline. There’s more to me than a sense of humor, and if I want to show that, my tweets have to reflect that.

My main takeaway is that for people out there looking to step up their Twitter game, don’t just tweet to tweet. Whether you’re creating content for your own personal account, or for that of a company or organization, make sure your timeline shows all aspects of you. Your Twitter account may very well be a follower’s only interaction with you, so make sure it’s an accurate representation. Think of your timeline as a food pyramid. No matter where you think humor should land, make sure it’s balanced out with the other food groups types of tweets.


Welcome to Laugh TM!

Hello, world! Welcome to my Laugh TM blog about branding and humor! In this blog, I will look at how different companies use humor in their campaigns to create, define, or redefine their brand. Each week, I will look at one campaign and ask a series of questions about it. Why did the company choose to use humor for this campaign? Who is the target audience for this campaign? Does the company understand the needs of its target audience? Are they fulfilling these needs? What is the message behind the humor? Does the message come through or are we too distracted by the humor? By asking these questions, we can see whether or not the company is able to use humor to positively affect their brand, or whether they’re just failing to reach an audience they don’t fully understand.

For the purposes of this blog, whenever I refer to a company’s “brand,” I am referring to the collective public image of a company. This includes how we, the public, see the company, and what notions are conjured whenever upon mentioning a company.

In an age where six second videos dominate our social media feeds, a humorous campaign that can capture our interest for more than one viewing can not only improve our likelihood of buying their product, but can create a whole new public image for the company. One great recent example of a company who has redefined their brand through humor is Kmart. After seemingly falling off the earth, Kmart was lost in the world of superstores, losing out to giants like Walmart and Target. In an effort to redefine themselves, Kmart released their “Ship My Pants” commercial.

Although it initially received criticism from One Million Moms, the campaign has continued with a few other similar tongue-in-cheek ads and been popular amongst younger crowds. How do I know? Growing up, Kmart was the store that closed at the local mall and was never heard from again. Following this commercial, Kmart has become the “fun” company, prompting me and my peers to search for the nearest Kmart locations to check them out.

In the Kmart example, they realized that they weren’t going to compete with an older crowd who had already chosen their favorite superstore, and instead decided to focus on a younger crowd who would be beginning to provide for themselves, and would be captivated by a humorous and sarcastic campaign.

In the following weeks, I will examine more of these recent campaigns in more detail and speak to how their efforts have affected their brand.

Keep laughing.