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There’s never been greater need for humour at work than now.

And in marketing – famed, as an industry for proliferating bull**** that eventually invests the very people who created it – the need is greater still.

Humour busts bull**** like nothing else can. With it go the stresses, false notions of pressure and unhealthy anxieties that can drag both individuals and businesses spiralling down. Phew!

Now, let’s be clear – work isn’t a comedy club (unless you do actually work in one [like I used to] in which case it clearly is.)

At work there’s ample space for seriousness, focus, determination and graft. In fact, productive people and teams probably spend most of their day in these destinctly un-funny states.

Humour helps banish unproductive demons from the workplace, but it certainly needs some checks and balances if anybody’s going to get anything done. If your staff are encasing colleages’ staplers in jelly*, maybe it’s gone a bit far.

In practice, though, humour is almost universally in shorter supply than it is in over supply.

* Thinking of The Office… in the USA, 7% of Netflix views are for that sitcom. Isn’t that crazy? If ever there were an indicator of how desperately people need humour to alleviate the pain of their own 9 to 5, surely it’s that. 

Marketing: Why So Serious?

I’ve long been a believer that marketing, my profession, is largely a load of absolute nonsense.

Almost nothing we do as marketing professionals was a job 100, or even 50 years ago. How important can any of it really be? Social media influencers… Attribution funnels… Personalization engines… I mean, really.

Yet we so often get hopelessly lost in an echo chamber of… jargon, of… campaigns that literally nobody sees, and of… ideas that should have been laughed unceremoniously out of the conference room.

I guess, though, so what? Maybe none of that ever hurt anyone. So what if it wasted a bit of time.

But actually, maybe it did matter.

Maybe the wasted time… effort… financial expenditure… focus had some genuinely detrimental effect to both the business and the people involved. Maybe, too, the ensuing confusion and frustration caused a buildup of anxiety and stress, that in itself spiraled to cause further anxiety and stress, exerting a genuinely negative effect on health. Maybe failure – and the rising pressure not to fail again – created a toxic blame culture that locked the workplace into a grim gloom of fear.

“Fear kills creativity,” said former Apple executive Hiroki Asai.

Well we can’t have that, can we?? Marketing is all about creativity. Obviously for the designs and the copywriting, but also for the creative problem solving of nebulous and intangible people-related problems.

“…and humor is our most powerful tool to drive fear out of the system,” he went on to say. Quite right! But not just ‘fear’ – humour drives out all the silly little things that contribute to fear too. It’s uniquely and brilliantly powerful.

Laughing, literally laughing, about ideas at the beginning is far preferable to suffering the consequences of them when they get out of hand. Humour could save many a derailed marketing project, avoiding a lot of – human – collateral damage in the process. (And, bonus: laughing’s pretty good fun too.)

Stress (which is definitely the ultimate enemy I’m referring to here) can be blissfully dissipated by humour in a way that nothing else quite can. Why? Because humour can strike directly at the cause of stress and give it a right good shakedown.

Many workplaces are starting to encourage ‘talking about’ stress, but ‘laughing about’ it’s what’ll make the real difference.

Tom Fishburne’s Marketoons

Lots of this blog is inspired by ‘Marketoonist’ Tom Fishburne and his TED Talk on the subject of humour at work.

Tom’s cartoons ridiculing every ridicule-worthy aspect of marketing were drawn throughout his own long and prosperous marketing career They cut deliciously through the industry’s bull**** and serve as guiding lights for those seeking to avoid being dragged into its powerful spell.

Cartoons like this:

And this:

Strike right at the heart of the ridiculous, and leave our industry all the better for it.

You can see lots more of Tom’s cartoons here:

And his 2018 TED Talk here: 

Perhaps it’s sad though, that in an industry absolutely ripe for parody, Tom’s are among very few cartoons of their kind (8 of the first 12 Google Image results for “marketing cartoons” are his!)

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