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Brand marketing fun-damentals consumers crave

by | Oct 17, 2022 | Public Relations

While Americans have largely put COVID in the rearview mirror, new challenges affecting our lives on many different levels continuously emerge, and on a daily basis we are bombarded with—let’s just say it—bad news all around, from new health threats to economic instability and grim news from abroad. Yet U.S. brands have been gearing up full throttle on PR and marketing communications campaigns. As an agency that heavily infuses fun creative in our earned, social and digital media campaigns, we wanted to understand consumers’ appetite for lighthearted approaches in brand marketing given this challenging news climate.

Do consumers want brands to turn up the fun in their marketing—which was at significantly higher levels pre-pandemic—or, is it tone deaf considering the countless foreign and domestic issues that exist in the current the news cycle? We recently conducted a nationwide survey* to uncover the temperature of fun in brand marketing, how it factors into purchasing decisions, and the types of news stories consumers seek in the current media landscape.

Consumers are ready to smile about the brands they like, and like when brands make them smile.

The online survey of 2,046 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, conducted on behalf of BML Public Relations + Digital by The Harris Poll, found 85 percent of American consumers agree it is time for fun to return to brand marketing campaigns. More than three in five, or 62 percent, say humor in a brand’s TV, radio, online, social media and/or print presence makes them consider the brand “fun.”

Is it good for their health? Well…

Okay, that might be a stretch, but it certainly isn’t bad for them. Fun has a physiological impact in the brain, with studies showing that it increases serotonin levels—the chemical that regulates many basic processes—like sleep, memory and mood. Fun can boost energy levels. It’s what people migrate toward. Think about it: no one walks into a social situation and gravitates toward the person who looks miserable—they’re drawn toward those having fun. Brands can—and should—harness fun to build brand awareness, engagement and loyalty as it can have a powerful positive impact within the minds of your target consumer.  

It’s not just for fun: Positivity boosts purchase intent.

Travel is up, as is dining out. Brands, take note: if you’re trying to impress consumers about your service,

destination or venue, or want future shelf space in pantries and refrigerators, make sure you’re conveying that upbeat vibe. Consumers revealed the power of fun is good for bottom line, with 75% indicating they are more likely to purchase from brands they associate with being fun or upbeat versus from those they do not. Categorically, consumers identified where fun matters most when making purchasing decisions, with approximately 7 in 10 Americans saying it is important that hospitality/travel (72 percent), food & beverage (69 percent), quick service restaurant (67 percent) and retail (64 percent) brands are considered “fun.”

Funny messaging or humorous interplay in various media channels? Game on.

We found a few results for this question interesting. For example, all those mascots we see on TV are not as interesting to consumers as you’d think. Overall, only 40 percent of survey respondents felt that entertaining mascots equaled a “fun brand.” And another interesting find: marketing that features celebrities doesn’t always float consumers’ boats.

How do you ramp up the fun?

Be self-deprecating or funny. Turn your product, service or category on its head. Just because your brand might not be perceived as fun doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Everyone was born with a sense of humor, people want to laugh, experience new things. It’s a common thread of human existence. Embrace it. Everyone—from kids to seniors—are being bombarded with between 6,000 to 10,000 every single day. So, make it fun for their sake.

Fun doesn’t have to mean creative schtick. You can be a conservative brand and still infuse fun that resonates with your target audience. Having appropriate data so you know exactly who they are never hurts—and trying to find where to draw the line can be helpful, too. If you don’t think your brand is fun, or is capable of fun, think again.

Share upbeat news for the win.

More than just a pulse on fun, our survey also aimed to uncover the type of news stories consumers are seeking from media. Four in five, or 80 percent, of Americans say in these challenging times, they crave news stories that are more “fun” or “positive” than ”dark” or ”depressing” currently dominating the news.

This research shows consumers are exhausted by the level of negativity and want a more balanced news cycle with some levity. Making happy news is a vital part of consumer brand PR. It’s how brands build a positive relationship and buzz with buyers. Crafting optimistic feature stories, promoting community outreach initiatives, creating novel products that tie into trends, or showcasing people helping people—these are all ways that marketers (and public relations agencies) can boost their clients’ happy quotient with the public.

So what’s a PR pro to do?

Now that we know consumers are ready to shake off the blues, have a good time with the brands they choose and crave humor and fun in both traditional and digital communications channels, it’s up to us to give the people what they want. Injecting a lighthearted tone into your marketing message helps generate the warm fuzzies for products and services across a range of categories—and boosts intent to purchase. Long story short, people want consumer brands to be associated with fun. Brand marketers must home in on their target audiences to understand who they are, their habits and buying behaviors, and leverage data to develop concepts that appeal to those consumers and compel them to action.

*For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, contact jbosisio@bmlpr.com

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Brian M. Lowe
Brian M. Lowe (blowe@bmlpr.com) is inventor of the Pizza-kini and Gender Reveal Lasagna, World’s Largest Mug of Hot Chocolate Record Holder, and the president + CEO of FUN at BML Public Relations + Digital, a national, award-winning PR + digital agency specializing in creative-driven earned campaigns.

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