The world got a little less zany yesterday with the death of Phyllis Diller at age 95.
If you’re old enough to have grown up watching the “Queen of Comedy” on TV, in movies or on stage, you’re probably of one of two minds: She was either great or grating. Hers was that sort of polarizing style and talent.
Perhaps because of that, she made an enduring impact on the entertainment business and is credited with paving a path for later generations of female comedians. She also became a uniquely memorable character to audiences she reached and touched, whether while entertaining troops overseas in USO shows, or making one of her frequent appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
In reading news reports and media tributes, I was struck by a few themes that defined Diller’s comedic persona. It dawned on me that there are hallmarks to her career that can serve as lessons and inspiration for us marketers, as we strive to create memorable impact and differentiated positioning in a crowded, noisy marketplace.
Here are a few of my takeaways. Perhaps you’ve got some of your own. If so, please share them in a comment.
Short and punchy works — but also takes work.
Especially with the rise of social media and community management, balancing long-form, value-adding content with plenty of concise, well-crafted, information-rich tweets, comments, updates and replies is a critical ingredient in today’s marketing mix.
What bears noting is that these short-form snippets deserve as much strategic thought and professional care as your e-books, webinars, white papers and infographics.
Skim through these Phyllis Diller quotes assembled into a slide show by the Huffington Post. Diller clearly had a knack for the punchy, high-impact, 140-character comment long before Twitter.
Now picture that behind each line was (I’m assuming) a team of talented, professional comedy thinkers and writers, evaluating every word and polishing every phrase until the result crackled and sparkled. You get the sense Diller wouldn’t have entrusted her Twitter stream or Facebook updates to the new intern. This is the work of subject-matter experts. Communications pros.
Dare to stand out
Simply by virtue of her gender, Diller was different for her time, and therefore bound to stand apart from her male comedy contemporaries. But she elected to go one step (OK, several steps) further to appear distinctive and attract attention. From her cackling laugh to the platinum-colored wigs and cigarette holder, you know when she walked through a curtain or delivered a punch line that this was Phyllis Diller.
Which isn’t to say your content should be packaged and presented in a way that is garish. But, ideally, you have a vision for a design look-and-feel, and an editorial voice, that are reflective of a differentiated brand image and personality you want to establish in the marketplace. And you’re adhering to that visual identity and editorial voice consistently with the content you create.
Much of Diller’s humor was grounded in empathy for issues faced by her audience, particularly women. When she talked about burying her laundry mistakes in the backyard, her inability to cook, her trials and tribulations with fictitious husband Fang, she was signalling to fans: “I know that life, relationships and raising children are full of challenges, hard work and heartaches.”
Based on that empathy, Diller could offer her audiences poignant observation and comic relief.
What you can offer with content is insight, solutions, case examples, tools, peer-to-peer community…and maybe a little humor and fun, as well.
Embrace the “un-sexy”
With her knobby knees, crazy hair and heavy eye makeup, Phyllis Diller cut a less-than-sexy figure on stage. But that was part of what made her interesting and engaging. Someone able to make us stop and pay attention. Eager to study what she looked like, sure. But also to hear what she had to say.
Let’s face it, many B2B products and services are, purely on their own, not inherently “sexy.” But the best content marketing focuses not on the product or service itself, but on the challenges and opportunities the audience has in their professional lives and businesses. It’s in the context of diving into and exploring those often nitty-gritty, specialized, highly technical issues and objectives that your product or service can eventually emerge as looking smart, sexy and desireable.
That’s why you’ll see companies such as Indium (which makes solder) and Miller Electric (which manufactures welding equipment) able to exert such a strongly attractive image and presence with their B2B content marketing.
Because they understand that smart and sexy are in the eye, heart and head of the beholder.
This post, originally published on Hanley Wood Marketing’s Content Is Marketing blog, is cross-posted here for subscribers to Touch Point City. For more marketing ideas and insights from my colleagues at HWM, subscribe to Content Is Marketing.