Smiles Sell, Frowny Faces Don't

By Stacy Cornay for the Times-Call
Publish Date: 09/02/2012

I get a kick out of some bumper stickers like:

“I didn't say it was your fault. I said I was blaming you.” Or

“A clear conscience is the sign of fuzzy memory.” Or

“I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure.” Or

“Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.” Or

“Where there's a will, I want to be in it.”

Bumper stickers like those brighten my day. They make me smile. They reflect the personality of the person driving the car.

The same is true of advertising.

Humor in advertising can brighten a person's day. It can make them smile. Most important, humor can make people feel good about the business and products behind the advertising. Smiles are great ice-breakers and warm laughter is a potent sales pitch.

Recently when I was going through the New Orleans airport, I was confronted by a very large, very loud female screening agent. She asked me to take off my glasses. I countered that since

I was wearing contact lens, not glasses, it would be difficult for me to comply with her directive. The screening agent laughed loudly, slapped her knee and told everyone else waiting to be screened, “Just look at this here lady! She thinks she's not wearing glasses! Just look at her standing there telling me to my face that she's not wearing any glasses!” Everyone looked and everyone joined her laughter.

Suddenly I realized my reading glasses were perched majestically on top of my head. My face was red, but I laughed harder than all the rest. The stress of a long airport screening line evaporated instantly in a sea of smiling faces.

Why are so many of us taking things so seriously? They begin the nightly news with “Good Evening”, then proceed to tell us why it isn't. They tell us we have a massive and ever-growing national debt, that unemployment is stuck at record high levels, that there's gridlock in Washington and that the Rockies are in the sub-basement of the National League. But frowny faces, grimacing and teeth-grinding in our advertising won't change any of that. Gloom and pessimism won't improve our businesses. Who wants to do deal with a negative Nellie?

Lighten up already. Consider putting a little humor in your advertising. It doesn't have to be knee-slapping Face Book funny. It's not necessary to round up herds of erudite lizards or flocks of talking ducks or litters of cute babies. Just inject a touch of your personality in your business advertising. Let current and potential clients and customers know that while your business is serious about what it is doing, it also knows how and when to smile.

A word of caution, however.

Humor in advertising is a double-edged sword. It can backfire spectacularly if your target audience doesn't share your sense of humor. What is humorous to some may be offensive to others. What teenage boys laugh about in the locker room probably will turn customers away if it is repeated in your advertising. Use one-liners with care, beware of double entendres and stay well within the boundaries of political correctness.

Advertising and marketing campaigns appeal to emotions. We're urged to buy because bad things may happen if we don't or good things may happen if we do. In the current climate of negativity, most people are looking for more. They want to feel good about their decisions. Showing that your business can deliver builds their confidence. Their confidence is reinforced when your business also reflects an appreciation for smiles.

Smiles keep customers and clients coming back for more.


Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.