The Art of Making Fun of Yourself: Being Self-Deprecating for the Purpose of Marketing

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The Art of Making Fun of Yourself: Being Self-Deprecating for the Purpose of Marketing

The whole point of marketing is to outline what makes our business so good that people are willing to throw their money at us. We highlight what we think makes us so good, unique and better than everybody else’s that it didn’t take long for our confidence to cross that point of no return into being arrogant. The problem is, it’s scientifically impossible for us to be right all the time and being human, showing to the average public that just like them, we’re not exactly infallible, can actually foster connection between brands and customers.

The famed writer C.S. Lewis once wrote that “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less”. Being humble isn’t about selling yourself short, it’s about spending less time on yourself and making you relatable to potential customers. In the world of content marketing and content marketing services, it doesn’t always have to be ME, ME, ME all the time. It’s a good idea to take a step back once in a while, poke fun at yourself and laugh along with the rest of your customers.

Humility in self-deprecating humor

In the world of comedy, there’s a type of humor described as self-deprecating humor and it’s a mark of honesty, humility and self-awareness and they are particularly effective if you want to make other people feel comfortable. Self-deprecating humor isn’t a way of undermining your confidence; it is actually a way for you to express your confidence. An insecure individual would always try to cover up their shortcomings but a confident one would have no problem with that because they realize their shortcomings do not define them.

Take a look at this glorious example from our friends across the ocean. Kompas is one of Indonesia’s biggest, most popular and most respected daily newspaper. However, they’re not exactly immune to silly mistakes, as evidenced from their July 10 edition where you can clearly see a series of lines that would undoubtedly be familiar to anyone working in web and layout design. Printed next to a picture of smiling Roger Federer is the familiar lorem ipsum line that is typically used as placeholder text.

For a respected journalistic institution to commit such an amateurish mistake is somewhat embarrassing but the marketing team at Kompas decided to roll with it and use this as a marketing opportunity. As part of their apology, Kompas decided to offer a one-day only discount of 30% for any products from their publishing arm using the voucher code KOMPASLOREMIPSUM. The best brands know how to profit from adversity and next time you find yourself being cornered, you might want to consider using self-deprecating and all of the related benefits.

Authenticity and honesty is very important for younger customers

If your business is trying to court the millennial and Generation Z demographic, you have to be aware that these younger generations have proven to be more or less impervious to conventional brand messaging. These younger generations are both more cynical and brand-savvy than ever before and they know full well that if something appears immaculate from the outside, the skeletons hidden in their closet must be particularly abhorrent. No brand can ever be perfect and the sooner you acknowledge this fact, the better.

Instead of constantly trying to cover up your shortcomings and silly mistakes, try to openly acknowledge them and try to do better in the future. Just keep in mind that self-deprecating humor has their time and place. For silly and ultimate harmless mistakes like Kompas, being self-deprecating is a masterstroke but if your mistake actually hurts people, actual humility might be in order. Just as how you’re not supposed to laugh at funerals, you have to be smart when trying to use humor as a marketing weapon.

Brands, they’re just like us

Venture into any gossip or celebrity entertainment website and you’ll soon encounter a section labeled “Stars, they’re just like us!” or other similar sections. From Justin Bieber being comfortable with his pimples to Chrissy Teigen tweeting at 7 pm that she hasn’t showered all day and that when she finally did, a fly followed her all the way to the shower, engaging in some self-deprecating humor helps make your brand more relatable. By keeping your business grounded, it can make it easier for the public to relate to your brand, which could seriously help raise your profile.

Being self-deprecating can be used to creatively showcase your good side

One of the most interesting pieces I’ve read on marketing is a 2017 in-depth piece from Bloomberg on how Domino’s managed to successfully turnaround from being a punchline to a recognizable force in the North American market. For years, Domino’s has long been known for their appalling pizzas when compared to their competitors but that changed in early 2010 when then-CEO Patrick Doyle came into the picture and Domino’s began to openly admit in their marketing materials that yes, they know their pizzas are horrible and they’re trying to change that.

The self-deprecating ads are funny yes but what’s incredible about this campaign is that Domino’s took pains to highlight their innovations in other areas, specifically in the realm of technology and how we order our pizzas. You can for example order pizzas via Twitter using emojis and how they used specially customized Chevrolet Sparks with special side doors and warming ovens for delivery. They’ve managed to improve their pizzas yes, but Domino’s innovations in the “unconsumable” side also helped and they’ve shown that being self-deprecating doesn’t mean you have to kick yourself all the time.