Starting With a Laugh: Marketing Innovation Through Comedy


After the ubiquitous celebrity spokesperson, comedy is likely the most common trope in advertising. And why not? It grabs your attention, makes you remember things and provides a chuckle in the process. Who hasn’t repeated “Where’s the beef,” at least once in his or her life?

But many marketers fail to leverage comedy as a tool in other aspects of marketing. Success in comedy, like marketing, depends on highly perceptive observations of people. Half of a comedian’s job is that of a market researcher. Comedians just use their data to combine the real with the absurd to then reveal some greater truth about human behavior—which we, the audience, then laugh at.

We at BrandCulture believe the comedic process can also help inspire innovation. No, innovations should not be absurd (though as we pointed out with things like The Vessyl, they often are).

But true innovation extends beyond our normal mode of thinking about the world or a problem people experience in the world. And what better way to defy the conventional wisdom than by mixing the real with the absurd?

We’ve found this heady brew of reality and absurdity enhances the effectiveness of brainstorming, as well as making it more fun. When we determine that an idea is in fact “absurd,” we work backwards from that absurdity to reveal the underlying truth that undergirds the “absurd” idea. And an innovation emerges.

There is no more amusing example of mixing of the real and the absurd to develop marketing innovations right now than the Comedy Central program Nathan for You. Nathan, “who got really good grades at one of Canada’s top business schools,” uses his strategic skills to innovate various Los Angeles based businesses. In one scenario, Nathan reveals his plan to have a local auto-mechanic give his estimates while hooked to a lie detector.

This obviously absurd idea was actually quite popular with customers and underscores the very real problem of a lack of trust between mechanics and customers. Working backward from the absurd idea that Nathan came up with, one might be able to develop less absurd ways to give motorists greater assurance that their mechanics aren’t ripping them off.

We welcome your examples where comedy reveals underlying truths that provide marketers opportunities to assert new, innovative solutions. And for more of our thoughts on innovation, be sure to check out our piece in Calling BS.

Now It’s Your Turn
Corporate Culture, Trends
BrandCulture’s Key Takeaways From Mobile World Congress 2019

As we wrote at the end of February, each year we ensure to attend certain international conferences and events with the intention of staying on top of changes in the market, seeing what organizations are doing with their branding and meeting up with current and potential clients and partners. Among our most important trend-watching events […]

Learn More
Corporate Culture
What’s the Digital Culture of Your Organization?

The digital transformation revolution has left few organizations untouched. The vague term is interpreted differently depending on to whom you’re talking, but a general consensus leads us to a definition of the integration of digital technologies into the everyday mechanics of how organizations operate, supplanting previously manual processes. A basic example is transitioning financial transactions […]

Learn More
Corporate Culture, Employee Engagement
Advancing Employee Experience (EX) Through Design Thinking at Work Rebooted

The Work Rebooted conference currently underway in San Francisco aims to examine the future of the workplace (did you know that the future of work is not in the future, but The Future is Now?). BrandCulture led an interactive workshop and immersive Design Thinking session to challenge preconceptions about employee experience and innovate new ways […]

Learn More
Brands, Corporate Culture
Mobile World Congress 2019.
What’s On BrandCulture’s Radar?

Each year BrandCulture makes a point of attending select conferences and events. We choose our “can’t miss” venues for a number of different reasons, but overall we want  to check out innovations in branding and company expression, stay abreast of emerging developments and push ahead of evolutions in the market — and also meet with […]

Learn More

Ready to talk about how your brand and culture can do more for your business?

Let's talk