The business case for humour in video marketing

Over three years ago, US start-up Dollar Shave Club (DSC), which had existed for under a year, did something very simple: it made a funny video. Production costs were low, aside from securing a HD camera and further investment in a bear suit, machete and a giant US flag.

If you’re one of the one person who hasn’t seen this video already, then you owe it to yourself to watch it:

In between the acts of rolling on the floor laughing, you probably noticed the fact it’s had over 20 million views. It’s also had over 1.9 million likes on Facebook and 94,200 Twitter shares. DSC’s following on Twitter also sits at over 65,000. That’s all because they have a sense of humour.

Well, maybe that’s a bit strong – the product itself is a great idea. In a market that is so expensive for men and women alike – not least because Gillette will slap another blade or rollerball or aloe vera strip or vibrating handle or a go-faster stripe on their existing razor and add a few quid (maybe it’ll be a hoover for bank notes next, am I right?) – people look out for value, but only from trustworthy brands. Sure, you can buy disposable razors from Poundland, but you know it’ll be at the expense of your beautiful face.

But for DSC to get that message out in a way that elicited trust from the intended audience – especially as a newcomer to the scene – they basically had to be funny. It was the only way it could build the brand in the first place, even when the alternatives offered by high-end competitors were taking money hand over fist.

Unsurprisingly, DSC’s video won the 2012 AdAge Viral Video Awards’ “Best Out-of-Nowhere Video Campaign” – high praise indeed – as well as a 2013 Webby Award and the People’s Choice Webby for good measure.

DSC could have gone the route of showing demonstrations of how close the shave was, or the state of the blade after three uses, or more. It would have been factual and yes, it may have built trust, but it wouldn’t have gotten any traction – at least, not in the same way its cash-blowing antics did. There certainly wouldn’t have been any awards.

Sometimes, your product really ought to be laughed at. Some other times, it never should be – but you can probably be pretty funny about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a funny video being planned for a doctor that specialises in amputation, and I’d put money on one having been made for something as crass as a pregnancy test. In fact, the way things are going, I’d put money on Dignitas having a laugh-a-minute advert in the next ten years.

Give it a go, or at least think how you can be a little more relaxed and laid back. If you don’t have a sense of humour, find someone else who does. Look at the likes of Cracked.com and Reddit (but not BuzzFeed) to see what makes other people tick, and what excites you to watch, read, or listen to.

Remember the old acronym “GSOH”. For decades, it’s been used as an extremely positive indicator of personality. That’s because it is.

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