If Ringo Can Do It, Maybe You Can Too

Press releases and the use of irony

Another post on the advent of the Beatles to the iTunes catalog. Irony in a press release? Why not?

Using wit in corporate writing is a double-edged sword. It’s a tough balancing act, especially for organizations and marketing writers with no track record of humor.

Still, I’m looking at the announcements about the advent of the Beatles’ catalog to iTunes, and wondering why most of them are so banal:

First, there’s a bit of syrup from “Macca:”

“We’re really excited to bring the Beatles’ music to iTunes,” said Sir Paul McCartney. “It’s fantastic to see the songs we originally released on vinyl receive as much love in the digital world as they did the first time around.”

Thank you, Sir P.

Next comes Steve Jobs, who is known far more for business acumen than for articulateness:

“We love the Beatles and are honored and thrilled to welcome them to iTunes,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “It has been a long and winding road to get here. Thanks to the Beatles and EMI, we are now realizing a dream we’ve had since we launched iTunes ten years ago.”

Get it? “Long and winding road?” That’s in a Beatles song, you know. Yeesh. Somebody has been waiting ten years to put that in a press release. Puleeeeze tell me Jobs himself didn’t write (or approve) it.

And now a word from our Ms. Ono, whose every sentence this year invokes the memory of her late husband:

“In the joyful spirit of Give Peace A Chance, I think it is so appropriate that we are doing this on John’s 70th birthday year,” said Yoko Ono Lennon.

“What good news for that little band he had before he met me,” she might have added.

From George’s widow comes the brief, to-the-point felicitation we would expect from the wife of a sensible man of few words:

“The Beatles on iTunes – Bravo!” said Olivia Harrison.

Amid all of this uninspired copy lies a solitary gem:

“I am particularly glad to no longer be asked when the Beatles are coming to iTunes,” said Ringo Starr. “At last, if you want it-you can get it now-The Beatles from Liverpool to now! Peace and Love, Ringo.”

This quip from the man who brought us memorable turns of phrase like “eight days a week,” “tomorrow never knows,” and “it’s been a hard day’s night.” He delivers a welcome whiff of irony amid the bland cheerleading. The reference to Badfinger lyrics notwithstanding – did he have anything to do with that record? – Ringo’s was the only text in the announcement worth reading.

Do you think you can get away with that ironic kind of personality in your marketing communications? Do you have a Ringo in your organization of whom such talk would be expected?

Have you ever given this a try?

photo credit: steffenz


Author: John White

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a content marketing writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Content Marketing Writer.”

3 thoughts on “If Ringo Can Do It, Maybe You Can Too

  1. I don’t know if this can be done by everyone. Let’s see… you would have to think hard and tell the honest truth and, and, well, ok I guess that’s about it.

  2. I find it difficult to get clients interested in humor or even mild wit. I often mention that absurd humor is my specialty and very occasionally this actually turns clients off. Once I wrote some copy for a small janitorial service that wanted to “showcase [their] personality.” The owner told me that it was fit for a resort (whatever that means) but not their company. I still think “floors so clean the 5-second rule is obsolete” is a great line.

    1. The owner obviously didn’t have as much personality as you thought, or maybe the wrong personality for that kind of humor. I think it’s brilliant.

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