“Nobody Buys From a Clown”

Niemand_koopt_van_een_clownThe director of an Amsterdam ad agency once taught me that you should never use humor in communicating with your customers. “Humor doesn’t work”, he said, “because nobody buys from a clown”. With this, he quoted Claude Hopkins, the American advertising icon and author of Scientific Advertising, published in 1923.

I have always remembered these words: nobody buys from a clown. It sounds so logical. Those who make jokes are laughed at, but they are not taken seriously.

It may seem obvious, yet it is not true. Humour does work.

Customer Experience

There are companies where I buy with pleasure. And there are companies where it is such great fun to be a customer. Names of companies that come to mind first are MOO.comFreitag and the Dutch company Coolblue. They know how to make me smile. If you want to experience it yourself, then I heartily recommend you buy something there. What you will notice is that these companies don’t hesitate to spice up their direct customer contacts with a little bit of humor.


For years now, I have ordered my business cards from MOO. MOO offers a choice of ready-made designs of high quality. You can also submit your own design. Thinner or thicker paper? Straight corners or rounded corners? Custom sizes? Everything is possible. But hey there, wait! Others do that too. What makes MOO so special then? That is the way they communicate. It starts on their website and in the email MOO sends me to confirm my order. Read with me:

”Hello, Frans! It’s little MOO here – the friendly Print Robot that manages your order. Take a look below for all the details you’ll need confirmation.”

And how about this?

“Your order was received by: Little MOO, Print Friendly Robot.
Next destination: Big MOO, trusty Printing Machine.”

Or “You can call, email or chat online to our team – they’re real people and always happy to help.”

What a relief, when a company communicates with you in such a human, friendly way. Flavored and with a subtle sense of humor.


As soon as my new business cards are ready for shipment, MOO sends me this message: “Hello Frans! I’m excited to say Big MOO has printed your order and it’ll shortly be dispatched from our warehouse. Yay!”

From that moment on the rejoicing begins: I look forward to the delivery of my new business cards. Every time I receive their email, I experience a moment of great joy. MOO feels unerring. One of the first things I see when the business cards are delivered is a sticker that says ‘Yay!’.


Unpacking the delivery is a feast. My business cards are beautifully packaged in a neat little box, with a beautiful closing sticker. In there is another box, with a shiny ribbon around it with a seal on it. It looks like a box of Leonidas chocolates. Suddenly my order, which I paid for myself, feels like a present. When I have unpacked my gift, I want to use my new business cards as soon as possible. It is again as if MOO reads my mind, MOO added a card that says “Hurry! Schedule a meeting! Your new business cards have arrived.” Again, this puts a smile on my face.

Personal Touch

A good product, a customer-friendly ordering process, fast delivery, and good customer service. Those are critical to a positive customer experience. On top of that humor can provide that extra personal touch that makes your company stand out from so many others who choose to communicate in a sterile manner. They’re probably not doing anything wrong, but as a customer, they don’t make you feel special.

In the best relationships – with your partner, your children, your friends, your customers, and your suppliers – humor is an indispensable lubricant. Why should that be different in the relationship between you and your customers? Have you ever asked yourself how humor can help your company make it even more enjoyable to be your customer?

Frans Reichardt | The Client Listener


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