Why a Dose of Humor Is Beneficial to Your Brand


“We take our work very seriously. If you’re in the market for effective marketing advice, help, implementation, and working with awesome people, you’ve come to the right place. Read no further, just act now.

If, on the other hand, you are here because:

  • You can’t make up your mind
  • You evaluate marketing plans on a monthly basis
  • You keep firing (or losing) marketing help
  • You want cheaper stuff and happen to know that we’re in Omaha
  • You need someone to blame for your dismal sales figures
  • You have a product to market…in your head

We can still be friends, but Red Branch Media is not the place for you. We highly value what we do, and we do it better and for far less than most. 

In return for your promising to be nice, you’ll get a dedicated team loyal within your vertical, who is ready and willing to work as if they were your own employees. 

That’s the deal.”

The aforementioned is an excerpt from every business proposal my marketing firm sends out. While some may find it off-color or unprofessional, we know it’s served as a catalyst for defining who we work with best.

Why Do We Do This?

If nearly three-quarters of hiring managers are using cultural fit assessments to analyze candidates, then why can’t companies do something similar in business proposals? The working relationship you have with a new client is just as important as the one you have with a new employee, and if that client isn’t going to mesh well with the way you conduct business, then you shouldn’t allow them to sign on the dotted line.

In a business owner-employee relationship, you have the power to terminate the contract if it’s not going well. But in a business owner-client relationship, your business may depend on paid invoices. To ensure we get the best clients who align with how we work, we make sure they understand up front who we are as a team and what we tolerate. This places the power back in our hands.

You’re probably wondering what could have possibly happened to make me think of a clause like this. It stemmed from working with clients who could not make a decision to save their life, who exhausted my team’s energy, resources, and even mental health, and who were just plain unkind. While this explanatory clause doesn’t weed out all of the difficult clients, it does put into perspective how we expect to do business. To date, every client who has expressed discomfort with this clause has been a poor cultural fit.

Applying This Approach to Employee Fit

When you start as an employee at our company, you might be asked about your favorite album or what you’d take with you to a desert island. We might want to learn your nickname, or what your autobiography would be titled. No, these aren’t pointless interview questions. These are questions I ask our new hires, two by two, so I can quiz their colleagues at the end of their first week in something we call Brancher Trivia. It happens at the end of the new hires’ first week, and all of our employees participate.

Starting a new job is stressful, and most interns walk around with a dazed look on their face for the first few days. This is our way of making them the center of attention (with another new employee or intern) and having a little fun. It’s also a fantastic way to incentivize my current employees to get to know the new hire before the end of the week. Everyone knows when trivia is, but no one knows what the questions will be.

The team loves this exercise, and it does help break down some of the “new versus old” cliques that can happen in a smaller company. It helps me get to know each new hire personally, even as the team gets bigger. When we first started out, interns would drop off by 20-30% in the first month, but today, we have 100% retention in our internship program.

Getting Creative With Correspondence

To add an element of humor, we’ve made “1-800-GET-SERIOUS” our fax number. We also have a secret email address that sends a witty auto-responder to trusted clients.

A Robert Half International survey found 91 percent of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement, and 84 percent feel people with a good sense of humor do a better job. Companies like Southwest Airlines use humor to make their employees and their customers a little happier. Think of small ways you could be adding a lighthearted flair to your business model to better assess cultural fit with clients and employees, and also to show that you’re here to have fun, too.

BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.

About the author: Maren Hogan

Maren Hogan is the chief marketing brain of Red Branch Media.

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