What Marketers Can Learn From Stand-up Comedians
Marketers can be too removed from their audiences. Some marketers only view them through spreadsheets, databases, analytics and sales reports. They passively observe. They don’t try to interact with and learn from their audience in person (interviews, sales calls, etc.) or even digitally (through social media, A/B testing and the like).
So let’s see what we can learn from a profession with an intense, visceral relationship with their audience — stand-up comedians.
Comedians have a similar job as marketers. Value perception is crucial to their work. They have to set up a proposition. They have to pay off the proposition. And they need to secure a conversion goal from the customer — in this case, a laugh.
Use Your Customer’s Language, Not Yours
"Words are like paint, and you're looking for colors that work well together. You want these words to hit the ear in a very specific way, with just the right rhythm. In that example, the word chimp is funnier than monkey. Chimps? Chimps are funny. They just are.”
The analogy for marketers is using the right keywords for your SEO, headlines, and even product names. As Seinfeld says, even seemingly similar words can have a very different impact. “Chimps” and “monkeys” are often interchangeable for the specific denotation. But the connotation can be very different, which is why one is funnier than the other.
For SEO, many different words can mean the same thing. But which words are your customers actively searching for? Which naturally fit into the rhythm of their lives? Which words can they quickly make meaning of when seen on a SERP or landing page?
For example, IBM was using company-specific language (“Smarter Workforce”) that was only searched 90 times per month in Google, but it switched to focusing on words that fit into the rhythm of its customers’ lives (“HR Analytics”) that were searched for 1,000 times per month in Google.
Even more extreme, Ikea changed its product names to frequently searched for customer problems by, for example, calling a daybed “My Partner Snores” on a product page.
Own Your Audience
“Stand-up comedy is mine: it's my entity; it's my brand; I own it. I do it when I want to do it.”
With email marketing, you own the stage. You own the audience.
Kevin Hart also performs on other platforms, like in a movie. That is similar to paid media for marketers. It helps to have it in the marketing mix to reach more customers.
However, he always has his own act as well, where he can do his own tour to his own audience if a movie deal isn’t a right fit for him. Or just to complement the movie deal. For marketers, if you grow an opt-in email list, you have an owned audience as well where you have the ultimate control over the message, the timing, your brand, and everything else.
Build the Content
“When you are doing stand-up comedy, you are the writer, producer, director, sometimes bouncer.”
With inbound marketing, you need to think like a content creator. You’re not buying an ad next to someone else’s content, you’re creating your own.
So your team needs to own the writing. Think like a producer and director. And if your brand has its own community or even just a comments section on its blog, make sure to curate it and be a bouncer to remove bad actors and spam.
“The ability to workshop in stand-up comedy is incomparable to any art form, in my opinion.”
Digital marketing is also a great art form for workshopping, also known as experimenting. Trying things out. Discovering what really works. Engaging in A/B testing. For example, The Boston Globe was able to double its clickthrough by testing editorial headlines. Aetna’s HealthSpire startup generated 638 percent more leads for its call center by running a landing page experiment.
Be True to Your Brand
“You got to be true to yourself, right? You play the room the way you need to play it.”
There are a lot of “me too” brands out there. Your brand should never do something just because the competition does the same thing. That is the sure path to commodification.
Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.