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In Defense of Corniness


In Defense of Corniness

By Mack Hawthorne

Every business wants to appear as professional as possible. It’s only natural! You’re asking a client base to trust you with their money, time, and sometimes even proprietary information. This calls for a display of traits worth trusting – reliability, discipline, et al. But there’s a downside to this approach… It’s not innately engaging.

Backed Engagement

It’s not difficult for a piece of content to have a backed style of engagement. This refers to a video, article, or similar piece where the core content of the video – narrative, footage, call-to-action – are all fully supported by what the connected business is offering. Consider as an example a 30-second video about a plumber; the quality of service specifically demonstrated in the video is an important precursor to a customer’s phone call, but the motivation for the viewer to choose to engage with said content is that they need a plumber, have a friend who needs one, or suspect they will need one soon. Someone who has no need for or interest in plumbing isn’t actively seeking out your videos, and should those people stumble upon them, the likelihood that they’ll remember you later is unfortunately low.

The Human Memory

Human beings are capable of great feats of memory in general, but this isn’t consistent from person to person; some people will recall exact moments from years before with stunning clarity, while others will struggle to remember the glasses on top of their head.
What is consistent is that the information anybody will choose to retain – and for how long – is directly proportional to both how important said information is, as well as how much they enjoy it. Understanding this relationship is key to making sure your marketing efforts will be successful.

When Backed Engagement Fails

If you’re lost in a swarm of similar offerings, standing out is challenging. You can grab a few customers on random chance as long as the quality of your work is good, but getting picked as most people’s first choice takes more than a standard informative piece. Big Jim’s Plumbing, Ralphie’s Plumbing, Eddie’s Plumbing… They all do a good job, none of them would still be in business at all if they snaked toilets with an actual snake. What is it that really sets them apart?

Innate Engagement

When you’re off the clock, don’t have any pressing concerns and are looking for entertainment, what kind of content do you seek out? Do you go out of your way to watch informative advertisements? Even people who are in the mood for more informative content, like documentaries and how-to videos, wouldn’t generally look for one about plumbing – they’d pick a topic they find more interesting, like World War II, chocolatiers, machinists, etcetera. This is the key point to keep in mind – people are, from a marketing perspective, self-serving. When they’re in need of plumbing, they’ll look for a plumber and find Big Jim; but never before, and never after. They don’t care about Big Jim; they care about their own needs. So, how does Big Jim make sure that when people do need plumbing, they think of him?

What Dealerships Have Figured Out

Let’s face it – car sellers are a pain in the butt. Locals will be very familiar with such campaigns as “It’s a crime to pay more than a dime” from Fogg’s Automotive, or “Huuuuuge” from Fuccillo. But these campaigns succeed for two main reasons:

1. They stick in your mind. As annoying as they might be, the constant variations of the campaign constantly playing work their way in. So, as irritating as they might be, when you do find yourself in need of a car, your first thoughts will be pretty predictable.

2. The annoyance of the campaign does not harm the quality of their product – cars. You know they sell them, you know they’ll be reliable enough, you saw the prices they advertised, and no amount of “Huuuuuuge” will interfere with that.

While the first point seems like the more important one, the second one is actually the
bigger deal… But because of that, this specific strategy only works well for dealerships.
Few products and services are so protected against idiocy that you can deliberately irritate your target market and find success rather than derisive failure.

How (And When) You Can Use Corniness to Your Advantage

Some businesses take themselves so seriously that they never find a way to resonate with the larger market. Adding some light-heartedness to your marketing can really take the edge off and widen your appeal… But this is a very difficult thing to force. If you try out a new slogan but your gut tells you it’s a bad fit, it probably is. However, most businesses have natural charisma points that can be used effectively in marketing. If your head salesman is a cool guy that clients love to meet but your marketing videos are purely informative, you’re holding back a key strength of your business. If your team interplay is great, that could be worth highlighting.

Exactly how important this can be is tied closely with how exciting your business is. If you build custom hot rods or maintain a huge indoor trampoline park, your need for this kind of marketing will be pretty limited… But if you’re an accountant or a wealth management specialist, you may want to consider adding a little pep alongside your informative content.

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