humour, content marketing, content, marketing, production company, business, audience, laugh, laughter, funny
I’m sure most of us would agree that having a good sense of humour is a great thing in life, but what about when it comes to marketing?
It’s understandable why many marketers feel nervous about going for laughs in their content - it’s a high risk, high reward technique. On the one hand, “be funny” is a tall order. Jokes that are forced will almost certainly come across as such, and what is regarded as funny by one person might fall flat for another. There’s also the potential risk of coming across as unprofessional, or even worse - accidentally offending someone in your audience with a poorly worded punchline.
On the other hand, when humour is done right, the benefits can do wonders for a brand. According to a marketing study by textbook rental service Chegg, 80% of higher-education students remember ads that make them laugh. It makes sense - scientific research has demonstrated that laughing promotes social bonding, so when you share a laugh with your audience you really are building a relationship with them. The majority of viral videos also tend to be funny; amusing content begs to be shared with friends and can therefore foster much greater engagement and exposure. Not to mention that incorporating funny content can also humanise your brand and make you far more approachable.
If you do decide to use humour, you’ll also need to think about what kind of humour is appropriate for your brand. Here are a few different ways to consider incorporating it into your content:
Humour doesn’t necessarily mean reeling off punchlines. It can be as simple as not taking yourself too seriously. Employing a more casual tone in your writing, using slang, including some tongue-in-cheek or pop culture references, or throwing in the occasional ridiculous image are all ways to establish a more light-hearted tone.
One of my favourite examples of this was the superbowl ad released by Amazon to promote their Alexa home-assistant device earlier this year:
The company is willing to poke a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun at themselves and their product, though it never crosses the line into being genuinely self-deprecating and awkward. In fact, despite the jokey premise it still actually manages to do a great job of making a point of the product’s functionality.
(For another example, also see Spotify’s fantastic and funny ‘user habits’ ad campaign.)
This style could work for: Most businesses. The great thing about this approach is that it can be as moderate as you like, so you can tone it down if you’re nervous about taking it too far and still keep it within professional limits.
Another way to incorporate humour into your content is to have a little fun going out of the box. This involves injecting humour in a way that’s so baffling it’s funny - or in ways that others within your industry wouldn’t normally do. Think the kind of laugh that Old Spice videos elicit, with their seemingly random imagery and off-the-wall concepts. The link to their YouTube channel from their website is even written as “Click here to watch some nonsense.”
This is the style to let your creativity off the leash with - just be sure to get a second opinion before you post (and a third and a fourth), as you don’t want the humour to be so obscure that it would fly over the average user’s head.
This style could work for: B2C companies only: this method is definitely a little too unusual to employ when working with other businesses. It also probably works better for product-based businesses over service-based ones, as the latter often requires more customer service and you don’t want to give the impression that those interactions will be as ‘confusing’ as your content may be.
One option that has been gaining traction on social media in the last couple of years is to engage in more snarky or sassy online interactions. This method seems to have become a particular fad within the fast-food industry - notably popularised by American chain Wendy’s:
Another great example of this kind of humour comes, quite unexpectedly, from the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s Twitter account. They’ve made a habit of responding to controversial tweets with tongue-in-cheek dictionary definitions, much to the amusement of many onlookers.
The style is clearly effective, with Wendy’s experiencing a 49.7% growth in profit from $129.6 million to $194 million the year that they began the strategy. Be aware it’s also riskier than other options, however, with the potential to offend, bore, or polarise audiences being much higher.
This style could work for: Businesses with a younger audience, who are now likely more accustomed to this kind of online rapport. If you’re an organisation focused around a cause or political topic, this can also be an emphatic way to make a point - as long as you’re okay with the piece having a narrower appeal.
Deciding whether humour is appropriate for your business, and what kind of humour that should be, is ultimately a decision that you’ll have to consider carefully for yourself. Bear in mind what your audience tend to respond to, whether it would compromise or add to your ‘brand voice,’ and whether you might be able to test the popularity of your chosen sense of humour before you officially introduce it into your content.
There are also a few golden rules regarding ways you should never use humour that it’s important to bear in mind:
However scary it may seem at first, humour can be an enjoyable way to foster better connections with your audience and boost your engagement. Don’t think it’s automatically out of the question for you if you’re in a ‘serious’ industry either - there are plenty of ways to use humour and still be taken seriously.
10x Investments ‘Stop Daylight Robbery’ series, for example, takes the usually dry topic of investment fees and has some fun with it, making a great point in the process:
Providing customers with value and keeping a consistent brand voice, of course, should always remain your top priority. Be aware of the risks of humour, but don’t let them stop you from going for it if you’ve done your research and think you’re onto something. When humour’s done right, it becomes the memorable kind of marketing that we all love.