by Paul White October 31, 2003 -- After reading Fridays with Dr. Joe—his weekly WhatTheyThink.com column—about “Marketing of the Branding Kind”, I followed his link and clicked on the new AFLAC Supermarket commercial. Starring one of my favorite actors, Chevy Chase, it‘s really a hoot. When you want a good laugh, click on the following URL: (http://www.aflac.com/about_us/aflac_commercials.asp). I especially want to thank Dr. Joe for bringing this to my attention. This very funny commercial brought me back to a feeling many talk about but few in business seem to practice—business should be fun! The ad team at AFLAC certainly must be believers in this philosophy. Fun in business is an especially important theme this time of year as companies plan and staff their trade show booths. Xplor is an international conference and trade show that's all about solutions—from its conference topics to its vendor product focus. Most of this focus is on business critical—not fun—applications such as bill and bank statement processing. Although it may be difficult to envision any fun as a by-product of trade shows with nuts and bolts applications, a trade show beats a good day at the office! That's because customers usually don't visit their vendors or prospective vendors—unless it's for a very big investment. You find prospects and customers at their own offices, and it requires planning, effort and expending resources for you to meet them there. Just think of it, here you are in Atlanta showing off your new wares and folks have spent their own money to come to Atlanta to see what new goodies your company is showing. Of course the show also costs you money to be there, and there's competition right at arm's reach, but that can be fun, too. If there wasn't competition, then it would be harder to sell your products. Prospects are always looking for new solutions, but usually don't purchase until they check out all of the products within a category. If your product is the only product in a category, then the sales cycle is likely to be long—and this isn't fun. The reason for the long sales cycle is that the printer across the street doesn't have your new product yet, either. So, since Printer A's lunch is not yet being eaten by Printer B, then why should Printer A buy your new product? Competition is valuable because it educates the customer and causes the development of more useful products—competition may not be fun, but it's good. Having solid product differences over your competition is good; and establishing brand recognition is also good, and this can be fun, too. As you are enjoying this year's Xplor show in Atlanta, what can be learned from AFLAC that you can apply to your own business? Well, AFLAC is selling a pretty bland product—actually a commodity—insurance. Yet, they have made something that's bland—and who doesn't want to avoid the dreaded insurance salesman—into something that's remembered and fun. That's a major accomplishment, and one that has been widely recognized by the advertising industry. You can experience the same results for your company as AFLAC, by thinking outside-the-box . I know everybody says this, just as they say that business should be fun. But, there's a big difference between paying lip service to an axiom, and executing it. How long has it been since your company had a product brainstorming session, gotten an outside opinion or looked critically at your company's own selling proposition? If you're using the same branding and marketing techniques that you have been using for 5 years or more, then you are not thinking outside-the-box , and most likely not having any fun, either. When you sneeze, do you ask for a Kleenex or a tissue? This is real branding that was done decades ago. Kleenex became a generic term through very effective, long-term branding. A company's long term growth and success depend on effective branding, and, as AFLAC is showing us, this can be a lot of fun.