Marketing Communications Ink

Putting Words, Images and Ideas to Work

Lessons Learned from Woot. Or How To Sell Using Humor, Storytelling and Transparency.

LeBron James Rookie Cards from Kids Woot!

LeBron James Rookie Cards from Kids Woot!

First there was eBay® and Amazon®, then Overstock® and Woot®. Wait… Woot???

That’s right. Woot. One of my most-fascinating web-marketing finds, yet.

I happened upon Woot’s website of featured deals at low-low prices when another of my all-time favorite newsletters, “Word of Mouth Marketing Lessons”, published a blog article talking about how Woot allows negative customer comments to remain posted as a clever way of establishing reader trust.

So I did a bit of poking around, and I’ve got to tell you, Woot’s website (www.Woot.com) and E-newsletters are so razor-sharp witty, that I find it hard to make myself stop reading them and get on with my projects of the day.

When I’m laughing myself silly over their return policy, product descriptions, FAQs and even job listings, well, you get the idea that Woot provides an excellent example of how to use humor in marketing, and do so effectively.

Woot is Classic at Showing Us That:

  • Humor and storytelling help establish your brand and keep your readers engaged. In short, they sell.
  • Legal whiz-whaz can be made simple and transparent, and even interesting to read.
  • Re: Transparency, as said before, leave up the negative comments and you’ll earn your readers’ trust.
  • Marketing can be FUN! (But we already knew that…)

The concept of using humor and descriptive story telling to sell products is certainly not new.

You’ve probably seen Trader Joe’s “Fearless Flyer” newsletter of exotic foods and wines (also viewable online), or The J. Peterman catalog of vintage-style clothing — which both use quirky language and pseudo-stories to keep us intrigued, engaged, and hopefully buying.

I’m sure there are other similar examples but, let me tell you, I don’t care if I ever get another Amazon Deal or DealChicken offer in my Inbox, again. But take away my Woot and I’m going to be seriously upset.

Let’s Review Just a Few of Woot’s Marketing Concepts:

1. Humor Sells

Okay — nothing new here. There are hundreds, make that thousands, of great examples of this. In ads, think of the classics:

  • Or skip ahead another decade to modern times, and how about the Dollar Shave Club razor-blade video?

I’m sure you can think of dozens of examples, and no point belaboring the topic.

Humor cuts through the clutter, gets our attention, makes us enjoy watching, hearing or reading about the product, lets us share our “find” with friends, and helps us remember the brand when it comes time to buy. Of course, it’s not appropriate for all product lines, perhaps not healthcare for example, but it certainly has its place in marketing.

2. Back to Woot  — Storytelling Sells

Woot turns out to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amazon, so they’re no amateur-hour show, when it comes to marketing. Their website is clean and easy to navigate.

But what they do different and better than any other online buying site, (that I’m aware of, anyway), is that they’re funny and their product descriptions tell great stories.

Even if I have no need for their latest deal, I find that I just have to keep reading the description, all the way to the end. So what if I’m never going to need a head-mounted camera to capture my latest high-flying act base-jumping off bridges… (right, like I’m really going to try that)… no matter. I’m gonna keep reading the description, and then click on the next deal to see what they have to say about that.

Take Woot’s recent special on kids’ play tents, like the poufy pink one shown below, or the blue and white striped number they also offered. Each sells for only $39. I don’t have kids. Or nieces or nephews. Or even really cute neighbors… so, I have no need for this product. But check out this Woot description and tell me if you can stop reading mid-way through:

Kid's Play Tent, on Woot.com

Kid’s Play Tent, on Woot.com

“Royal Pain in the Butt

Don’t cross the Queen or you’ll be sentenced to a life of slobbering and gnawing.

Mackenzie stepped out of her castle tent and surveyed her dominion.

“You there! Cares-A-Lot Bear, is it? Care to bring me a goblet of something cool and refreshing?”

She waited patiently for a response. But when Cares-A-Lot Bear remained unmoved, that’s when Mackenzie gave the order that all the stuffed animals and dollies feared the most.

“How DARE you disobey me! I am your QUEEN! Now it’ll be off to the dungeon with you to face the beast!”

