If you type the phrase ‘do a barrel roll’ into the Google search engine, the whole screen will spin 360 degrees. The search giant also regularly features interactive ‘doodles’ on its home page. Recently, it even launched a piece of free-to-use online software that allows you to convert any ‘Google map’ into a playable ‘Pac-Man’ maze. There’s no denying it: the good folks at Google certainly have a sense of humour. But could this irrepressible addiction to fun be boosting the internet company’s marketing success?
Google dominates the internet search market. It’s able to do that partly because of its globally recognised brand. Why does Google have such a recognisable brand? Because they have a clear identity that sets them apart from their rivals. Undoubtedly, the company’s sense of humour contributes to this identity, thereby indirectly boosting customers’ awareness of their brand and their success in the wider market.
However, that’s not the only reason why Google’s sense of fun might be bolstering their share of the market. People respond well to businesses that make an effort to humanise themselves. Everyone wants to feel as though they have a personal connection to the services they use: as a species, we humans have a strong bias in favour of informal interaction over impersonal, formal interaction. Google’s sense of humour is the most effective tool it has for connecting with potential customers.
Moreover, this effect is compounded by ‘internet culture’. The internet is viewed by many users as a space with its own customs and social protocols, not merely a tool. This ‘internet culture’ is dominated by memes, in-jokes, light-hearted blogs and informal social media interactions. To a certain extent, people expect web giants like Google to enjoy a good laugh simply because they’re associated with the Internet. By meeting this unspoken expectation, Google has situated itself as the search engine that’s most ‘in touch’ with its user base.
It’s a magnificent bit of branding. What’s more, it’s a technique that online marketers can learn from. Your business should have an online persona that connects with users on a human level: the most efficient way to do this is with humour. Show that your business is made up of ordinary people who have a sense of fun and you can win over potential customers with ease. The trick is not to ensure that your company’s online humour isn’t forced: let your creative team make jokes and put in online ‘Easter eggs’ for people to discover, but don’t mandate it. Allow your business to develop a natural, human sense of humour and you’ll find that consumers will respond enthusiastically, just as they did for Google. Just don’t fall into the trap of trying to create humour by committee!