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I ran across a newspaper ad for a dentist in New Jersey.
The headline read, “VOTED BEST DENTIST IN THE WORLD”
* As voted by his mother
That’s worth a quick laugh, but it brings up an important marketing consideration.
Used correctly, humor and exaggeration in our dental marketing can serve to make you seem more approachable and set you apart from your competition. Used incorrectly, you look like a buffoon and less than professional.
The ad in question takes a “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” approach to humor. The headline is certainly attention-grabbing, and the immediate disclaimer lets us in on the joke without overbuilding our expectations. That sort of approach can work for the same reason that self-deprecating humor works for most stand-up comics; we’re laughing with them rather than at them.
It’s a fine line to walk, though, and in the ad, his professionalism is brought into question by a horrendous typo: “No Tempowrary.”
That, we laugh at. Or scowl at.
There’s a picture of a dental practice letter sign on Pinterest that reads, “We do our business in your mouth.” A few potential and current patients might find that funny, but the practice runs the risk of alienating dozens more.
Another sign on Pinterest reads, “Parking for dentist only. All others will be extracted.”
Now, that’s clever, and funny.
How do you determine that fine line for your practice so you can stay on the right side? Here are five tips to help you do just that.
First, keep your humor in good taste and light on innuendo. If there’s one thing that marketers know in their bones, it’s that if there’s a way to misinterpret an ad or a blog post, or read into an ad something that isn’t there, people will find it.
Second, know who you’re marketing to. Language and humor that works for Millennials may shoot right by seniors, and references to 1960’s trends or events is a clean miss for the folks who didn’t live through those years.
Third, keep gender out of it. Male-bashing is currently a thing in advertising, but those advertisements are largely aimed at women. Female-bashing will lose you the people who make the dental decisions for their families.
Fourth, show your humorous ad or blog post to a number of people before you run it. If at all possible, select a broad cross-section of the same demographic(s) that you’re marketing to. If you’ve missed the mark, someone will let you know.
And fifth, proofread! Social media is full of clever posts, but the impact of far too many is largely ruined by misspellings or wrong words.
This may sound like overkill, but you really can’t be too careful. There are two somewhat older sayings that apply to this scenario: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” and “It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.”
Those may be true when it comes to Hollywood icons, but they certainly don’t apply to dentists in highly competitive markets. You can’t afford bad publicity, and with all the choices that dental patients have in providers these days, they don’t have to forgive you.