Expert view: Put a smile on your brand's face

Our looks and the way we speak are by far the most decisive factors contributing to the first impressions we make.

If we want to win minds, we need to start with the heart. If we want people to like us, we need to get them to feel good about us first, by smiling and using an upbeat tone of voice. It's no different when we first encounter any marketing material. Try this: instead of using the term 'creativity', use 'emotional engagement'. Instead of thinking 'brand', think 'friend'.

Friends are people we rely on and who make us feel good. They connect with us on an emotional level. We enjoy being with them and having a good time. The success of networking website Facebook, with more than 20 million users, is due in part to the fact that we all have a human need to have friends.

Sadly, most brands would make dull friends; their Facebook pages would be lonely places. As soon as 'fun' is mentioned, marketing managers run a mile, and out pour the myths that you have to "act seriously to be taken seriously". This couldn't be further from the truth. Humour is one of the most powerful marketing tools you can use to engage people.

This is mainly because it first lowers people's defences before engaging them emotionally. If, by contrast, you seek to take a rational approach, you'll just end up boring people. We've all met and avoided those types at parties.

A campaign by FPA, formerly the Family Planning Association, several years ago was designed to promote its helpline to doctors - to do this, it used risque humour. It changed the meaning of FPA to the "Frisky Pets & Animals helpline", the "Fruit Protection Agency" and the "French Polishers Adviceline", with headlines such as "Keep your wood looking good. Polish it daily". It all went down a storm.

There is a misconception that charity is a serious business, but Comic Relief is a highly successful operation, even though it deals with a serious subject.

I was involved in a campaign called Happy Mondays, created for the National Deaf Children's Society - it challenged office workers to make 10 September a day of fun. The day was a great success because it encouraged people to enjoy themselves rather than do something 'worthy'.

It's time for a revolution; time to put the smile back on the face of charity marketing. If you want people to invite you into their lives and support you, you need to act like a friend. Do what friends do. When your brand starts acting like a friend, it changes your whole marketing strategy, because what friends do best is make us smile.

- Chris Arnold is executive creative director of marketing agency Blac.

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