I have run into a couple of examples of companies with senses of humour in the last little while and I thought I would share them with you, my reader.  They range in size from the colossal to the really not that big at all.

Firstly we have Google.  It was widely reported recently that Apple had not approved the Google Voice app for use on the iPhone/iPod touch (interestingly, iPod is in the dictionary here whereas iPhone isn’t, yet).  As a response to this, Google pulled Apple results from search, or played around with them some (read more here).  I appreciate their willingness to roll with what was rather a nasty situation for them.  I am also amused by their occasional changes of logo for major (and not so major) events.  Check out this gallery for more of their stuff.  I think this is a big part of why Google is seen as a friendly, ‘they would never do anything terrible with all this information I’m handing them,’ warm and fuzzy kind of company.  They are able to laugh at themselves and present a very pleasant face to the world.

Moving down the corporate gigantism ladder, let’s have a look at Valve Software, the people behind the ridiculously successful Half-Life franchise, amongst other things.  They have a little game called Team Fortress 2 that you may have heard about.  This thing is a whole lot of fun to play, mostly because it’s so tongue-in-cheek and over-the-top cartoonish.  They’ve done a really good job of maintaining the feel of the game throughout their marketing and the way they release updates to gameplay.  At April fool’s day, they hinted that the sniper was going to get a special weapon, namely a jar of pee that could be thrown at enemies.  Everybody had a good laugh at this but then Valve went and released it as part of the last update.  That’s right; you can throw a jar of pee at enemies (or at friend who are on fire, putting them out).  Valve is doing a really good job connecting with the kinds of people who like to play their games.  If you get a chance to play on one of their semi-regular free play weekends, I would suggest taking it.  They also tend to drop the price of the game to $10-15 around the time of updates and there is a new one in the works right now.

The last company is one that is relatively unknown.  Saddleback Leather makes really, really high-end briefcases, luggage and other leather goods.  Really high end in terms of both price (around $500 for a briefcase and more like $1000 for a suitcase) and quality of construction (they have a video of an crocodile messing with one of their cases.  The case comes away with only scratches and the croc probably with a sore jaw).  They’re so confident in their products that they offer a 100 year warranty and encourage customers to put it in their will.  Since they have a fairly niche market and are a very small company (perhaps 5 people, certainly not many more than that), they can put a lot of personality into their communications.  I had a read through their FAQ section today.  The Miscellaneous Questions area in particular gave me a giggle:

The cool medallion hanging on your bags, where can I get one?

If you really want one of those old 5 peso coins then catch a plane to Mexico City. Get off the plane and go to the western most bus station "Observatorio" via "El Metro" (the subway). Catch a bus to Toluca and then get on a bus headed for Ixtapan de la Sal. When you get off the bus, catch one of the green and white taxis and tell them "Tecomatepec" OR there’s a guy who lives kind of behind the bus station and to the right named Pedro. He has a burro he’ll let you use if you tell him you know Dave. Don’t worry, his burro knows the way.

Several hours later, when you get to Tecomatepec 3 miles away, get off the burro at the corner where the drunk guy with the missing teeth is (you’ll know) and walk up the alley about 3 doors past the tortilla factory and ask for Senora Lupita and tell her Dave sent you. She should have one or two left. Hope that helps.

In all of these cases, the people behind their respective brands/products are secure enough in their position and comfortable enough with their audience/users that they can take some time to goof around.  I don’t think we’re likely to see Apple, for example, doing something along these lines any time soon (apart from commercials, perhaps, but it looks like they’ve stopped doing those).  They have developed a very different identity, one that relies on being taken seriously most of the time.  There’s nothing really wrong with either approach but I think people feel more comfortable dealing with companies that seem to be comfortable in and of themselves.

won’t somebody please remove these cutleries from my knees