Tim Washer. Keynote Speaker + Event Emcee

Archives

Tagged ‘corporate comedy‘
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.

Pershing Square Cafe

One of my first post-college roommates Bruse Loyd texted asking if I wanted to meet for lunch while he was in NYC this week. After some internal debate, I accepted hoping to finally get reimbursed for the October 1994 cable bill. No such luck, but at least I enjoyed the visit with Nick and Reese, who took me to Pershing Square Cafe located directly across 42nd St from Grand Central Station.

Pershing Square Cafe

My first job out of college was in sales with Xerox Corporation.  I’m pretty sure having that much fun on a job is not allowed anymore.  The job introduced me to corporate comedy as I used to write sketches and emcee the sales conferences.   Sales is an outstanding place to start a career as it forces you to learn the art of communication and negotiation quickly.

Pershing Square, NYC

After each copier sale, we were required to spend two hours training the customer on how to use the equipment.  Here’s a clip of my buddy Bruse :

And approximately 80% of our sales leads came from this commercial:

About the Cheeseburger & Comedy blog series.

FastCompany Interview: Corporate Comedy Video

fastcompany

After speaking at NYU’s B2B social communications leadership conference, I had the chance to visit with FastCompany’s Drew Neisser about how corporations can help use  humor to build online audiences.    Check out the article here, and an extended discussion on Drew’s blog.

A Vote for Comedy in B2B Social Media

I had the pleasure of meeting Paul Gillin at the Inbound Marketing Summit this month in Foxboro, MA.   He was interested in a series of YouTube comedy videos  “Mainframe: The Art of the Sale,” and wrote a nice article about them.

A notes from behind the scenes:

The question I get most often about these is “how did you get these approved at a big corporation?’

BtoBcover

By starting small.  The first comedy I produced at IBM was at the end of 2004, and it was internal only — for a sales meeting — which kept the risk very low.  I kept the cost low by asking one of my best friends, Scott Teems, a director, to help me for $400.   The video was a hit, I was asked to create a sequel, and was able to pay Scott a nice tip.

SXSW panel: Late Night Comedy meets Corporate Video

sxswi

Our proposed panel has made it through the first round of the SXSW Interactive selections, and now we need your vote to make it to the show.  Scott Teems, SXSW Film Festival winning director for THAT EVENING SUN and I (contributor to SNL, Letterman, Conan, The Onion) will discuss a few of our corporate YouTube video hits that earned recognition from The New York Times and Comedy Central, as well as lessons learned from near “fireable offenses.”   Bestselling author David Meerman Scott (New Rules of Marketing & PR, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead) will join us.

We’d appreciate your vote for our panel (voting ends 11:59 CDT Friday, August 27.) It takes a minute to register for an account, then click here [note: the panelpicker page doesn’t allow for listing of all panelists, hence the above post]

http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/ideas/view/7744

The Business Case for Nonsense

I went to Harvard Business School.

But it was only for one evening.  Last Thursday, I was invited to present a case study on using comedy in corporate YouTube videos, and shared “Mainframe: The Art of the Sale.”  This video series we published in August 2006 continues to be discussed, simply because it’s funny.  It’s listed as a case study in the second edition of bestseller  The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott, published this month.  (Congrats, David!)

Comedy done well has the power to cut through clutter and to influence, and that’s helped me get an honorable mention on Click-Z’s Social Media All-Stars list.  My thanks to Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics.

Here’s my presentation:The Business Case for Nonsense: IBM Social Media

Best practices for creating B2B marketing videos

Interview with David Meerman Scott on producing comedy videos for the corporate world.  Thanks to Matt Kaplan and the folks at VisibleGains.

Interview in American Entertainment Magazine

Here’s my interview on keeping the comedy clean at corporate events, and a little background on how I got started.