By Billy Jennings on 1/4/2022
This week Sky sat down with Dan Nelken of Nelken Creative to chat about the use of humor when it comes to copywriting for one’s brand. Nelken, who is a self-described ‘“Chief Creative Ding Dong” had some interesting takes on the topic.
Personally, when I think of what brands are absolutely killing it on social media, the first two that come to mind are Wendy’s and Slim Jim. Wendy’s, in my mind, has been a bit of a trailblazer here because for years they haven’t had any reservations about throwing lighthearted shade at trolls or even competitors in their ads or social media posts alike. Slim Jim has a whopping 1.4 million followers on Instagram as I write this and they literally only post memes about their mystery meat sticks. What is it about these brands that people gravitate towards whether they are buying these products or not? You guessed it- a good sense of humor in their copy.
Sky mentions that in a way, all advertising is spam. It absolutely is in my opinion, too. If I didn’t ask to see or hear your ad, chances are I’m annoyed when I’m forced to consume it more often than not in the middle of some form of media I actually am interested in. You know what I don’t mind as much? Some humor mixed in there. I think Sky or Dan even said a little sugar makes the medicine go down easier and then they mention that everyone has a favorite Geico Insurance commercial. Insurance is important but holy smokes is it boring. There’s no denying that their team has been crushing it for years using humor to sell an otherwise bland essential service.
I actually wish more board rooms shared the same sentiment as Dan when he says that oftentimes brands incorrectly assume that the intended joke must hit 100% of the target audience and that oftentimes they will throw out a joke if it only hits 50%. However, it’s clear the brands I mentioned above don’t feel that way because they keep throwing comedy at the wall and whaddya know… a lot of it sticks!
Dan did caution that brands must still be responsible with your humor. Whether we agree or disagree with cancel culture, the fact is it is here to stay and brands must walk that fine line between funny and offensive or risk having to issue a long winded apology for a short tweet that was fired off by an intern with an itchy Twitter finger after a few Bud Lights.
The guys also brought up an interesting point about how nearly everybody swears in “real life” but that brands really don’t dare to venture there. I wonder who the first big-brand will be now that they brought it up. We see Elon Musk say some really edgy stuff online that REALLY rubs people/investors the wrong way but nobody is cancelling Tesla. Then again, what the CEO says and the company says can be seen as different things. Sky brings up an interesting point when he mentions that swearing almost forces you to have a personality. There is no running that through a committee because what do you think they are gonna say? Absolutely not.
I did however think it was a slam dunk when Dan mentions that not a lot of brands swear, but a ton of personal brands do (looking right at you Gary V). The guys aren’t opposed to it- I get the impression that Dan and Sky would relish hearing a few well-placed F bombs if it made sense in an ad. Me personally? I think it kind of knocks down the fourth-wall we hear so much about. Anything that makes people feel like the guy running Twitter for some brand isn’t some nameless face wearing a suit but rather is someone like us “regular folks” makes me want to engage with that brand more- whether that be a purchase, a follow, a like, a share, or a comment.
As a whole, this was a really fun episode and I hope these two can expand upon this topic in another show in the future. After hearing a whole episode dedicated to the application of humor when it comes to copywriting, it’s pretty baffling to me that so many brands either won’t take the gamble on it or simply miss the mark so badly when trying to incorporate it into their copy.