January 9, 2017
5 Marketers Who Managed to Have Some Fun in 2016
By Lynn Ullman
Marketing is a serious sort of business. While it’s technically more fun than the actuarial insurance industry, people get pretty serious when there’s money involved. Marketing is about 200 billion dollars worth of serious. Important, gut-wrenching decisions are made hourly by CMO’s–for everything from social media blips to Super Bowl spots.
As we reflect on the 2016, UPBrand would like to tip our hipster ball caps to the marketers who transcended the angst of connecting and communicating relevance in today’s kaleidoscopic media landscape. Having fun in a serious business is a heroic act—never more so than in a year widely characterized as a dumpster fire.
With that in mind, UPBrand is introducing its first annual Funvertising Awards, where we recognize the marketers who braved the naysayers, the planners, the MBA’s, and the safety of the status quo to do the riskiest thing of all—have fun in a serious world.
Our Funvertising Awards are named the “Toots”–in honor of the late Fred Teutenberg, possibly the most fun marketer in recent history. Fred was the founder of Dirt Cheap discount cigarette and liquor stores. Their brand icon was a giant yellow chicken, inexplicably wearing a striped bathing suit. She ended every commercial with her signature “Cheep cheep, fun fun” tagline. Dirt Cheap and Fred were well known for these fine commercials, aptly described by the Riverfront Times as “a party in themselves.” And, what’s more fun than a 30-second party?
UPBRAND’S 2016 FIRST ANNUAL FUNVERTISING AWARDS
Given to marketers who rise above the confines of their categories and any semblance of conventional wisdom to engage consumers and promote their offerings in the funnest possible way.
An important criterion for winning a Toot award is to be fun in a category that often takes itself seriously—like professional sports. There’s enough money in it to support the entire European Union for at least a year, making it a deeply serious business. Refreshingly, a few minor league teams have license to take themselves a little less seriously in order to get anyone to care. In November 2016, the Jacksonville AA baseball team changed their name from The Suns (snooze), to “The Jumbo Shrimp.” Their mascot is very tough looking crustacean named Jaxshrimp. The best version of the logo shows Jaxshrimp clawing its way out of a shrimp boil cauldron. The official press release says “Jumbo Shrimp” symbolizes Jacksonville’s reputation as a “big small city,” but we know it was chosen because it was super fun.
When Lassie was a pop culture icon, dogs ate some kind of chow and house cats lived on bowls of cream and fish bones (we know this from the cartoons). That’s when pet food was merely a small offshoot of the agricultural feed business. Today, kibble is a multi-billion dollar, serious business. This often results in highly vetted and earnest marketing efforts. Yet, in this environment, being the “fun brand” can be a great strategy to get noticed. Freshpet makes refrigerated dog and cat food that’s, well, fresh. The same could be said for their marketing. While Freshpet has been doing these videos for a couple of years, they still qualify for our prestigious recognition in this blog. Check out this 2015 video of dogs and cats in Santa’s workshop (while you’re there check out the number of views—over a million). Share the fun and they’ll donate meals to animal shelters.
Slankets, Shamwow, Life Alert buttons—historically infomercials dealt with life’s serious problems. Low production values and over-the-top simulations of how impossible life can be with ordinary sleeveless blankets made them pretty funny—usually not the intended reaction. Now, in a remarkable turnaround, many of these long-form commercials are not only funny, but shareably cool. Most seem to be in the category of toileting accessories, but we don’t hold that against them. Lift your commode lids up in a salute to the team that dared to entertain us with unicorns pooping rainbow colored swirls of ice cream.
Big Beer has had some trouble being fun recently. When a profit-grabbing, global conglomerate takes over an iconic American beer brand and renames it “America,” it is not really fun or funny—especially not to St. Louisans. Thankfully 2016 Cerveza Tecate gave us the Beer Wall, helping us to have some fun by laughing at ourselves, and our collective fears. This was not only fun, it was bold and delivered a message of friendship in a difficult year. Salud, Los Amigos!
Mellon Educate is a laudable charity founded by an Irish developer and philanthropist named Niall Mellon. They build houses, and provide education to some really poor communities in Africa. Poverty and ignorance are seriously serious, and we applaud and support their efforts. We also applaud an organization that uses humor to inspire Millennials to “do or donate” for their cause. And they get extra credit for using “f**k” early and often in this effort. Someone once said “you can’t bore people into buying your product.” And you certainly can’t bore someone into travelling to Africa and build houses for free.
Good work, Mellon Educate, and congratulations on winning this year’s Funvertising grand prize, The Golden Toot.