Humour in marketing

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by Laura Choate
on

Published by: Luxus Worldwide

What are some of the most memorable adverts and marketing campaigns you’ve ever seen? They probably made you laugh, or at least roll your eyes. I’m thinking of Specsavers and Innocent Smoothies right now, both masters of humour in TV ads and online marketing, respectfully.

Two laughing women lying on the floor with a computer

 

You might also be thinking, that’s all very well for a drink brand, but how on earth am I supposed to liven up corporate, SEO-keyword-acronym laden copy?

Plus, as a B2B brand, you are appealing to stakeholders, rather than impulse buyers. Even with a few laughs, you still might not get the bureaucracy to hand over their money .

Look, comedy is hard. Even for business to consumer brands with straightforward messages and big budgets.

Here are two brands whose humour came off very differently, because of what their product is and who their audience are:

For years, Spotify has used its listener data to create funny ads, on one occasion poking fun at a user who played the song ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine’s Day. Arguably, a service where there is less a stake and that is known for communicating consumer data with its users is granted the authority to be witty about it.

Copycat campaign by bank Revolut was seen as being ‘cheeky’ with data. It turns out that a bank tapping into consumer data and revealing purchasing habits is less funny.

spotify-ooh-ep-2016

Source: https://www.adweek.com/creativity/spotify-crunches-user-data-fun-ways-new-global-outdoor-ad-campaign-174826/

Revolut
Source: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2019/feb/04/single-shaming-why-it-never-pays-to-ridicule-those-alone-on-valentines

So, even B2C’s need to be cautious. No one wants their ad to be recalled and shared for the wrong reasons.

And, a word on memes. Memes are a trademark of online humour where brands go to thrive or die. Meme culture is something that even I, a Gen Z, can’t always keep up with. Memes can be born and dead in a matter of hours. Unless you really know what you’re doing, or you are willing to potentially be the lame dad at the party – don’t even try. In fact, a meme’s death on the internet is often defined by it being co-opted by a brand.

McDonald’s tried to use a meme from 2015 in 2018, and failed to use it correctly:

 

 

At the worst, a badly timed joke, or one which is seen as exploitative, cheapening, or outright offensive can be recalled and shared for all the wrong reasons. There are too many to mention here, but we’re sure you’ll be able to find a few – even in the last week!

But, (good news, finally!) when used appropriately humour can add new dimensions to your campaign and earn you better results. It breaks down walls, grabs attention and shows your brand’s human side.

It can even turn around a business blunder – remember when KFC infamously ran out of chicken, received thousands of complaints, and replied with an ad that meat-eaters and vegetarians alike could laugh at?

KFC-feature-20181113050203599

Source: https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/kfc-fcking-clever-campaign/1498912

 

So what can you do?

Well, the key is to try and appeal to your audience by making them feel like an insider. After all, the best jokes are built on shared experiences. So, use the relatable quirks of your industry to form the humour in your message. If this means self-deprecation, then so be it. You can’t just rely on an un-related joke inserted here and there, or the occasional inclusion of a pun in the title.

Your humour needs to be about something. So, play on a marketing trope or point out a silly industry norm to make your message funny and relevant.

If simplification and audience engagement is the goal of your content, you could do worse than try to be funny. In fact, you really need to be.

Just remember to understand your audience, keep it natural and authentic, align your message to your brand, and don’t offend!

For more advice on how to position your brand, get in touch with our team, and perhaps even try out our humour!