Improv Taught Me About Marketing

The One Thing That Improv Taught Me About Marketing

What was the one thing that improv taught me about marketing? It comes down to the core concept in improv, “Yes, and?”  It actually goes beyond this, but this is the start of what improv taught me about marketing. 

Start in Improv

I started taking improv classes last year. I have a friend that is into that and writing comedy, and I saw her perform a few times in New Orleans at The New Movement. She talked about how fun it was, and I decided to give it a shot. So last year, I started taking classes at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse in Denver. It’s been a wild ride.

Improv is a popular strategy to overcome anxiety, or even improve your career. Why? Well, your life is improv. You are constantly having to just do things, and see what happens. And improv gives you the skills to do just that, across every aspect of your life.

And marketing is no exception. Marketing, especially things like growth hacking, is all about trying to figure out what works and to go with it.

“Yes, And?”

“Yes, and?” is the core concept of improv. The essence of it is to say yes to an idea and then build on it. In an improv scene, maybe one improviser indicates that you are siblings, to “yes, and” that would be to say they are not only siblings but sibling best friends. And then build further on it.

This concept has a use outside of improv though, it’s a great way to generate ideas. Instead of coming up with reasons to not do something, it gives you a platform for even better ideas. For instance, the wife and I were talking about dressing up for a costume party, and I misunderstood her. I thought she said, “Box on my head” but actually  she said, “fox head.” Instead of correcting me, she laughed and ran with it. And, now we are both going with tv sets as heads (boxes, and a much better costume). Improv also encourages the free sharing of ideas, as people know their ideas won’t be shot down immediately.

You can see the value when you look at the opposite, “No, but…” This is really easy to do in improv and life, but it doesn’t open up new possibilities, instead, it closes them down. Why? Well, first it creates immediate conflict. This isn’t something an audience, whether they are in a theater or an office setting want to see too much of. In addition, it discourages discussion and results in just talking about how bad something is. It kills improv scenes and marketing too.

So how do you use “Yes, and?” in marketing

Well, it’s pretty simple – say yes to an idea and then build on it. So let’s say a team member suggests that you do a new social media campaign. “Yes, and” thinking that would be to add to it, maybe say influencer social media campaign, and then you go further and further. This is a great way to generate new ideas, as two (or three) minds are often better than one. Basically, it will help you brainstorm ideas on what to do.

“Yes, and?” isn’t the only concept that improv taught me that applies to marketing. Here are a few others.

You only need to bring a brick

Marketing done properly is a team sport. It’s almost impossible to do everything needed to be successful alone. Well, improv is a team sport and my first teacher said, “You don’t have to bring a cathedral….just bring a brick.” There is a tendency in improv (or really everything) to think you have to do everything yourself. And the reality is you can’t. You have to start somewhere, and just contribute your part.

This applies to marketing too! You don’t have to do everything yourself, you only need to bring a brick. And rely on your teammates to also bring bricks. Pretty soon you will have a marketing cathedral.

There is no issue with a pause

This is one of my personal biggest issues in improv and life, not letting a pause manifest itself. The concept in improv is you don’t have to talk all the time. You can let silence sit there for a moment. There is a tendency to want to fill silences on stage, but you don’t have to. Sometimes a pause is needed for the audience to catch up.

In marketing, we often feel the need to do everything, all at once. We will do product activities, run a social campaign, create a piece of content or whatever you are doing. Well, taking a pause every once in awhile is a good practice to get into. First off, it enables you to catch your breath. It also enables you to reflect back on what you have done, and think about what to do next. And it gives your organization, that likely moves slower than marketing, a chance to catch up.

And while you might notice a break and feel self-conscious; most others will not notice.

Take Chances

When you are on stage, it’s easy to get self-conscious and shy away from big ideas and chances. But what makes improv (and life) so much fun is taking risks and going big. So instead of being siblings, you are best friend siblings that have never spent a moment apart. This concept isn’t something you would normally see in life, but that is what makes improv fun. And there is power in this as it heightens the engagement with the audience. And it’s also a lot of fun to do, and then your audience enjoys it all the more!

This holds true in marketing too. Generally, the best marketing activities are taking risks with big ideas. Here are some examples of awesome B2B campaigns that went big.They don’t get this by being conservative, instead, they took a risk and went big. Yes anding everything until it’s absurd, and then turning that into a core concept of marketing. This is especially true for content marketing where you need to provoke a sense of curiosity. You don’t get that by thinking small or being boring!


This is what I learned from improv and how it’s improved my personal and professional game. I have to say that taking improv classes has been a total blast. If this sort of thing sounds remotely interesting to you, I suggest seeking out classes. Everyone I have taken classes with has indicated that improv has improved parts of their life that have nothing to do with performing. Interested in giving it a try? Yes, and!

I would love to talk further about this. Give me a shout via twitter or our contact page.

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