Communication & Alignment

Seriously?

the cloud

Social media is a breath of fresh air.  It demands openness, honesty, and transparency.  It derides corporate speak, rewards authenticity, and challenges us all to be ourselves – a scary thought for some, but more real nonetheless.  Faceless corporate monoliths which once talked down to its stakeholders like the Great and powerful Oz are being replaced with real people, having actual conversations that are translating into win-win results.  Most refreshing of all, is that it’s a platform that encourages us not to take ourselves too seriously – on or offline.  We’re learning to be human again.  How great is that?

Today’s consumers, and yes, especially consumers even younger than me;-) are more likely to look favorably upon brands who have real personality and who don’t take themselves so seriously.   For some companies, showing their personality is a real leap of faith.  It’s not only a big departure from what most leaders were taught, but they believe it can either risk compromising their value or trivializing their business.  For others, poking fun at themselves can serve as a way to connect with their audiences and provide a means for demonstrating a certain confidence in both what they do and who they are.

Have a look at the two videos below.  The first is from Nike, aimed at answering the age-old question, “Where does Nike AIR come from?” ( Okay, now it’s time to actually DO what I’m preaching and, frankly, to go against the advice I’ve been given.)  The second is a mockumentary video that we at Vistage put together called The Group, offering a behind the scenes, inside perspective of a “real” Vistage Group meeting.  I hope you enjoy them both.  (Be kind.  We didn’t have Nike’s budget.)

What do you think?  Do brands which poke fun at themselves seriously risk hurting their image or does it help strengthen relationships?

Category: Communication & Alignment Customer Engagement Innovation Leadership Marketing

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Avatar About the Author: Ruby Randall
  1. From a sociological standpoint, humor is a specialized mechanism for connecting humans at a deeply personal level; it cuts through a lot of built-up defenses that have been self-imposed or ingrained within us by our society. In that sense, I like to think of humor as a telephone to the soul – even its by-product of laughter renders the recipient physically vulnerable. The challenge with humor is that it’s an art, not a craft, and as easily as it can ignite interest, it can just as easily destroy interest.

    Robert Frost once wrote, “Poetry is what is lost in translation”. In regards to social media, I say “Humor is what is lost on Facebook.” Without voice intonation, visual cues, environmental control, etc., attempted humor will usually backfire.

    Thus, within the social media context, I feel that video is the only way to go. Even posted videos like these, shown here, can be tricky. Despite its higher budget, the Nike ad left me cold – it was just too silly, and I spent more time trying to identify the celebrities than listening to the message. It wasn’t humorous, it was stupid, and it certainly didn’t draw me in to buy a high-priced shoe. By contrast, the Vistage ad drew me in, and under the guise of humor, it went straight to the core of real CEO issues (I’m a former CEO) that would have been almost impossible to approach in any other way, and it said “We understand you, in ways that you’re afraid to admit” – without offending my dignity. Further, it gave me a flavor of how Vistage works.

    The upshot of all this is that humor must speak to the soul to be effective – whether it’s a comedy club, or an advertisement for a product or service, or trying to impress a hot date. The most powerful use of humor is when it makes a person laugh out loud (which these didn’t) and thus compel the viewer to share it with others, so that it then goes viral. When it goes viral, you’ve done your job, because going viral is what social media marketing is all about.

  2. From a sociological standpoint, humor is a specialized mechanism for connecting humans at a deeply personal level; it cuts through a lot of built-up defenses that have been self-imposed or ingrained within us by our society. In that sense, I like to think of humor as a telephone to the soul – even its by-product of laughter renders the recipient physically vulnerable. The challenge with humor is that it’s an art, not a craft, and as easily as it can ignite interest, it can just as easily destroy interest.

    Robert Frost once wrote, “Poetry is what is lost in translation”. In regards to social media, I say “Humor is what is lost on Facebook.” Without voice intonation, visual cues, environmental control, etc., attempted humor will usually backfire.

    Thus, within the social media context, I feel that video is the only way to go. Even posted videos like these, shown here, can be tricky. Despite its higher budget, the Nike ad left me cold – it was just too silly, and I spent more time trying to identify the celebrities than listening to the message. It wasn’t humorous, it was stupid, and it certainly didn’t draw me in to buy a high-priced shoe. By contrast, the Vistage ad drew me in, and under the guise of humor, it went straight to the core of real CEO issues (I’m a former CEO) that would have been almost impossible to approach in any other way, and it said “We understand you, in ways that you’re afraid to admit” – without offending my dignity. Further, it gave me a flavor of how Vistage works.

    The upshot of all this is that humor must speak to the soul to be effective – whether it’s a comedy club, or an advertisement for a product or service, or trying to impress a hot date. The most powerful use of humor is when it makes a person laugh out loud (which these didn’t) and thus compel the viewer to share it with others, so that it then goes viral. When it goes viral, you’ve done your job, because going viral is what social media marketing is all about.

  3. Steve McNulty

    April 9, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Great post. Love the Vistage video. CAn I embed it in my site please 🙂

    There are some very strong brands who have always poked fun at themselves or used comedy in their message. Some use this well and some badly. There is a fine line between strengthening a message and just having fun. There are many adverts I can remember for the content but not the company. Then there are many products that have ads I know were excellent but I don’t remember, but I remember the company. Guinness is certainly one of those for me.

