What happened to schmaltz? The sorts of ads in which kids ran and hugged their moms in delirious approval for peanut butter sandwiches or quilted toilet paper -- these used to be the keystones of branding, at least in mom-centric dayparts. What happened to enjoinders to "Bake someone happy?" Or puffy doughboys giggling when poked? Or bottles of fluorescent whitening agents giving mommas the magic?
What happened to schmaltz? And maudlin? And "slice of death"?
Digital happened. Since the advent of digital, the number of brands using humor to deliver their messages has grown markedly. One can only surmise that this is because humor "works." It works at both connecting brands to audiences and at reshaping brand imagery in powerful ways.
Of course, humor doesn't always deliver results for brands. Many have tried to "do" humor and have flopped. Sometimes the jokes get overshadowed by the ferric fist of brand identity. Sometimes we laugh at the ad and forget the brand. And sometimes the humor is gratuitous -- a way to attract attention, but not shaped to serve brand messaging goals.
Humor is hard to do, but perhaps even harder is crafting funny programs and messages that deliver real brand benefits. As we all know, assessing the impact of any creative on brand strength is pretty squishy science. But we can identify creative programs that drove buzz and virality online, and through this identification process attempt to tease out some core principles of brand beneficial humor.
So let's begin, shall we?