The case for more humor
Nothing brings people together like laughter. It’s a universal human need: relating through the lighter side of life.
Science has shown that humor is important to social bonding; it helps build trust and connect society.
With all this in mind, you would think levity was a given in any campaign. After all, if the aim is to influence consumers, what better way to do so than by making them feel good?
Unfortunately, nothing in marketing is so simple. (If it were, comedians would be in high corporate demand.)
Many iconic ads have been based on making people laugh – some even entering popular culture as catchphrases or hashtags. Others are cautionary tales of jokes gone wrong.
Humor has an important role to play in good marketing. The art is in knowing when and how to use it properly.
Why humor works
Humor has many clear advantages; understanding them is key to success.
For starters, it encourages people to let down their guard and open up, increasing the chance they will connect with your message. By not taking itself too seriously, a brand appeals to consumers as down-to-earth and relatable.
A second advantage comes with being different from the rest. In our content-saturated world, capturing and holding people’s attention is a major task. Anything that helps you stand out from the pack is a plus. Humor can help give your company a distinctive personality and differentiate it in the market.
Consumers like to be entertained. Anything that brightens their day is more likely to be liked and shared, increasing the odds you’ll achieve that most sought after reward: a viral campaign. No need to reduce your strategy to funny cat videos just yet – but they do have something to teach us.
Beyond everything, science shows that humor enhances memory. Chances are, if you amuse your audience, they will remember. (The fastest way to forget something is to be bored by it.)
There are plenty of good reasons to add amusement into your marketing mix. But how do you do it right?
The right kind of funny: Some rules of thumb
In the US, the Super Bowl is an annual sporting event as famous for its hilarious ads as it is for the actual game. Major brands launch high profile, humorous campaigns they hope will catch on in the culture at large – and many do.
In most cases, however, subtle and simple is the best approach. A little twist in the copy, an amusing photo – these will do. Since you only have an instant to grab someone’s attention, it’s best to avoid elaborate set-ups or context. You certainly don’t need a celebrity cameo.
Don’t be afraid to poke fun at yourself; just be sure you’re on the right side of the joke. You want consumers to laugh with you and not at you, because your product has to be taken seriously.
Lastly, make sure the tone is right for your brand. Are your consumers young and hip, highly educated or from a niche cultural segment? Knowing your audience is everything, because despite being universal, humor is subjective. In fact, misunderstanding readers can have a very negative impact – as poorly executed, even offensive ads, will show.
To joke or not to joke
It goes without saying, steer clear of anything sensitive or potentially controversial. Good creative direction helps avoid a misfire.
Not all products and services are well served by a humorous approach. Think carefully about your brand personality and the image you wish to convey.
If evoking confidence and authority are important to the campaign, humor may be counterproductive (though many banks, for example, now strike a smart, light-hearted tone).
If your product or service is something ordinary people can relate to, with basic day-to-day relevance, humor may be very effective indeed. Examples include breath mints, auto insurance, travel or fast food. These are humble, ordinary needs where consumers are likely open to a fun approach.
The takeaway: Embrace fun, proceed with caution
Many clients are afraid to take a chance on humor. By playing it safe, they risk being ignored altogether.
Humor is an important part of creativity and connecting with consumers. Good writers help identify when and how to use humor to make a memorable impact and get people talking about your company.
You can follow Rami on twitter @RamiAbughazaleh. Opinions expressed in this piece belong to the author.
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