What is this, some kind of joke?

A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar. 

And the bartender shouts, hey, what is this, some kind of joke? 

That one always cracks me up. Not only because it’s cheesy and essentially a joke about the joke itself, but also because it points to an interesting business principle that’s worth exploring. 

Godin was the pioneer of the business mantra, ideas that spread, win. His handy little book about purple cows became a cult classic that revolutionized marketing by teaching businesses that we are either remarkable or invisible. 

Which brings us back to the original question: 

Is this some kind of joke? 

Well, you be the judge. Think back to the last experience which compelled you to ask yourself some variation of that question. 

Perhaps it was the vendor at the local outdoor food market who was selling spaghetti donuts for ten bucks a piece. Are you kidding me? 

Or the store that makes custom handcrafted high quality unicorn horns with a line around the corner. Please tell me this is a joke. 

Or maybe it was the quirky dude you met at your friend’s party who has worn a nametag every day for the past twenty years and actually made a career out of it. You’re fucking with me, right? 

Each of these moments have commonalities. 

First, we perceive them to be an absurd or impossible experience. Second, they violate our assumptions in a simple, playful, surprising and benign way. Third, they break our brains just enough to stimulate curiosity and wonder, compelling us to want to learn more so we can relieve that cognitive tension. And finally, each of these little moments is worth making an immediate remark about. 

Do you really think customers actually enjoy the taste of spaghetti donuts? Of course not. 

What they enjoy is the rush of dopamine when they become the first in their friend group to post a picture of their food on social media. 

Is this some kind of joke? You’re damn right it is. That’s the whole point. Jokes are ideas that spread. And that’s why they win. 

It’s like that old game show from the sixties where the mystery guests with unusual occupations and remarkable experiences attempt to trick the contestants that they are the real person. 

Is it any wonder that it’s one of only two shows in history to have aired at least one new episode in at least seven consecutive decades? Of course not. 

Because people value laughter more than basically anything else. 

He who laughs, lasts. 


What percentage of your customers initially thought your product was a joke?

* * * *

Scott Ginsberg

That Guy with the Nametag

Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.  



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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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