25 Feb

A punderful post

I saw this, a couple of days ago (’29 wonderful puns you’d only find in Britain’), and it did make me laugh (1, 5, 8, 13, and 26 are particularly good).

One of the reasons it made me laugh, is because I spend a lot of my time avoiding puns – certainly in a professional sense… less so on personal social media profiles.

The biggest no-no, when I was first told about taking my work to ad agencies, was to have a portfolio full of ideas based around puns i.e an endline like ‘Babybel – it’s so cheesy’ and visuals of people cuddling baby rabbits or kittens (or anything ‘cheesy’).

There are two reason for this:
1. That’s what people outside of advertising think advertising is (so as someone who is trying to get into advertising, I shouldn’t be doing it) – just stick a ‘funny’ pun in an advert, and people will buy your product out of laughter… maybe.
2. Puns aren’t actually that clever (unless you’ve mastered them, like Milton Jones). They’re generally the lowest/simplest form of humour, and most will just make you roll your eyes rather than laugh.

Only in incredibly rare circumstances, such as the Compare The Market / Meerkats ads and the 1979 pre-election advert below, do puns work for major advertising campaigns:


Generally, though, puns in big advertising campaigns are – how can I put this? – sh*t.

I saw a poster campaign on the London Underground network, for a travel insurance company, which showed an image of a suitcase …. next to the words ‘just in case’ (geddit?).

The current Muller Rice TV advert, with the dancing bear singing ‘Rice Rice Baby’, sends me into a murderous rage. I hate it.

In each case, I’m not thinking ‘tee hee, isn’t that brand funny’, I’m rolling my eyes, inwardly groaning, and thinking ‘you morons’.

And it works the same for smaller companies, too (perhaps even more so. They have less recognisable brands, so can’t afford to spend money on one rubbish campaign, or one that means people take them less seriously).
I still come across SMEs who are so attached to the pun in their company’s name or their adverts  – ‘Our finance packages will really help you cash in’ … ‘our baked goods take the biscuit’… – that they won’t consider changing them, no matter how cringeworthy they are.
Usually, the company owner’s friends or their partner find the pun(s) ‘hilarious’, so they won’t even think about not using it.
The problem with this is that the business owner’s friends/family/partner are not the target audience for that business – they’re already brand loyal because they know the owner.
If people outside of family/friends/partner i.e your real target audience, roll their eyes at your business name, or adverts, that’s not a good response.
If they take you less seriously because of your terrible jokey name, or cheesy adverts, then your ‘funny’ pun isn’t worth using.

In fact, pun-based names can have the unfortunate effect of simply making a business look ‘small time’.

Amongst the biggest culprits for puns, are hairdressers;  A Cut Above, Curl Up and Dye, Fringe Benefits…

Have a think, though – how many major hair salon brands have pun-based names?
Toni & Guy, Trevor Sorbie, Regis, HOB, Nicky Clarke.

Actually, have a think of all major brands – companies who’ve ‘made’ it: how many of them have pun-based names?

All of this is not to say that puns never work, but it’s rare for them to do so, they’re often not as funny as you think, and – unless they’re absolutely brilliant – they’ll make people roll their eyes at the mention of your company, rather than smile…. not the reaction you want.






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