Should Your Brand Try Comedy? Cisco’s Tim Washer Has the Answer

tim washer

“How can you find a fun way to get into your story.” That’s what Tim Washer spends most of his time doing. As part of the social media team at Cisco, he helps create entertaining and engaging video content. He’s also a regular on the comedy scene, with an impressive list of credits including a recent spot on Last Week Tonight. I couldn’t wait to talk about the intersection of brand building and comedy with Tim on this week’s podcast. 

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About Tim Washer

Tim Washer has performed at events featuring Pixar CEO John Lassiter, Emmy-Winner Tony Hale (VEEP, Arrested Development) and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu. Tim studied improv under Amy Poehler and later wrote for her on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update. He studied comedy writing under Tom Purcell, head writer for The Colbert Report. TV comedy appearances include HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the Onion Sports Network, Conan O’Brien and a T-Mobile commercial with Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Corporate events include IBM, Cisco, Deloitte, CDC, Google and The White House. Conferences include SXSW, Wall Street Journal CMO conference, and Content Marketing World Sydney. Tim’s work has been featured in Ad Age, ADWEEK, Fast Company, Forbes, Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.

Episode Highlights

Why should brands consider comedy? “When done well it helps you stand out.” And that’s what all brands want in our increasingly noisy marketplace.

“We tried comedy once. It didn’t work.” Like Tim, you’ve probably heard this a time or two. “You may have tried it once but you didn’t have the right tools or the right people.” These aren’t easy obstacles to overcome. However, as Tim noted, it is if you know where to look. Go to local improv theaters and comedy clubs. Look for writers and actors. “There are plenty of people like me.”

“Humor is humanizing.” That’s one of the biggest benefits brands can realize as a result of adding some comedy to their marketing. “It’s a powerful way to show empathy. So much humor comes from pain. We need to look for pain points that our customers have and look for ways to create stories around solving them.” That’s exactly what Tim did at Cisco with their recent CIO video series “Fast Innovation and the Slow Waiter.”

Are there brands that can’t or shouldn’t be funny? “Yes — and there are also some times when you can’t be funny.” For example, BP after the oil spill. Crisis management is a challenging time to explore comedy.

What are 3 things you can do to start embracing a culture of comedy for your brand? “Number one, expand your virtual team. Look for writers, actors. Second, explore ideas on pain points you solve for customers. Third, support mistakes and risk-taking. Give execs who do take risks and make mistakes kudos.”

What brand has made Tim smile? While it’s not recent, the Sears ad “The Beach” is one of Tim’s favorites. “I almost fell off the treadmill when I first saw it.”

To learn more about Tim, check out You can also see Tim at this fall’s Social Brand Forum on October 15–16 in Iowa City. Learn more and register now.

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our listeners …
Recently our friend Sean Carpenter gave us a shout on Twitter about our recent episode focused on un-branding featuring Scott Stratten. Thanks for listening Sean!

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