Humor is one powerful marketing tool, whether your aim is to market commercial products or market yourself as a filmmaker. If you’re not convinced, just jump over to GEICO Insurance’s YouTube channel.
While many people will do anything in their power (e.g., TiVo, Netflix, escaping to the kitchen) to avoid having to sit through any length of advertisement, GEICO has managed to turn its ads into a destination—amassing millions upon millions of views for a channel that’s really just one giant ad.
The driving force behind this traffic isn’t likely consumer interest in insurance rates, but interest in the company’s popular brand of humor—which, eventually, converts to the former. The result is a “funnel” of viewership that all filmmakers can learn from, whether aspiring to film comedies or not.
GEICO might have found its niche with humor year-round; however, that same path isn’t best for everyone. Audiences expect videos marketing designer pants, for example, to showcase sophistication or sex appeal—not slapstick comedy.
Fortunately, there are ways to capitalize on the viral appeal of humor without using it to define your brand year-round, April Fools’ Day being one of them.
Take Bonobos, for example, a premium line of menswear with jeans peaking at around $195 a pair. While their goal is to make shopping “fun,” no doubt a historical challenge for the male demographic, their brand image must still remain professional, polished, and sophisticated to support their demographic and price point. That holds true for all days except for April Fools’ Day, when they’re known to pull stunts like the ultra-ultra-tight “girlfriend jean” video below.
The traffic from this video, explains Bonobos vice president of marketing Craig Elbert, “was at Cyber Monday levels,” a truly herculean feat for a Monday in April.
“Creating truly humorous, timely, and relevant content was definitely the key to success here,” Elbert adds. “That and showing a large man in tight, tight jeans.”
On April 2, they then went back to pushing jetsetter suits and golf pants with videos often earning 60,000 to 70,000 fewer views compared with their April Fools’ Day stunt.
What filmmakers can learn from this is that, like Halloween, April Fools’ Day is a bit of a freebie where branding and views are concerned. If you’re in the business of producing serious commercial videos for clients, you might still pitch an April Fools’ Day stunt for next year and encourage them to let their collars down for a day.
Likewise, if your goal is to grow your own audience as a filmmaker, it never hurts to add some occasional humor. Even if you’re a documentary, sci-fi, or action filmmaker, we all get a pass on April Fools’ Day to do something humorous, behind-the-scenes, and, ultimately, human—which can be a great way to get on the radar of wider audiences.
Plus, humorous videos can be a lot of fun to produce—unless you’re the guy who gets chosen to wear the painfully restrictive pants.