Guest Post by Jim Morris
Brands with a sense of humor (in their tagline) win.
Case in point: The Crack Team, a St. Louis-based foundation repair service, now with 15 offices across the U.S.
Founded in 1985, this business grew reasonably but incrementally over the next 16 years, reaching sales of $3 million. Then, in 2001, Bob Kodner, President of The Crack Team, had two ideas:
First, personify the Crack Team, creating a funny little character, Mr. Happy Crack, who looks kind of like Sponge Bob’s more brittle cousin, and whose rallying cry/tagline for the brand is,
A dry crack is a happy crack!
Second, start marketing The Crack Team to the general consumer, rather than just to B-to-B audiences like contractors and real estate folks.
This approach was implemented primarily via bus cards featuring Mr. Happy Crack exclaiming, “A dry crack is a happy crack!”
In Mr. Happy Crack’s first year, sales spiked and have continued climbing steadily every year since, even during the last two difficult years.
The Moral of This Story?
There are several, but I’d like to focus on this one: Most businesses, including other foundation repair companies, take themselves and their businesses very/overly seriously, and the advertising reflects it. While customers may consider the service valuable, repairing basement cracks is not life and death stuff. Seriousness, somberness, humorlessness, can be off-putting, not just in individual interactions, but also when interacting with brands.
Consumers don’t care so much about all the inconsequential differences between competitors that so many businesses trumpet. All of this blah blah blah tends to make a distinction without a difference. Meanwhile, the point of view, mindset, emotional needs of the consumer aren’t even part of the equation. They simply aren’t considered.
Big mistake. Humans are attracted to personality traits like friendliness, genuineness, approachability, confidence, humility, empathy and so forth. This is true whether the personality belongs to a person or a brand. Even deciding which foundation repair company to go with, while based on price, reputation and so forth, is partially a non-rational decision.
A Little Humor
With the advent of their de facto tagline and accompanying critter, The Crack Team became an overtly friendly, smiling brand, very approachable and likeable. They didn’t feel it necessary to pound away at such virtually meaningless “benefits” as “quality”, “service”, “responsiveness”, and the like. Instead, The Crack Team was comfortable enough in its skin to make a humorous gesture, exuding a sense of self assurance and respect for the customer that differentiates them from less assured, more self-centered competitors.
For most brands, regardless of segment or industry, the tired copout that humor isn’t appropriate, or will undermine the seriousness of what they do, just doesn’t fly. Humor needn’t be, for example, the sophomoric slapstick and bathroom humor we are accustomed to in beer advertising. There are many kinds and degrees of humor, from whimsy to sophisticated cleverness to goofiness, campiness and quiet, deadpan drollery. I’ve seen humor used effectively for brands whose business is very serious and consequential—hospitals, insurance companies, financial institutions, even funeral homes. In fact, I’d argue that the more serious or consequential your business is, the more welcome and engaging a dose of appropriate humor can be. And, in all cases, the perfect vehicle to convey a little humor is in the tagline.
From the inception of the “A Dry Crack Is A Happy Crack!” campaign until today, The Crack Team’s sales have increased a whopping 67 percent. Much as I’d like to, I can’t credit this entire increase to the tagline. Their success has been due to a combination of things—adding consumers as a target audience, the gestalt effect of the advertising featuring the tagline, plus smart merchandising, and of course, the fact that the company does a good job delivering on its promises, resulting in a strong reputation that generates lots of word-of-mouth. However, the seven words that function as their tagline have undeniably played a key role.
A Big Impact
This example is probably about as close as I’m going to come to quantifying the value a tagline—and a sense of humor—bring to a brand. They are not the sort of things that show up as line items on a spreadsheet. The effect of both humor and a strong tagline can be huge, but is not neatly measurable, at least not yet.
But a good tagline and good humor are the sorts of things that show up in the consciousness and predisopositional portion of the consumer’s brain, and, in fact, more successfully and indelibly than any other brand communication components.
“Every day we have people reference our mascot and/or slogan, even if they saw it months ago,”
Bob says. “I think that has been the most surprising thing, that it gets stuck on your brain. For someone to say, ‘I saw your ad last March and now I’m ready for you guys’, is pretty cool, and we hear this all the time.”
Jim Morris is a tagline specialist who blogs and creates engaging taglines at TaglineJim.com.