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Choosing a Company Spokesperson Part 3

The Negative Approach and Humor

As I mentioned in the previous installment, audiences find it difficult to separate the message from the messenger. Most of the time, you want viewers to relate positively not negatively to the messenger. However, with the use of humor you can make your point with a negative approach as well.

The most successful uses of a negative approach have turned the apparent negative upside down and made it into a positive. Which of course means you must admit to the negative. This can be an important technique when it's clear your audience already has a negative perception of you or your product. Answering the negative head on with a solution is the approach used by Domino Pizza in 2010, with the old, 'we got the message and we've changed things please try us again.' No humor involved but it works. Years ago Avis Rent-a-car used a marketing campaign that took advantage of their also-ran standing in the market with the slogan "Avis: We're Number 2," brilliantly followed by, "We try Harder."

I remember a very creative series of funny spots I saw as a member of a judging panel for the Golden Reel Awards, the prestigious annual competition run by MCA-I. ( The spots were for a Mid-West gambling casino and featured a comic character clearly identified as Bad Luck. No matter where he was things went horribly but humorously wrong for everyone around him...until he hit the doors of the casino where he was quickly ejected. The tag line was "Blackjack Casino: Bad Luck Not Allowed."

A more famous example is the Joe Isuzu campaign created by Della Femina, Travisano and Partners in 1985. Those classic spots featured actor David Leisure as the epitome of an unctuous, insincere salesman who will say anything to sell a car. His exaggerated claims were delivered with a phony grin while titles at the bottom of the screen read, "He's Lying." The titles continued on to present the truthful sales points while Joe prattled on. The campaign ran for five years and was so effective that even Chrysler executive Lee Iacocca proclaimed, "If Chrysler isn't The Performance Company, then I'm Joe Isuzu."

While both those campaigns were successful and notable for their use of humor, they weren't using spokesmen in the classic sense. Even Joe Isuzu was a faux spokesman being repudiated by the titles while he spoke. Nevertheless, these are NOT roles that a businessperson could play. Nor would you want to present any employee in that light. If humor is called for, use your employee-spokesperson as the straight man.

Now, let's get back to creating a positive spokesperson. Next time I'll discuss some of the most desirable personal qualities and skills your employee-spokesperson should possess. Do they have to be innate? Can they be learned? Join me for the next installment.

--John W. Coleman

Copyright 2010 John W. Coleman, Twin Oaks Communications Inc. All rights reserved.