How To Build A Funny Brand (Hint: Carefully)

Posted on Jun 3, 2019

Episode: S01E16

Podcast Guest: Allie LeFevere and Lyndsay Rush
Role: Founders
Company: Obedient

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You know what’s worse than a crappy brand that tries to be funny?

Nothing. Nothing is worse.

Which is why I was intrigued by Obedient, a branding agency that specializes in building funny brands. Humor can be one of the best ways to create an emotional connection with a customer (like this awesome Brooklinen ad) or an incredible way to fail. Hard.

So how do you develop a funny brand right? Well, that’s what Allie LeFevere and Lyndsay Rush explained, touching on:

  • The right way to run a branding process, whether it’s funny or not
  • Shaping a funny brand for a fertility clinic (seriously)
  • The nuances of humor
  • And a lot of crappy jokes of mine that show that it’s really, really hard to be funny

Episode Transcript

Ever since third grade or so, I’ve been trying to get people’s attention. And now, professionally, I get paid to do it. Because essentially everything about marketing is about getting attention from the right person at the right time. I’m obviously not the only person doing it, right?

In 2018, Google made 116 billion dollars turning attention into clicks with adwords.

So today, we’re talking about one very cool way to get it – and it doesn’t involve running calling the teacher fat. My name is Eytan Buchman, you’re vaguely paying attention to Marketers in Capes, and today, we’re talking to Allie and Lyndsay from Obedient Agency, a Chicago branding agency with a twist for getting the right attention.

L et’s say hi to our guests:

Hey Eytan, it’s Allie and Lyndsay here from Obedient Agency. We are a branding agency that uses fun and humor to get brands attention.

Yea, sounded a little strange to me too. But before I dive in, I want to read you the copy from a brand that Obedient worked on cause I think it’s just such a great example. It’s called Concev and it’s a fertility clinic. Yea, fertility. And their homepage starts with:


The copy throughout the entire site is fun and super irreverent – not what you would expect. The newsletter signup copy? “LET’S CONCĒV TOGETHER.” and later they brag about “enjoying the baby planning as much as you enjoy the babymaking”

It’s different. And it was done by Obedient.

And that’s them in a nutshell. They’ve done it with companies like Chick-a-fill and Lee Jeans…and they’re good. So yhy humor?

So, we believe, and have been able to prove that humor and fun are absolute creative powerhouses. They can really just do a ton of heavy lifting creatively. And for the roles that humor plays, that we turn to time and time again, is that fun and humor are differentiating. So, they will get your brand attention in a very saturated marketplace. They are delightful, which will create a positive consumer experience. They’re impactful, which will motivate consumer behavior and create the results that you want. And they are compelling, meaning that it continues the consumer engagement, it expands brand awareness, it retains clients.

Of course, not all humor is created equal. And I’m not talking about the difference between a fart joke and The Merchant of Venice (and yes, I had to look of which Shakespeare plays were comedies).

we want to understand the consumer’s emotions, because ultimately what we’re trying to do is elicit a response, and evoke an emotion in your consumer and in your audience. And so that’s when we start to build out your personality. And we’re starting to understand what are the tones and tactics? What are the different shades of humor? The different fun-centeric devices that we can deploy to really cultivate an audience response? Because obviously a sarcastic tone will elicit a different response than a very silly tone will elicit. And a pun will elicit a different response than a really catchy one-liner. So, we, based off of how an audience needs to feel, that’s when we start building out what is your humor identity, what’s this personality going to be?

At the end of the day, customers fall for personalities, not brands. You don’t love Game of Thrones, you certainly don’t love the last season, but when you do, you love the characters. Same thing with modern media outlets; you love the Thomas Friedmans or the Anderson Coopers, not the New York Times or CNN. As Lyndsay says:

we want to develop a brand that you grow to love, like, understand. Which is why having a really strong personality is so important.

If you’re anything like me, you hate it when people try to be funny. And if you’re anything like my friends, you hate it when I try to be funny. And, surprisingly for a humor-based branding agency, so does Obedient.

we never recommend being funny just for funny sake. We think that there has to be a killer strong strategy embedded into it, and that’s sort of back to the audience tone and the emotions that certain shades of humor elicit. We think that is just so key. Maybe your audience does want you to be goofy, because they want to relax and they want to really be entertained. If that will drive your brand message and brand objective forward, great. but that is not right for everyone.

By the way, this isn’t only true about humor or brand voice. After a lot of trial and error, I learned that implementing random marketing case studies you come across online are doomed to fail if they aren’t related to your core strategy.

And so we think when you develop this whole robust identity, it doesn’t come off as we’re just trying to throw in this pop culture joke. Or, we’re just trying to be funny for the heck of it. You know that it is driven by a goal, and targeted to an exact audience.

And when it has a strategy with a specific goal, it works. Here’s how it played out with Concev:

And really fertility is a topic that’s really fraught, and infertility of course is fraught with emotions and negativity and shame, and just a lot of complex things. And so you would at first be thinking how can we make this lighthearted? But Conceive, our client, really wanted to humanize this whole topic and break down the barriers, and have an engaging experience. And speak to her audience is a conversational very refreshing tone. And it has worked wonders. It has really brought in an audience for her.

So they pulled off fertility, which I’m sure was not easy. So can anything be funny? Should it be?

the probably two biggest objections we get from potential clients are, “There’s nothing funny about my industry or my offering,” and, “I want to be taken seriously as an expert.”

According to Obedient, that’s may be true…but every brand on earth still needs to form a connection. And that’s where humor can help.

Every brand could do with building a relationship with their audience that is more connected, that is more relatable, that people get, that they feel like speaks to them and resonates with them. And that’s the power of creating something that is different and memorable and unique and compelling. And the lightheartedness of it allows your audience to feel a bit disarmed in a really good, healthy way. And allows your message to land more explicitly and directly with your audience.

There are some more great examples of Obedient’s work on their website at obediantagency.com but I will leave you with one glaring red caveat. There’s nothing more cringe-worthy than a brand that tries to be funny and falls on their face. Don’t be that brand. Allie also gave a great summary on how their actual branding process that’s relevant to any company, funny or not – you can find that at the link in the show notes below.

Until next time, my name is Eytan Buchman, you’ve been listening to some superhero marketers on marketers in capes, and i’m going to slowly faaaaade away.