In Praise Of The Mint Brothers

June 22, 2018

I still remember the first time I saw the Mint Brothers. It was 2007. I was at work. I was bored. A friend emailed me a link and said I have to watch this. And oh man. The greatest ad-not-ad online campaign of all time.

The spot shows two brothers from the ’80s standing in their driveway talking about girls and singing and air-drumming to Night Ranger. That’s it. That’s all it is. But the tone is irreverent and affectionate and shows guys as the rock heroes we all want to be. And it’s spectacular. I mean just look at those goons singing “Sister Christian.” What’s wonderful about the spot is it’s not only hilarious but authentic. It gets at a real human emotion: love. Love of music. I actually find it kind of touching.

It was produced by Best Buy and placed quietly, almost subversively, on its website. Again, this was back in 2007. Companies weren’t really doing this type of thing back then. BMW had all those fantastic online car films, of course. But there wasn’t much like this. Certainly not something this funny. It was Funny Or Die before Funny Or Die.

It raises the question about humor in advertising. Is it ever a bad idea? Who doesn’t like to laugh?

Evidently Claude Hopkins, the grandfather of modern advertising. Here’s a quote of his on the topic:

Don’t treat your subject lightly. Don’t lessen respect for yourself or your article by any attempt at frivolity. People do not patronize a clown. There are two things about which men should not joke. One is business, one is home. An eccentric picture may do you serious damage. One may gain attention by wearing a fools cap. But he would ruin his selling prospects.

Fun guy this Hopkins.

But does he have a point?

Well I suppose if you’re selling urns. But mostly, no. At least I don’t think so. Neither does Dan Dennett, an American cognitive scientist. In his Ted talk, he describes how evolution has wired us to search and respond to humor. He says humor can make your brand seem human and we buy from people we like.

But let’s give the last word to the guy who created the Mint Brothers: Tom Lord, a creative who was in-house at Best Buy at the time. Here’s what he shares on his website about the campaign:

We set out to create a :30 ad for Best Buy and had a longer spot in our back pocket. When I gave the script to the actors on set, neither guy had ever heard “Sister Christian” before. Nonetheless they totally nailed it. After seeing the popularity online, art director Matt Maly and I created a website as if designed and written by our dweeby little brother. It’s a hard thing to get people to like advertising. As a writer and creative director, I’ve always tried to make personal connections, where the piece of work makes the viewer feel something emotional. Today there’s a ton of ways to make connections. And I hope we can get people to not only like advertising, but embrace those brands as part of their community.

I like that. I mean, I don’t know that the spot made me go buy Best Buy speakers or anything. Nor do I know if it was even considered a well-received campaign inside the company. There was never Mint Brothers 2. But I do know I liked it and I still watch it today when I want my day to get brighter. It made me feel that there must be some cool people over there at Best Buy. Does that make the spot worth doing? I would hope so. To quote Mint Brother number one: “It’s so choice it’s chezzer.”