Yuk it Up: Using Comedy to Drive Your Marketing Strategy

Why did the chicken cross the road? He thought it might help his ROI.

Okay, that wasn’t exactly a knee-slapper, but the sentiment rings true. In times of war and peace, scarcity and plenty, people are drawn to humor across every type of media. Marketing communications are no different.

In 2013, comedy movies grossed over $2 billion in the US. Websites like Funny or Die and The Onion receive millions of hits every year, and it may be impossible to account for how many people view funny YouTube videos every day. Simply put, people enjoy comedy – and for good reason. It helps individuals wind down in the midst of stressful lives with numerous obligations, and it reminds them that positive outcomes can result from uncomfortable situations.

When companies effectively employ humor in their marketing content, they achieve numerous positive effects, including the following:

  • Appeal to their inner child. Most people never lose touch with their sense of humor, regardless of age or walk of life. In fact, the more of life individuals experience, the stronger their senses of irony often become. Comedy taps into the inherent joy of laughter and reminds us of life’s simple joys.
  • Add the element of surprise. People appreciate humor because it takes a potentially predictable topic and turns it on its head. Consumers ingest videos, advertisements, social media, and other content quickly, and they often retain little of what they see. But when content uses images or words to create an unexpected outcome, people remember it.

This Wall’s ad is a perfect example of how companies can incorporate the unexpected into their advertising. It shows people behaving unexpectedly in a traditionally formal scenario, surprising audiences and causing a few appreciative chuckles in the process.

  • Create positive rapport. Funny content makes companies seem laidback and approachable, as though the consumer is “in on” the joke. Sharing a laugh with potential customers shows them a business isn’t only out to make a buck; it wants everyone to have a good time.
  • Attract attention. A particularly hilarious marketing campaign will go viral, causing people who might never have been interested in a company’s product to view and share the content with others. Highly successful viral advertisements will also receive additional media attention; for instance, someone might mention them in a blog.

Techniques to Add Humor to Your Marketing Approach

Opportunities abound for incorporating comedy into your advertising strategy, regardless of your company’s industry or budget. A comedic campaign may be as simple as one short commercial, or it may be as complex as a complete rebranding.

Consider some of the following methods companies might employ in a humorous marketing campaign:

  • Sassy slogans. These short, pithy statements tell potential customers something about your product, as well as reveal your company’s personality. Puns and plays on words make slogans charming and memorable.

For instance, Granny Joe’s Ice Creamatorium in Vermilion, Ohio describes their product as “Ice Cream to Die For!” This slogan contrasts humorously with their quaint, small-town vibe and even caught the eye of Jay Leno, who featured the shop on The Tonight Show.

  • Comedic promotional items. Promotional items such as pens, cups, and t-shirts have long been a marketing mainstay for businesses. When companies add comedy into the mix, it makes them even more effective. Seek out promotional items that put a tongue-in-cheek twist on your company’s messaging, and customers will remember you.
  • Funny videos. Whether they expressly endorse your products or simply convey a funny message related to how consumers might need or use them, comedic videos are a powerful visual tool that will drive traffic to your social media sites and website.
  • Comedian endorsements. Companies have used comedians as spokespeople for years, because it creates a mutually beneficial relationship between the brand and the comedian. Consider the recent partnership between Old Navy and award-winning comedienne Amy Poehler. Their youthful, hip image and her hilarious personality combine in this outtake reel to create comedy gold:

Not fortunate enough to have Amy Poehler on speed dial? That’s okay. Local or previously unknown comedians can help you – and themselves – by becoming a consistent fixture in your marketing.

Ways to Make the Most of Comedic Marketing

While companies may understand the benefits of using humor in marketing, implementation can be easier said than done. As you consider incorporating comedy into your next video, ad, or written content, use the following tips to help maximize the outcomes, such as:

Employ funny people. Unless you regularly incite side-clutching rounds of laughter around the board table, leave the business of comedy to comedians. Whether you are looking to hire a dedicated staff member or a freelancer for occasional projects, try local improv theaters and comedy troupes to find someone well-versed in comedic techniques.

Tell a story. A joke shouldn’t exist in a vacuum; it should represent a small part in a larger story your brand wants to tell. In marketing, being funny for its own sake can only get companies so far, but when they use humor to spread a more heartfelt message, customers respond more strongly.

Know where to draw the line. Even the most celebrated comedians have experienced backlash when their humor crossed the line from funny into offensive. Especially for businesses, comedy should be a way of laughing with the audience, not laughing at them

This recent tweet from the Federal Student Aid office (which they have since deleted) is a perfect example of an attempt at humor gone wrong:

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Being “poor” might be a funny topic when it comes to buying a cheap fast-food taco, but with regards to something as important as getting an education, it becomes a more sensitive matter. To avoid offense or hurt feelings, keep your customers’ best interests in mind as you create your comedic marketing campaign.

From Puns to Profits

Numerous successful companies and campaigns have shown that comedy is an effective way to grab attention and make your brand more approachable. On whatever level you decide to incorporate humor into your marketing strategy, remember to stay true to your brand and have fun!

How is your company leveraging comedic techniques to build brand awareness?

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Emily Perry

In her spare time, Emily enjoys hanging out with her husband, American bulldog, and two cats. Besides writing, she is passionate about questionable fashion, singing in the car, and taking the easiest yoga classes available. She plans one day to record a ukulele/rockabilly/folk record, no matter how much people beg her not to.

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