Tim Washer. Keynote Speaker + Event Emcee

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How to Create a B2B Comedy Video Series

How to Create a B2B Comedy Video Series

 

My buddy Carlos Hidalgo called.  “Let’s create a comedy series on data governance.”

Sure, we’ve all had this same thought at one point.  And most of us realized it was a bad idea.

But I obliged, in the corporate way.  “Absolutely.”

Now What?

Over the years I’ve learned that an insightful comedy can be created for almost any topic.  There are a few simple steps to follow to find inspiration that will lead you to a hilarious concept.

Start with the Customer’s Pain Point 

Comedy comes from pain.  And when we build a story around what the customer is struggling with, we’re able to connect with empathy.  Instead of saying “we’re listening” and “you’re important to us,” we have now demonstrated it.  Proven it.  We’ve earned our customers’ trust, and they feel heard.

Listen for Specifics 

Often as marketers, we focus on the aggregate such as persona or a market segment.  But when writing a comedy script, we need to listen to one-on-one conversations.  We can’t build intimacy with a pie chart.

Carlos and his client, Michelle Genser, conducted a series of interviews with Chief Data Officers to understand the challenges they face in convincing their organizations to prioritize and properly fund the data governance initiative.  One CDO revealed in frustration, “Some days I feel like I just can’t catch a break.”

Boom!  That single quote captured the emotion we wanted to express, and led us to the concept for this series.

When you’re working to create new ideas for marketing and corporate communication, find out exactly what the customer is saying, verbatim.  Spend a day with a salesperson visiting customers, or read the customer service center’s call logs.  Or scroll through Yelp.   Customer complaints lead to understanding, which leads to meaningful marketing and comedy gold.

One of the infogix sales execs Matt told us in an interview that he uses a kitchen metaphor to explain the ROI of data governance to prospective clients.

‘If you add structure and organization to your kitchen, arrange and label utinsels and ingredients so that they are easy to find quickly, you can have more time available to innovate faster and deliver more complex recipes to your customers, improving their experience and increasing their loyalty.’

His metaphor gave us the script for the Coffee Shop video, and more importantly, justification to rent an entire coffee shop.

Heighten the Drama 

Heightening is an improv principle that raises the stakes for the protagonist.  Put your character into a situation where his or her specific problem will face greater consequences.  In this series, we mildly escalated the tension to only the “aggravation” level, although the “Fireplace” video pushes just beyond.  But in a long form improv show such as the Harold, it’s not unusual for consequences to reach an armageddon echelon.   Since you don’t use props or construct sets in improv, a production budget doesn’t get in the way of adding a volcano or swarm of locusts.

Add Absurdity

A close cousin of Heightening is Absurdity, and it can quickly lead a storyline into uproarious laughter.  An easy way to discover how to create an absurd concept is to take your scenario — in our case, how an organization implements a data governance policy — and juxtapose it with an unlikely partner.  Which, in our case, was an enterprise of squirrels.  So, we explored how data governance would help squirrels improve strategic planning.   About 57% of urban-dwelling squirrels have earned an MBA, so it’s a logical conclusion that they would apply the Porter Five Forces model, or at least a SWOT analysis.

Squirrel risk chart

To see other examples of how we inserted absurdity into our Chief Data Officer’s world, watch all seven videos.

Your Turn 

Take five minutes right now and create a comedy concept for your client.

  1. What is the key problem (pain point) that your client solves for their customers?
  2. Imagine what the consequences could be if that problem was not solved.
  3. Heighten the consequences.  Exaggerate them beyond what is reasonable.  If this scenario continues to get worse, how could this lead to Armageddon?  Push it to the hyperbolic for practice, then maybe dial it back.  This makes video production easier if you don’t have a locusts trainer on the Approved Vendor list.
  4. Add more laughs.  Going back to the “comedy comes from pain” principle, think about how you could fit all of this into an annoying situation, like an All Hands meeting.  Write down a list of the things that everyone complains about these meetings, and ask friends for input.  They will love to vent, and laughing about those frustrations provides empathy,  personal connection and even some healing.  It’s can help transform the office culture in a powerful way, making it more fun and creative.
  5. Finally, write a scene that takes place on the beach, so that you get to go to the beach.

Behind the scenes, filming Solitude.

I’ll share a few more shortcuts and simple tricks when I emcee and keynote the B2B Marketing Exchange in Scottsdale, AZ, Feb 25-27, 2019 and at MarketingProfs B2B Forum in San Francisco, Nov 13-15, 2018.   Please join us, and contact me for a discount code.

