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Stand Up Comedy Can Help Your Marketing Strategy Pack a POWERFUL PUNCH!

By Rochelle Newman-Carrasco EVP,
Hispanic Marketing at Walton Isaacson

If you want to appreciate the power of cultural connection, try your hand at stand-up comedy. You can gather a similar appreciation by sitting in the audience, but the actual act of connecting as a performer takes it to a whole other level.

What you will find is that laughter can be generated in a number of ways, but all of them have some form of cultural aspect driving the physical reaction behind a laugh. Sometimes the cultural aspect is what I like to call and “in-common” experience, meaning that the way you are using humor, let’s say the joke you are telling, is based upon some form of universal truth. Thus, the audience can appreciate the journey you have taken them on, because they can relate to it from their own life experience or observation. That said, some of the more powerful forms of humor, are those stories and jokes that are rooted in a defined cultural truth and that are being performed for an “in-culture” audience – be that audience from a specific ethnic group, religious group, sorority, business organization, or any number of collective communities that share a cultural through-line. The magic of joke telling, the ability to have the power to elicit a visceral physical and emotional reaction, is often based on the ability to take an audience down a path and have them follow you – which is what is meant when you see that an audience “gets it”. If you’ve got an audience following you – getting it – and you’ve got them believing they know what direction you’re taking them in – and then there’s an unexpected twist (an artful twist that is truthful and that skews the perspective and sees it through a fresh lens), then you will almost inevitably hear that magical sound – the sound of laughter.

Forget about language. Right now, focus on the idea that like comedy, advertising and marketing is designed to elicit a physical and emotional reaction. There needs to be enough connection and relevance that the outcome creates everything from awareness to affinity to persuasion to go out and buy that product or service now. The act of connecting with maximum relevance and resonance is known to drive up the possibility of persuasion. So, think of Chris Rock, Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, or George Lopez, and the list goes on. Think about how they define their brand from both a universal “in-common’’ perspective, to reach the widest audience possible, while at the same time crafting in-culture material directed at their fiercest fans.

It’s no wonder that marketers find that humor plays a powerful role in message relevance and recall. Yet, when it comes to US Hispanic marketing, there has been a lag in applying this high impact approach. Perhaps due to misinterpretations of the notion that comedy doesn’t translate or an over-reliance on the emotional tugging of heartstrings, marketers have been hesitant to engage with Hispanic consumers with comedy or even with humor.

During this year’s annual Retail 360 conference, developed by Stagnito Media and held in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to discuss humor with top marketers and open up a dialogue about the types of humor that resonate with laugh-loving Latino audiences.

Linguistic jokes, those that rely on word play, are difficult to adapt from language to language, but that’s no reason not to explore other linguistic twists that can delight your audience. Cultural jokes, those with an ethnic skew, are usually best left out of advertising content, as they are often designed to derive laughs from pain or put-downs. The politically correct world in which we live has taught marketers numerous lessons about being insensitive to those who don’t find ethnic humor of any type worthy of a laugh. The comedy club scene can fill that void for those who need their fix. Universal jokes usually rely on unexpected twists and are often visual in nature. Visual humor, if universally understood, can often be a valuable cross-cultural tool.

The Spanish philosopher, Miguel de Unamuno once said “an idea doesn’t translate from one language to another without change.” This is certainly true of humor, which relies more so on ideas than information. Information is often translatable, as in legal copy and other information driven objective texts. But ideas and particularly comic ideas are born out of cultural context and distort to small or larger degrees when language changes occur. That said; remember that US Latinos, most of whom trace their heritage back to diverse Latin American countries and the Caribbean, are quick to deal with life through laughter. If you are a marketer, don’t deny your brand this opportunity to make a comic and long lasting connection. You’ll be richly rewarded with for the punch line that persuades.