brand personality

Humor as Your Brand Signature

Duluth Trading capitalized on the intrinsic humor of men’s ill-fitting underwear to create a brand signature that is memorable and touching. Don’t laugh off humor as a way to give your brand a defining signature.

Duluth Trading capitalized on the intrinsic humor of men’s ill-fitting underwear to create a brand signature that is memorable and touching. Don’t laugh off humor as a way to give your brand a defining signature.

Duluth Trading makes men’s underwear and women’s tank tops funny. Its owners are laughing all the way to the bank because it turns out humor sells.

Buck Naked Underwear, Free Swingin’ Flannel, Uncramp Your Crouch Khakis and Warm Your Chestnuts Fleece Work Pants are marketed with what you might call cheeky humor. Never too offensive, but clearly and lightheartedly delivering the point. Appropriate because, for some reason, men’s underwear is funny.

The company’s brand personality has connected with male and female consumers. Net annual sales have risen from around $150 million in 2013 to an expected $450 million this year. Year-over-year sales growth has reached as high as 40 percent and should exceed 20 percent in 2017.

Duluth Trading has bucked the retail trend by increasing the percentage of its sales in-store as opposed to online and expanding the number of brick-and-mortar outlets every year.

Other brands use humor, too, to turn a buck. The Dollar Shave Club runs ads implying a conspiracy or incompetence at retail stores to prevent selling shaving gear to would-be customers. In one ad, a man who grabs a razor is shot in the neck with a poison dart by a store clerk. The Club’s launch video in 2012 showed the company CEO riding a pitchfork around a warehouse and cracking jokes. It became a social media favorite.

Allstate Insurance, whose tagline is the “Good Hands” people, used sick humor to underscore its brand value. Through a character called Mayhem, played by actor Dean Winters, Allstate reminds people that “stuff happens” – an accidental portable grill explosion, changing a tire in a downpour and being captive at a dull family gathering because of a dead car battery.

Winters has portrayed a hungry raccoon, a pooping pigeon and fog in Seattle. During a football bowl game, he played a nerd burglar who broke into an actual couple’s home who announced on social media they were going on vacation and sold their belongings online. It was a social media hit and helped Mayhem become as recognizable as Geico’s Gecko and Progressive’s Flo, who not so coincidentally is a comedian.

Infusing humor into your marketing rests on a few basic principles. What you are infusing must be humorous. And it can’t cause offense. Both parts of the equation can be tricky.

In the case of a brand, humor is in the eye of the consumer – that is, the buyer. Discomfort in the crotch may make a man grumpy, but it makes a wife an eager buyer. The Buck Naked underwear ads make women beam and reach for their smartphones.

Offending with humor is as easy as spilling mustard from a hot dog on your shirt. Making people appear like klutzes isn’t flattering, but if you can humorously show that animals, inanimate objects and weather fronts can conspire against you, your audience may laugh as they check out their insurance coverage.

With men growing out beards every day, shaving is a bother, only made worse by the hassle of getting the right razor and shaving cream. Turning this frustration into a cartoon while being offered a chance to have shaving gear shipped to your door would make any man with stubble smile.

Injecting humor into your brand doesn’t have to result in guffaws and belly laughs. All you need to do is earn a chuckle and a little space in a consumer memory. The humor doesn’t need to rival Jerry Seinfeld, just come off as clever, maybe a little offbeat and eye-catching.

Humor can be especially welcome at a time when the news is dour and people are polarized. Laughter is one of the few things that can cut through anger and angst. As long as it doesn’t feed the anger and angst.

Brands should consider humor, but not jump online until the humor has been tested from as many angles as relevant. Know the risks. Adjust accordingly. Keep it straight if in doubt.

However, don’t underestimate a gut feeling. An experienced PR team strongly advised against adding “Killer” to “Dave’s Bread.” Adding “killer” wasn’t necessarily funny, but it became the offbeat defining signature for the brand.

The punchline: Don’t laugh off the use of humor as your defining brand signature.

Alaska Air’s Eclipsing Brand Personality

Alaska Air may have eclipsed its long history of a smiling-faced Eskimo brand personality. The airline took a cue from curious customers and slightly realigned a regularly scheduled flight from Anchorage to Honolulu to give passengers a porthole view of a total solar eclipse on March 8.

The customers were veteran eclipse chasers who realized their chances of seeing the March 8 eclipse were slim because monsoons would obscure the view in Indonesia and Micronesia, the only land areas where it would be visible. Astronomer Joe Rao, who works for the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium, did some checking and noticed Alaska Air’s Flight 870 would intersect the arc of the eclipse.

There was a problem, the plane’s scheduled departure would be 25 minutes too early. Rao contacted Alaska Air officials, explained the situation and the airline switched the departure time. On the day of the flight, Alaska officials reviewed the proposed flight path and wine and weather conditions to optimize viewing the eclipse. Ground crews made sure all the windows were clean. The plane’s pilot relied on the flight management computer to hit the mark.