BMA Chicago:  Late Night Comedy Meets Corporate Storytelling

BMA Chicago: Late Night Comedy Meets Corporate Storytelling

A few links from #BMA14 presentation:

Mainframe: The Art of the Sale, Lesson One: http://youtu.be/MSqXKp-00hM #BMA14

The Perfect Gift for Valentine’s Day http://youtu.be/Z1xKpm0nURk #BMA14

John Cleese on the 5 Factors to Make Your Life More Creative http://ow.ly/xoPZR

Mini documentary: Phone Company In A Box http://youtu.be/WHaQY2MlHV8 #bma14

Smart building: Internet of Everything video https://vimeo.com/89159331

Humor and B2B Marketing: A Love Story. Improv with the CIO http://shar.es/VkNWi via @annhandley

Stephen King, Failure, Ghosts of The Stanley Hotel http://disq.us/8ilzm9

John Oliver’s viral video: the best climate debate you’ll ever see http://gu.com/p/3pb3c/tw via @guardian

 

 

Entrepreneur Magazine:  Humor in Marketing

Entrepreneur Magazine: Humor in Marketing

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For Ann Handley’s latest article in Entrepreneur Magazine, “4 Ways to Use Humor as a Marketing Tool,” we talked about how companies can take some simple approaches to entertain their audiences.

One of the key misconceptions about corporate humor is that it requires a huge budget.   All of the comedy YouTube videos that I’ve produced at IBM, Cisco and other freelance gigs have cost considerably less than our average production budget .  In some cases, we produced videos for less than 10% of the average marketing video budget, and received over 100 times more views than average.  Laughter  yields a significant ROI.

“Humor is effective in marketing because it humanizes and surprises. You can play it straight and write a blog post that clearly and emphatically states how your computer router can handle up to 6.4 terabits of data. Or you can get the point across and create something relatable, charming and (of course!) shareable. Cisco did this by positioning its decidedly impersonal router as the perfect “forever” gift for Valentine’s Day: “Nothing says I love you like the Cisco ASR 9000.” The former is boring. The latter infuses the message and brand with a human element that’s anything but expected.”

Avoid the overhead of the big agency and put the money into the right places — a strong comedy writer, director, editor, and of course actors with comedy skills.    It takes some legwork, but your customers and broader audience will be thrilled with the effort.

Read more in Ann’s article.

Improv with the CIO

Improv with the CIO

Our Voice of the Customer marketing team has been exploring creative approaches for our customer interview videos.  At a recent CIO conference we asked a few adventurous executives if they would be willing to try something a little more entertaining.

Dinner with the CIO

At any C-level executive event, there is a lot of pressure on the events team to make sure everything goes smoothly.   The agenda is managed very closely, so we only had about 15 minutes for these interviews.   Thankfully, it was one of those wonderful occasions where everything went our way.  Our amazing events team worked with the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel staff to get us access to film in one of the restaurants during the day before it opened for dinner.   All of the CIOs were fabulous!  We had created just enough structure to the scene to make it easy to improvise, and they all seemed to have a fun time and enjoy the experience.

Ann Handley shares more of the backstory in her post, Humor and B2B Marketing:  A Love Story.

 

Sunset at Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Forbes: How to Add Humor to Marketing

Forbes: How to Add Humor to Marketing

I had a fun visit with Ekaterina Walter for her Forbes article, B2B Marketing Does’t Have to Be Boring.  She cites the Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising which found that 47% of respondents agreed that humorous ads resonated the most.  We discussed a few brands, including B2B brands, that are successfully using humor to connect with their audiences.   One of my favorite is “Mr. W.”

Mr W

If you’re not following Ekaterina on Twitter already, you must in 2014.

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Humanizing the Brand… It’s Not Rocket Science

We can send a person to the moon, but still struggle to humanize corporate brands.  NASA has successfully done both.   As BuzzFeed reports, a seven-and-a-half year-old aspiring astronaut named Dexter, submitted his cover letter and curriculum vitae visualized in a crayon infographic.  NASA responded by granting the youngster his first flush letter, and a bunch of other cool space stickers and photos.  Sometimes, it’s just that simple.

 

Dexter's NASA letter

Dexter’s mom posted an image of the letter to Reddit yesterday, and it has over 200,000 views, plus coverage in The Huffington Post, Fast Company, and Abilene Public Radio.

I know this takes a little time and effort for a corporate communications or social media team to respond, but sometimes doing the right thing, albiet simple, can have a huge impact on a brand’s public image. For B2B brands, a good part of the social media budget and objective should be geared toward these type of engagements. It’s a much more efficient use of resources than over-analyzing ROI.