When she said “dungeon” she was referring to her baby brother’s room. And by “beast” she meant the newly teething and excessively drooling infant…”

There’s more to this Woot description, but if you want to read it you’ll have to click here.

Obviously, Woot’s writers could have just said, “Easy to set-up children’s tent, made of non-flammable fabric, measures a full xx inches across by xx inches high, perfect for entertaining up to 6 kids for endless hours.” I just made that up, but clearly their approach is better. Way better. And incidentally, sorry to say, they’re all sold out.

Incidentally — did you click the link I provided to read more of the Woot description? Proves my point (hopefully), that make it funny, tell it in the form of a story, and your customers and prospects will invest their time in learning about your products, remember your brand, and be eagerly awaiting your next newsletter, catalog, or whatever.

And by the way, in case you’re thinking Woot doesn’t actually manufacture these products, so it’s not “their brand”… Woot’s brand is their low-cost, wide range of products, sold online, via humor. Doesn’t matter specifically what exactly they’re selling, whether it’s something from their line of shirts, wine, kid products, home wares, sporting goods or tech products. Their way of selling IS their brand.

3. Legal Whiz-Whaz Can be Funny and Transparent

I don’t know about you, but I’m used to seeing, but not reading, the standard, unintelligible legal disclaimers when buying or downloading products online. But, take a look at Woot’s perfectly transparent and endlessly funny rules:

  • Opt-Out – Their newsletter has a button, prominently positioned at the top of the page, that says: “Daily emails? Are you nuts? STOP SENDING ME THESE!” Couldn’t be more plain or simple.
  • Sales Stats by Product – these stats indicate not just how many of each item were sold, but who ordered first, (under the designation: “First Sucker”); and “Speed to First Woot,” which is broken down into minutes and fractional seconds, (and in the case of the fairy-tale castle tent was just “3m 18.664s”). Plus, they offer up a bunch more stats only a direct marketer can love.
  • Return Policy – as spelled out in their first “Welcome-to-Woot” newsletter: “If you receive your item and it doesn’t work, contact the manufacturer first. They made the junk. Let them deal with it… If you receive your item and decide you don’t like it, hold a garage sale or pawn it off on one of your so-called friends. We don’t want it, either.”

You get the idea. Woot’s marketing people have taken perfectly boring legal stuff and made it straightforward, easily understandable, and actually fun to read.

Wrap-Up — Woot Woot!

I’m not saying Woot’s use of humor in marketing is the right approach with every product. But because it is so different, it’s memorable, it’s word-of-mouth sharable, and it works for them. And, it certainly beats Amazon, eBay and Overstock, hands down – maybe not in sales volume, (that would be just a guess on my part)  – but certainly in great marketing fun, my humble opinion.

So don’t forget to check out Woot. You’ll be thanking me. In fact, I accept gifts of any denomination… kidding! But seriously, I should point out, I am not affiliated with Woot or any company mentioned here, nor am I compensated in any way, except for getting a free, humorous start to my day, courtesy of Woot.

What’s Your Take?

So…  I’d love to hear your take on using humor in marketing — particularly if you can cite a B2B example, since it occurs to me that all the examples I mentioned are from the B2C world. Let me know:

  • Have you used humor in your marketing programs or advertising campaigns?
  • What were the results – did it work for you?
  • Is using humor part of your overall branding strategy – or was it a one-off trial?
  • Have you seen any great examples of humor used in B2B marketing?
  • And, aren’t you glad I turned you on to Woot?

My Legal Disclaimer

All of the text reposted here from Woot’s website or newsletter is owned and copyrighted by Woot, with all rights reserved by them. Woot, Alka-Seltzer, Amazon, eBay, FedEx, Heineken, Overstock, J. Peterman Company, Trader Joe’s and Fearless Flyer, as well as WordofMouth.org are each trademarked by their respective owners. Marketing Communications Ink as well as all articles contained on this blog are likewise copyrighted by Suzy Kedzierski, all rights reserved.

Suzy Kedzierski is a B2B marketing communications specialist, job seeker, freelance writer and consultant. Like what you see? Let me put my experience to work for you, creating an individual project or integrated communications program. Learn more about me or see www.Linkedin.com/in/suzykedzierski then contact me at mailto:info@mcomink.com.

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