Samuelson Communications » Brand humor done right. Hint: we’re not talking Groupon Samuelson Communications » Brand humor done right. Hint: we’re not talking Groupon Samuelson Communications » Brand humor done right. Hint: we’re not talking Groupon

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Brand humor done right. Hint: we’re not talking Groupon

Kulula Flying 101Last week Groupon pulled the plug on its controversial and now infamous Super Bowl ad that made light of Tibet’s human rights issues by promoting a discount offer on Groupon to a Tibetan restaurant. Groupon claimed that they were making fun of themselves, highlighting “the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues.” Much has been written about the tastelessness and inapproriateness of the ad.  From Ad Week to the Huffington Post to NPR response to it was almost universally negative.

 Beyond the tastelessness of the ad, the brouhaha over the ad also pointed out the difficulty of using humor as a key brand element. It can easily backfire as in the case of Groupon. Or simply fail to amuse and come across as lame.  (How many times have you groaned out loud at a bad ad?)  But humor as a brand driver also has the potential for huge upsides.  A case in point is Kulula, a small South African airline.  One aircraft, its Flying 101 (see more photos here),  is painted bright green with text on the fuselage such as ‘co-pilot’, ‘black box’ and  ‘engine #2’ with arrows pointing to the location.  (My favorites: “emergency exit = throne zone (more leg room baby!” And “loo (or mile-high club initiation chamber”.))  Other airplanes are painted in cow spots, camouflage and one has a zipper down its side.  The safety briefing was written by comedians. The Flying 101 was quickly an internet sensation. Google Kulula and you’ll find thousands of posts about them and their sense of humor as well as examples of the Flying 101 and inflight announcements.

All of which goes to show that when it works, humor can pay big dividends. How else would a little airline at the bottom of Africa have been able to become so well known?  But if you’re thinking of using humor as a brand driver, be careful to test it so you don’t fall flat on your face like Groupon.

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