Brand Marketing Fun-damentals That Consumers Crave

While Americans are trying to put the pandemic 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 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 for fun.

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% of American consumers agree it is time for fun to return to brand marketing campaigns. More than three in five, or 62%, say humor in a brand’s TV, radio, online, social media and/or print presence makes them consider the brand “fun.”

Fun is healthy.

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 too.

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 consumers.  

Fun sells.

Travel is up, and so 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, then make sure that you’re conveying that upbeat vibe.

Consumers revealed the power of fun is good for the 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%), food & beverage (69%), quick-service restaurants (67%) and retail (64%) brands are considered “fun.”

Overall, only 40% of survey respondents felt that entertaining mascots equaled a “fun brand.” And another interesting find: Marketing that features celebrities is not as interesting to consumers as you’d think.

Just because your brand might not be perceived as fun doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. People want to laugh, and experience new things. It’s a common thread of human existence. Embrace it. Everyone — from kids to seniors — is being bombarded with between 6,000 to 10,000 messages every 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 your audience is 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, then think again.

The fun news.

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%, of Americans say in these challenging times, they crave news stories that are more “fun” or “positive” than ”dark” or ”depressing” news that currently dominates the scene.

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 PR agencies) can boost their clients’ happy quotient with the public.

Have fun with fun.

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 positive vibes for products and services across a range of categories — and it 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.


Brian M. Lowe (blowe@bmlpr.com) is the president and CEO of FUN at BML Public Relations + Digital, a national, award-winning PR + digital agency specializing in creative-driven earned campaigns. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, contact jbosisio@bmlpr.com.  

[Photo credit: prostock-studio] 

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