Last night on the 3rd floor of Google Campus, something of a trek as the lift was out of order, Eamonn Carey presented his talk, “Make more mischief” to a smallish but remarkably engaged audience. Eamonn is head of digital at MHP Communications, a mentor at Techstars, and a partner of Prototype Builders, building digital products for a range of high profile and international clients.
Perhaps the lift was his idea, for Eamonn, whose persona is a cleverly calculated mix of shy introversion and bombastic evangelism, was here to tell us to have more fun! Marketing can be a dull business, but stick the word guerrilla in front of it, throw in a video of a cat pushing another cat downstairs, add a dash of derring-do, and hey presto, you have a cutting edge proposition that will catapult anyone’s business into the public consciousness.
In the 1980’s we had Russ Abbott and his Hamlet cigars, the 90’s belonged to Harry Enfield and the cult of the Dime Bar, the naughties were when things went viral, and now? An online crypto currency derived from an inebriated Japanese dog enthusiast’s personal photo collection? Rearranging Grant from Eastender’s face to look like a penis (you didn’t say it but we all thought it, Eamonn), and tattooing it on your arm? Sabotaging Farmville with a vomiting sheep avatar? All of these, and more, apparently.
“The opportunity for doing mischief is found a hundred times a day, and of doing good once in a year”. So said Voltaire, and if it worked for him and his lobster walking philosopher friends it can work for you too. Unless you are a dullard, in which case watch your back, you’re probably being pranked, merked, pranged, fooled, schooled and messaged daily by various members of the Nigerian Royal Family. Nb:
“Nigeria has what is called a “subnational monarchy” in the form of the Kano Emirate. A subnational monarchy in Africa has no real power, it simply represents what was once a tribal or regional monarchy that is still recognized, even though it doesn’t actually run the country or even part of it. Several African countries recognize these old traditional subnational monarchies.”
This was a genuine reply to following question on the Yahoo answers website: “My friend is from Nigeria and claims her father forfeited the throne and now her great aunt is queen. She won’t shut up about it!! I’ve tried but I can’t find anything that’s says Nigeria had a monarchy.
We’re 16 by the way so she’s not being childish xx”
But all is for the best in this most Darwinian of all possible worlds, as Voltaire might have put it. Eamonn’s point is that fun matters, play matters, mischief matters. Why? Because it’s engaging. Human beings who can see the lighter side of things live longer, have healthier hearts; making someone laugh is like giving a marrow bone to a Labrador, its fills them full of vitality and gives them a shiny, effervescent appearance!
Ok so that may be stretching a point, but the basic premise hardly needs explaining. When the world is run by big data and our fridge decides it’s moving out in search of a more intellectually stimulating environment, we will all be grateful for the tricks and stunts pulled by developers over the years. Big brother may be watching us, but if someone has drawn a Hitler moustache and a pair of comedy glasses on him it makes it all the more bearable.
Even the corporates are at it: a wag remarks that he has just seen a bird take a dump on a Smart Car, “totalled it”, he smirks. Smart car are back hours later with a pictogram showing that actually it would take 45 million craps to down a smart car, or 30,000 Emu poos. Owned. Burger King launches a campaign, defriend someone on Facebook, win a free Whopper. Facebook loses so many connections it starts to flat-line and has to intervene. Genius.
But the king of the mischief makers is Reddit. Even Eamonn gives it a health warning. Its dark, its murky, its brilliantly funny. It trawls the human psyche with the precision of a brain surgeon, tickling each hemisphere in search of the synaptic disconnect, the serotonin imbalance, probing the hindbrain, or rhombencephalon, in search of that involuntary snort of laughter.
Make somebody laugh, and you have their attention. Once you have their attention you can deliver your message. That is what advertising is all about. From a personal standpoint, if you can make a prospective employer laugh, you also have their attention. A successful guerrilla campaign almost always results in a job offer. Want to work in Silicon Valley? Start clowning.
There are 2 other ways to interest your customer. Challenge them, or play a game with them. The first approach is exemplified by new app Pact. You pledge to hit the gym 3 times a week, you pledge cash to back up your words. If you don’t do it and somebody else does, they get your cash. Unpleasant thought. But more unpleasant than a treadmill? It’s your call.
The second approach involves Eamonn’s least favourite word. Gamification. Everyone likes a competitive sport, so indulge your target audience with an online game or a set of challenges before you start hawking your wares to them. It’s fun, it costs nothing, and it encourages both parties to use their imagination.
Life is about interacting with other human beings, everything else is bunk. Take that approach to the web with you when you create your marketing campaign and you will be popular and well thought of, just like Eamonn. My words can’t do justice to his talk. Seek him out and see for yourselves.