Not all brands can offer a potential future trip to outer space, but a simple reply creates a connection, which could lead to a deeper relationship. I remember being impressed when Nordstrom noticed my tweet.

I wasn’t quite as moved as when I received an auto-pen handwritten reply after writing my U.S. President when I was Dexter’s age, but a department store is no match for the charisma of William Taft.

Contagious. Why Things Catch On

Contagious.  Now Available in the large print edition.
Contagious

Last month I visited The Wharton School to speak about the benefits of using humor in corporate social media. While on campus, I had the chance to interview Dr. Jonah Berger about his book, Contagious:  Why Things Catch On.  The video interview is posted in my BtoB Magazine blog.  We discussed how he’s applied science to understanding what will go viral, how B2B content marketing folks can apply his STEPPS model to improve the success of their campaigns, and how humor helps content marketing be more successful.  FastCompany posted a few excepts from the book.

Jonah also connected me to his friend Dr. Peter McGraw, author of The Humor Code and professor of marketing and psychology at the University of Colorado Boulder.  Ann Handley and I will interview him on Better Marriage Through Big Data this summer.

Photo: Andrew Hetherington, in Wired

After the gig, Steve Aguiree and I celebrated over an outstanding cheeseburger at 500 degrees.  On my next trip to Philadelphia, I’ll check out Lucky’s Last Chance, winner of this year’s Burger Brawl.

Comedy at @Wharton cheeseburger. Go with the wild boar bacon

 

 

2013 Webby Award Honoree: Phone Company in a Box

 

Webby Awards

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

One simple approach to creating stories for corporate social media and content marketing is focusing on  history.  Even for a young company, there is history in the industry or in the innovations that inspired it.  The key is to research and discover the fascinating stories and storytellers.

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In 2011, we took a small part of our budget and produced a documentary about some of the pioneers who helped build the telecom network, and how the “largest, most reliable machine ever built” is contributing to economic growth, especially in developing regions of the world.

We did not mention our company or products ever, but focused on stories.  That allowed us to connect with the audience in a much more compelling way, and still do the marketing work of amplifying an important message about the importance of the telecom network.  It is one of the top ranked videos on our YouTube channel, and was broadcast on the ShortsHD television network.

Our documentary has been recognized as an Official 2013 Webby Honoree in the Technology category for Online Video and Film.  We’re proud to be in the good company of Team Coco, honored for the “John Adobe” video.

Spend some time on the Webby Awards site and scroll through the winners like the inspirational TED Ed, Google’s win in Corporate Communications, and Jerry Seinfeld’s breakthrough Web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”  Congrats to fellow Upright Citizens Bridge alum Michael Dubin for his Dollar Shave Club Webby win.  Yet another testament to the power of humor in marketing.

 

ROI on Humor in Social Marketing

 

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I’m often asked what is the value of using humor in social media and marketing efforts.  While I can’t always make the case that a :60 YouTube comedy is going to inspire an impulsive purchase of a $100,000 piece of hardware, comedy helps corporate videos stand out and be remembered among the clutter.  NBC News reports that 72 hours of video content is uploaded to YouTube every minute, so it is becoming more and more difficult to get noticed.

Today, at the B2B Content2Conversion Conference at the New York Times Center, Michael Brenner, Forbes blogger and SAP vice president of marketing, included our valentines video as a case study.

The spot, while completely absurd and ridiculous, helped us amplify an important marketing message during a product launch over three years ago.  It earned press coverage in The New York Times, NetworkWorld and other trade magazines; and David Meerman Scott referenced it as a best practice example in his bestselling book Real-Time Marketing & PR.

And here we are, more than three years later, and it’s being presented to a group of B2B marketers and influencers, and the social buzz continues from some of B2B’s top influencers, including Ann Handley, Margaret Molloy and Marissa Pick.

I don’t think Michael Brenner sold any routers for us today, although if he did, I’m sure he’ll DM me about his commission check.

 

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Margaret

Marissa

 

BtoB Magazine: Elements of a Great Story

Usually the first question I ask when I’m preparing to produce a corporate video is “Can we film this in Burlington, Vermont?”  It’s a beautiful location, especially August through October.  But on our recent trip, the temperature on the lake with the windchill was minus 40.  Communication is challenging when your jaw is frozen shut.

Frozen Lake Champlain

Stalling so we could stay indoors a little longer, Steve Shepard and I had a chat with Ann Handley about corporate storytelling.  It’s featured in BtoB Magazine this week.

Shep_Tim

Plan to shoot your next video there, and schedule stops at Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, and American Flatbread. But keep an eye out for the lake monster.