Many thousands of years ago, all I wanted to be was a writer. As a baby undergrad in Political Science & Communications, I had aspirations of great journalism, moving political speeches, opinion pieces and documentaries as my legacy. From the day I read Animal Farm when I was 12 years old, I have always been fascinated with the power of rhetoric, persuasion, satire, allegory and storytelling that delivers brutal truths about humanity in beautiful, easily digestible, ironic prose.
I have always studied writing. I write pretty much every day. About 8 years ago, I started to study the art of comedy writing. Standup comedy, in particular, has been my obsession for as long as I can remember, and one of the very first things I learned was something that has affected my entire view of communications since:
“Comedy is truth and pain”.
Nothing has ever resonated with me quite like that statement.
People respond emotionally when we find people who are like us, who take our truth and our pain and package it into something that makes us feel a bit better, helps us relate to each other, and sometimes, even mobilises us into action. Comedy also teaches us the art of polarisation, and that you don’t need everyone to like you.
You just need to find your people.
About a year ago, I had the privilege of seeing one of my favourite comedians, Doug Stanhope, live. If you are not familiar with him, he is incredibly polarising, but he explores darkness and truth like very few comedians are able to do. All comedians understand the art of truth and pain, but I watched something magical occur that night, in the UNSW Roundhouse with not more than a few hundred people: an entire room connecting over some pretty brutal (and yet hilarious) truths.
All great persuasive communicators, understand this concept of telling the truth and acknowledging pain.
I wish we all told the brutal truth a bit more often. We will never admit it to the world at large (that for some reason encourages inauthentic, bland communications for work and the opposite for entertainment…) , but ultimately we clamour to connect over shared truth and shared pain. Sometimes, the truth and the pain is uncomfortable to hear, but when you witness that connection, it is a thing of beauty.
How does this apply to marketing?
Here is a brutal truth that I am going to tell you right now: nobody gives a shit about your Top 10 Ways You Can Fit Into a Generic Corporate Paradigm That Everybody Bitches About Once You Buy Them a Beer article. Nobody gives a shit about bland, informational blog content that is obviously ripped from Wikipedia for your SEO. Sure, it might get you a small bump in rankings for a little while, but what’s the point? You failed to connect. Sure, you can be strategic with SEO and gear content towards it, but stacking content defeats the purpose and Google are increasingly penalising people for deceiving users in this way.
If you tell the truth as you see it, or empathise with people’s pain, they are far more likely to read/engage and buy.
Who cares if people disagree with you, or find you offensive, or think you are crazy? First of all it happens anyway, just by virtue of existing, no matter how much you conform. There are a lot of people who prefer Jerry Seinfeld over Doug Stanhope, but both of them are successful. I often say that you can tell a lot about a person by who they laugh at, because it tells you their truth and their pain and what resonates with them emotionally.
It is really important that you stand out in your marketing.
Bland, boring, generic stock photoed photography is as damaging to your brand as not doing any marketing at all. There is absolutely no point in doing it, paying for it, or worrying about those that do it, because if you speak your truth, others will share it.
I happen to know that there are people who will not buy from me because I used the word Fuck in the title of this article. I know that there are people out there who will feel offended by what I say, and will advise their clients to play it safe and not offend anyone and call me crazy. Go for it.
You aren’t my customer.
But there are plenty who are my customers, who are your customers, who want to stand out, who want to be brave enough to tell the truth, who want to become activists for the shitty parts of their industry and talk about the pain of being in business. No Top 10 Ways to Blend In list will ever compete with that.
Yes, it is scary, and there are, of course, degrees in which you can do this. Not everyone is a Stanhope. Some might be a George Carlin, or a John Pinette or a Seinfeld or a Kevin Hart (but, hopefully not a Bill Cosby…), and do not misunderstand me: I am not saying to go out of your way to burn bridges. But strategically polarising with truth and pain will be better for your marketing, attract better customers, and most importantly, allow you the freedom to be authentic and connect.
After all, it’s why we are here.
If you want to learn more about how we can create a kick-ass marketing strategy that actually connects with people, please message me here, drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +61 407 877 431.