I love when companies let loose a little when it comes to their approach to marketing. Removing a stiff outer shell makes them seem more down to earth and approachable, and it makes me feel a bit more drawn to what they are selling because they seem like the kind of people I’d like – so I support them buy purchasing or cross promotion their products even if their product isn’t the #1 seller, or the cheapest, or a top of the line item. I like that they don’t take themselves so seriously. They seem like my kinda folks.
However there appears to be a fine line of acceptance when choosing to add color to your marketing vocabulary, and there can be consequences to crossing some boundaries. Sometimes having a carefree attitude with your marketing can land you in hot water.
To LOVE or not to LOVE
One company recently caught my attention when they landed themselves in the national news for something quite harmless and sweet. The Nashoba Brook Bakery in Concord, Mass, decided to have a little fun with their packaging. To take their granola product one step further, they decided to list “LOVE” in the ingredients.
“People ask us what makes it so good. It’s kind of nice that this artisan bakery can say there’s love in it and it puts a smile on people’s face,” Gates said. (RobbReport)
But the FDA wasn’t smiling. Seems that “LOVE” isn’t an FDA listed ingredient, so Nashoba had to remove it as an ingredient on their packaging:
Love is not a common or usual name of an ingredient and is considered to be intervening material because it is not part of the common or usual name of the ingredient.
On the flip side, Pepperidge Farms, famous for the Goldfish crackers with the smiling faces, found a way around the legal mumbo jumbo to add their unique feature of LOVE to the ingredients even though it legally isn’t an ingredient. How? Look again at the picture – they separated it by putting it first and bolded, and apparently it worked!
Politics and Humor
Patagonia, for example, is well known for their unapologetic stance on the environment and most recently started mass promoting against the president’s decision to reduce the size of 2 national monuments.
THE PRESIDENT STOLE YOUR LAND…In an illegal move, the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history.
Not all companies have the kahunas to publicize their feelings like Patagonia does, especially when it comes to politics, but the great thing about them is they are strong in who they are and who they represent.
Others like to dabble in the humor of marketing by writing whitty commentary. Some of my favorites here are Urban Outfitters, FAB.com, and Antennas Direct.
Urban Outfitters is a great source for practical out of the ordinary items. I particularly enjoy seeking them out for the holidays, and they are exceptional at describing their sometimes out of the box items for sale. How about a Darth Vader humidifier?
Product Sku: 44181949 ; Color Code: 001
The stoic Sith Lord employs his ultrasonic technology to dispense a gentle soothing mist for breathing easy. In an armored construction concealing a 1/2-gallon water tank that humidifies a room for up to 12 hours. Complete with 10 moisture settings, an auto-off function for safety + an ambient nightlight to ensure you don’t fall victim to the Dark Side.
Or maybe a poodle statue from FAB.com will interest you? FAB is geared toward unique and artistic minded products for the creative soul. This is no ordinary poodle!
Don’t be jealous of this poodle’s crown. She worked hard for it, and will gladly keep your money safe while until you put together enough coins to splurge on one of your own. Or on a cup of coffee—she’s not going to tell you how to spend your hard-earned dollars.
Antennas Direct’s Master Chef is not only a tech savvy guy but one with a great sense of humor to boot! In its infancy AD had some fun with the installation disclaimer on the packaging for one of their HD antennas.
Do not attempt to install if drunk, pregnant or both.
Do not eat antenna.
Do not throw antenna at spouse.
What’s the right formula?
How will you know what is acceptable and what is too far? Here are some tips:
- Start with Your Brand. Your brand should serve as the roadmap for all of your communications. If a little humor aligns with your brand, great. If taking a political stance bolsters your brand, go for it. But if your brand doesn’t call for it, think twice.
- Know Your Audience. Are they likely to embrace the humor, or will it shock them or alienate them? Are their values in line with your beliefs of expressing a little fun, or making political statements?
- Accept Who You Are. Be confident in the story you have to tell, the way you want to tell it, and be true to the audience who will appreciate it. It’s OK to not appeal to everyone, and OK to focus on those who will love you for connecting with them.
- Have a Great Marketing Team. The right collaborator will get you and your audience, and will help you navigate the waters to keep you from sinking.
Or just wait for a letter from the FDA.