Laughter is a universal language. A place of common ground. Cartoons make us laugh because they allow us to suspend belief and enjoy the preposterous. Humor is the teaspoon of sugar that makes the medicine go down.
“That Barney Rubble, what an actor.”
Night Shift 1982
Cartoons work in health education because they’re. . .
- approachable, non-threatening, and non-judgmental
- familiar — we see ourselves in them
- direct, able and willing to deliver the terrible truth
- non-pc and unimpressed
- memorable − they leave an impression
- different, unique, and interesting
- diverse, come in all colors and shapes, and don’t care
Cartoon characters can be naïve, outrageous, endearing, cunning, and approachable. They can span time periods, take on different forms, and exaggerate to the point of the ridiculous. And all the while, they mock us with their own unique perspective on the human condition.
Who in their right mind would suggest calling people LAZY?
Not me! That’s not exactly a motivation technique favored by trained wellness coaches.
But take a look at this Million K-9 March in Protest of Lazy People poster. A cartoon of mans’ best friends telling us we’re being too lazy, begging just to go on walks with us.
We can laugh at ourselves via the truth of “their” cause. Cartoons can deliver messages in ways that connect and get through. And they accomplish it without being offensive.
English Undergrad Says Dr. Seuss America’s Best Author
I recall being in an English Lit class in college. The professor asked the students to stand and tell the class who our favorite author was and why. I told them mine was Dr. Seuss. And I thought he was onto a good thing with color coding fish, as in “one fish, two fish, green fish, blue fish.” The professor wasn’t impressed with my sophomoric exhibition, which is part of the reason I was a C+ student. Everyone got a great laugh, however.
But I have to admit, I still think Dr. Seuss is one of my favorite authors. And I read a lot. In fact, Tom Crouch’s The Bishop’s Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright, inspired this illustrated wellness poster. And the introduction in my eBook, New Perspectives in Wellness and Benefit Communications.
Wellness Managers Should Know
These 3 Things About Employee Engagement
There are three things every Wellness Manager should know about a workplace audience in regard to getting them to read or watch anything:
1. They don’t want it.
2. They didn’t ask for it.
3. They don’t have time for it.
But if the message of health is part of a visually interesting and humorous cartoon, those three points of resistance turn into:
1. What is this?
2. Oh, now that is funny!
3. Hey, did you guys see this?
Cartoon characters prefer to tell us a short story through images and prompts. Great applications of the graphic arts provide us with a “blinding flash of the obvious.” And a wonderful illustration can echo through the limbic center of our brain, changing our perspectives. And changing our mind.
I grew up with Yogi Bear, Popeye, Underdog, Huckleberry Hound, the Road Runner, Tom & Jerry, and Bugs Bunny, to name a few. And look how cartoon animation still produces box office blockbusters.
I think we’ve gotten a little too clinical and serious with workplace wellness. Maybe it’s time to add some character to your communication.
Shawn is the President and Founder of Hope Health. For over 30 years, his work has focused on bringing clear, easy-to-read, and watch health messages to the public via workplaces. He bills himself as the “Best C+ Student in the Wellness Biz” because, as he says, “I like to challenge the notion that there is no such thing as a stupid question.” Shawn is on a mission to tie workplaces into their surrounding communities to share resources and ideas in an effort to improve the health of all Americans.
You may reach Shawn at sconnors@HopeHealth.com or 800-334-4094.