The 181 passengers, including more than a dozen “eclipse geeks,” were treated to a grand spectacle en route. Alaska Air won plaudits for accommodating the eclipse chasers. “It’s an unbelievably accommodating gesture,” said Mike Kentrianakis, solar eclipse manager for the American Astronomical Society and a passenger on Flight 870. “Not only is Alaska Airlines getting people from Point A to Point B, but they’re willing to give them an exciting experience. An airline that’s actually talking to their people – and listening? That’s air service at its best. It’s become personal.”

You couldn’t buy a testimonial that good. Nor could you find a way to reinforce your brand personality as an airline that shows it cares about passengers by the quality of its service.

The flight wasn’t just a mystic experience for the eclipse junkies. Dan McGlaun, who viewed his 12th total eclipse on Flight 870, brought 200 pairs of specially filtered glasses so everyone on board could witness the sun during all phases of the eclipse.

Alaska Air has undergone an image refresher since the beginning of 2016, putting more snap into its logo and imagery. Other than Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Air is the only major carrier with a human face as its brand face. The smiling Eskimo isn’t a particular person, but is intended to convey a sense of family and community.

On its website, Alaska Air says the iconic Eskimo’s visage may have been drawn from grandfatherly faces in Kotzebue, a small Alaskan community 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Before a hospital was built there in 2013, Kotzebue residents who were ill or injured “called Alaska Airlines first,” symbolizing that the carrier is “embedded into the fiber of the communities it serves."

Alaska is a company with a distinctive brand personality and an awareness of what it takes to showcase it.

Finding Your Brand Voice

Interactions on social media or blogs should be through a common voice. Finding that brand voice involves a lot more than just picking someone in the intern pool. 

Most companies and organizations have concluded, whether eager or grudging, they need a presence on social media and to engage in content marketing. But discomfort lingers, so the first command decision is who will be delegated the responsibility of tweeting. This is like making a wrong turn into a one-way street.

The whole idea behind consumer or constituent engagement is to build trust. One of the most important avenues to trust is familiarity. You recognize a friend by how they talk. You trust a friend because of their values. The same should be true for a brand.

Here are some of the factors to consider in developing and sustaining a credible brand voice:

Appropriate Voice

If you make hot dogs, your voice should have a different tone than if you are dentist. People associate hot dogs with parties and ballgames. They associate dentists with pain. Your voice needs to reflect your brand personality. 

Blogging about hotdogs has more leeway in the use of humor than dentistry, where the focus of blogging should be on putting people at ease about procedures. There is plenty of room to flex personality in both circumstances. You just need to flex the right personality.

Know Your Objective 

There are differing reasons to engage on social media, which also can influence the tone of your brand voice. Red Bull wants to envelope people in the active adventure lifestyle it promotes. Comcast wants to monitor social media so it can respond immediately to consumer complaints, in the quest to convert people with problems into ambassadors of the brand.

Creating Your Winning Online Video

A good video shoot can produce gems. Video is the ultimate visual asset. From online TV to YouTube videos, how-to videos to viral videos, people watch and share quality content. With new tools, it no longer takes a Hollywood director to make quality video.

CFM produces lots of videos for clients for websites, marketing PR campaigns and advocacy efforts. We invite you behind the curtain to view our video-making process.

Act One

After determining if video fits with your communication goals and strategy, we focus on three areas: key messages, brand personality and emotions.

Key messages are what you want to say to your audience. Effective videos are edited tightly, so we find ways to weave those messages into the scenes and images we capture on video.

Brand personality informs video style. Is your brand modern, traditional or elegant? Fun, energetic or reserved? This step sets the stage for our creative brief for the video project.

Emotions inspire action. Should the video be inspirational, humorous or hunger-inducing? Peaceful, calming and inviting? Video can convey emotion, but it takes planning and skill to capture it.

Act Two

Informed by your key messages, brand personality and desired emotions, our team curates inspiration. We gather video examples to show style, approach and tone.

We recommend a video screening that includes your creative team and CFM. We’ll explore likes and dislikes and have a brainstorming session.

Act Three

This is when the process goes from concept to reality. It’s time to dig in to the nitty-gritty and logistics.

Earning Brand Loyalty

Southwest Airlines has carved out the position as the low-cost airlines and, with solid customer service, it shows that doesn't mean lowest-common-denominator value.Southwest Airlines has a brand promise of being the low-cost air carrier. It has reinforced that promise by not charging for checked bags.

A recent personal experience solidifies my perception that low-cost at Southwest Airlines doesn't mean lame service.

On a weekend flight through Oakland, California, my wife's and my bags were left on the tarmac in the rain as they were being loaded. Even though we have hard-sided bags, water seeped into the luggage through cloth seams, dampening dresses and suit pants. One of my wife's favorite suit jackets and skirt suffered color spotting.

Southwest Airlines provides a place on its website for complaints. I dutifully sent an email detailing what happened and the $100 dry cleaning bill that resulted. An automated response promised a reply within seven days. Frankly I had some doubts.