Your brand who?
Your brand could benefit from using some humor in marketing.
OK, that’s a terrible joke. But in all seriousness, humor can add plenty of value to your business. However, that’s much easier said than done. Being funny isn’t easy and it can be risky. But if you’re ready to give it a try, here are some things you should know.
First, know that I’m not a licensed comedian, so please lower your expectations. The point of this blog post is not to make you laugh (although, that may happen). The purpose is to help you learn something about what makes people laugh. And maybe you’ll be able to be funny, too—maybe.
The Bad News about Humor & Marketing
OK, do you want the good news or bad news first? That was rhetorical because of course you’re getting the bad news first. Who wants good news first? That one’s not a rhetorical question—I seriously want to know. Anyway, here are three potential pitfalls of using humor.
- Being funny is hard. Comedians make funny look easy, but it’s not. Making your marketing funny takes work. Just don’t panic.
- Being funny is a risk. Humor can backfire. Quickly. Spectacularly. Sometimes that’s funny, too. (For everyone else.) Just be careful.
- Being funny takes humility. The best brand humor is self-deprecating. But that might just undermine your brand’s integrity. (We said it was a risk.)
The Good News about Humor & Marketing
Yikes—that was indeed some bad news. Enough to scare you away from reading the rest of this article. Good thing we included that GIF to distract your attention. The good news is that it’s time to talk about the good news.
- People remember funny. Humor helps your brand stand out because businesses are boring by default. Don’t be boring.
- Humor gives a brand personality. Humor makes you more approachable. You just have to be unique and genuine. (Easier said than done.)
- People share funny. Who doesn’t love to laugh? (That’s a rhetorical question.) The funny stuff gets shared online more frequently because we all need to laugh more.
What brands use humor?
Curious what this actually looks like in practice? Plenty of businesses try to be funny—with occasionally disastrous results. Thankfully, there are some genuinely laugh-worthy examples of brands who have successfully managed to use humor in their promotional efforts.
- KMart ships their pants. The retailer used a simple, repeated phrase to creatively focus on a feature of the business.
- Tushy Bidets aren’t crappy. The toilet sink company knows how to lean into their low-brow humor. That takes being very self-aware and knowing lots of puns.
- Savannah Bananas go wild. The minor league baseball team embraces the crazy to entertain their fans.
How can marketing be funny?
It’s time to get practical with our humor. Working funny into your marketing can be a challenge. The key is to find a few small places where it’s appropriate and practice. Here are some tips for making that happen.
- Humor is the unexpected. Every kind of funny involves some element of surprise. Learn what people assume. Then break those patterns.
- Find the line. Figure out what’s appropriate (and what’s not). Decide how much edge your audience is willing to tolerate. Push the envelope—just don’t burn it.
- Humor is like garlic. It adds flavor, but it can be overpowering. It’s not for everyone or every dish. Use it sparingly and specifically.
- Start small. Find some non-threatening places to your humor. Keep your expectations low. Remember you’re not a comedian—and even they need to practice.
- Get diverse input. Ask some people for feedback. See what they think is funny and appropriate. Be quick to pull the plug—sometimes it’s just not worth the risk.
Where the #@$% can I be funny?
Ready to put those excellent, practical tips into practice? Finding the right places to blast your humor ray into the universe can be tough. These are a few of the right places where you can start small and make humor happen.
- Website 404 Pages. Give the error pages on your website a sense of humor. Turn an error into a smile, and a disappointment into a chuckle. Taco Bell’s is pretty good.
- Out of Office Auto Responders. Vacations don’t need to come with boring responses. Think outside of the (text) box and add some humor to your auto-response.
- Sprinkle funny into your marketing content. Try one joke in your: blogs, email copy, social posts, etc. Use some GIFs or a more casual tone. Remember to start slow.
- April Fools Day. It’s the one day when humor is socially acceptable—especially if you’re Google. Even if it’s predictable.
Humor and Marketing Resources
- Humor Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas
- Outrageous Marketing: The Story of The Onion and How To Build a Powerful Brand with No Marketing Budget by Scott Dikkers