Irony in Advertising

Consumers aren’t that stupid. They know when they are being up-sold, down-sold, lied to or aroused. If any marketer believes that customers are not remarkably good at second guessing the game which they are playing, they are deceived (Brown, 2004).

One way, according to Brown (2004) is to step the cognitive ingenuity up a notch and introduce some irony.

So without further ado, enter Yorkie commercial:

Yorkie continues to address its target market of the young, machismo males making statements which, if were to be construed literally would be grossly sexist. But this latest ad edges away from the ‘it’s not for girls’ statement to portray the idea more discreetly.

Instead, we now see a guy doing something many guys can relate to. Not content with making two trips in from the car, he endures blistering pain, carrying heavy shopping bags, which rip into the joints of his fingers. If masculinity were the concept being glorified Yorkie would be doing the feminist movement a great favour.

If we were to take the situation seriously, the man is laughable. But it plays into a common sarcasm of couples banter, where the man believes he is hard done to and has a tough mandate to live up to, when really he’s doing nothing sensational.

This is Yorkie’s brand personality. This chunky slab of chocolate marries macho chunkiness with a food known for its sweetness. It is irony in action, and it is also fun.

In mocking itself, irony sends its message through inversion (Brown, 2004). To a market who is well aware of the wrongs of sexism and the futility of exaggeration, irony echoes ‘you know what? We know that too. But we’re still going to have our fun, and you can be a part of it by buying our chocolate’.

Irony, however, is not a miracle pill. Deighton (1985) warns that it might destroy an entire market category. Indeed, if your use of irony is not done with caution, you risk presenting your brand unethical, snide or just plain rubbish.

In the case of the Yorkie bar, the irony is well portrayed, with the use of curiosity and brand personality. One problem it has is a classic: the brand itself is not memorably portrayed. The ad no doubt will support Yorkie on the recognition line-up, however it might struggle to get people seeking out a Yorkie.

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