    The use of video distributed by social media networks (rather than TV) is an excellent way of building your brand or destroying it. There is very little middle ground here. Very few, if any, people using social media to express themselves do so to be neutral. People comment, debate, discuss etc because they are either positive or negative about something.

    The successful corporate videos appear to me to encompass a number of factors. Firstly they look corporate but not corporate at the same time (maybe a time warp effect or incongruent setting). Secondly they use ordinary words instead of corporate speak. Thirdly they make their message very simple and to the point and repeat it in different ways (maybe with many videos). Finally, they always leave the audience with the message but still asking questions.

    Good examples for me are Blendtek, Evian, Virgin Money and BMW i. All have different approaches but all appeal to the human side and leave a simple message….we care.

    Steve McNulty

  4. Steve McNulty

    April 9, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Great post. Love the Vistage video. CAn I embed it in my site please 🙂

    There are some very strong brands who have always poked fun at themselves or used comedy in their message. Some use this well and some badly. There is a fine line between strengthening a message and just having fun. There are many adverts I can remember for the content but not the company. Then there are many products that have ads I know were excellent but I don’t remember, but I remember the company. Guinness is certainly one of those for me.

    The use of video distributed by social media networks (rather than TV) is an excellent way of building your brand or destroying it. There is very little middle ground here. Very few, if any, people using social media to express themselves do so to be neutral. People comment, debate, discuss etc because they are either positive or negative about something.

    The successful corporate videos appear to me to encompass a number of factors. Firstly they look corporate but not corporate at the same time (maybe a time warp effect or incongruent setting). Secondly they use ordinary words instead of corporate speak. Thirdly they make their message very simple and to the point and repeat it in different ways (maybe with many videos). Finally, they always leave the audience with the message but still asking questions.

    Good examples for me are Blendtek, Evian, Virgin Money and BMW i. All have different approaches but all appeal to the human side and leave a simple message….we care.

    Steve McNulty

  5. I would like to see episode 2 be called “Corporate” The making of a chair.”

    Great entertainment for existing members but I wonder if t would resinate with anyone who has zero awareness of Vistage. Everyone knows who the celebrity athletes are and that is huge. Imagine the Nike commercials with no name athletes. My opinion is that the members will love it, and there is something to be said for that. But this video is not a recruiting tool. Get someone like Trump involved and you have the equivalent. IMO

  6. I would like to see episode 2 be called “Corporate” The making of a chair.”

    Great entertainment for existing members but I wonder if t would resinate with anyone who has zero awareness of Vistage. Everyone knows who the celebrity athletes are and that is huge. Imagine the Nike commercials with no name athletes. My opinion is that the members will love it, and there is something to be said for that. But this video is not a recruiting tool. Get someone like Trump involved and you have the equivalent. IMO

  7. I want to take a minute to discuss the human brand in a centric protocol of sound business expressions. In The months ahead the Department of Veterans Affairs is hosting its small business expo in NOLA. The “Big Easy” in a resilient come-back taps a fractual equation in my thinking. As a board member of a philanthropic, global peace partners, owners of a 747-400 Air Surgical hospital for academic and distress missions in developing nations. I often am amazed how many CEO’s & board members had served in the military or have relitives with the benefit of “veteran” ethos as a talking point I call it the “new alumni”. Regardless of nation or country in todays brands. a centric business collabration plan and customer base is being over-looked or ignored. A comfort level in a partnership of those who served in uniform and those who chose another way to serve one’s community and nation.

    In the US of the millions of veteran owned businesses 98% surived the worst economic transition. Applying resilience in the dialogs is a profound statement. I would like to see greater Vistage mind-power in research and insights shared in the coming years with this new era of veterans and forward thinking leaders who are indeed global, social, science and human educated. I for one advise many veteran owned businesses, see the dedication to customer service..a little old school, and new science and I think awarding success is the next social entrepreneuial matrix. Vr Jim P White, GPP-Air Hospital, Board.

  8. I want to take a minute to discuss the human brand in a centric protocol of sound business expressions. In The months ahead the Department of Veterans Affairs is hosting its small business expo in NOLA. The “Big Easy” in a resilient come-back taps a fractual equation in my thinking. As a board member of a philanthropic, global peace partners, owners of a 747-400 Air Surgical hospital for academic and distress missions in developing nations. I often am amazed how many CEO’s & board members had served in the military or have relitives with the benefit of “veteran” ethos as a talking point I call it the “new alumni”. Regardless of nation or country in todays brands. a centric business collabration plan and customer base is being over-looked or ignored. A comfort level in a partnership of those who served in uniform and those who chose another way to serve one’s community and nation.

    In the US of the millions of veteran owned businesses 98% surived the worst economic transition. Applying resilience in the dialogs is a profound statement. I would like to see greater Vistage mind-power in research and insights shared in the coming years with this new era of veterans and forward thinking leaders who are indeed global, social, science and human educated. I for one advise many veteran owned businesses, see the dedication to customer service..a little old school, and new science and I think awarding success is the next social entrepreneuial matrix. Vr Jim P White, GPP-Air Hospital, Board.

  9. Prime Outsourcing

    October 5, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Every medium that you use for introducing your brand should always be unique and something that will speak for itself. Your video is very much fun to watch specially for the members of Vistage, but if you want to take it to another level, you can add something to make it popular and resounding even to those who are not yet aware of this site.

    Thanks for showing this to us. Good job.

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