Are you having a laugh? 6 tips for using humour in marcoms

I’ve got a confession to make.

I don’t pay attention to TV commercials. 
Anyone: Have you seen that ad …? 
Me: No.

Probably not the bragging right of a content strategist but there you have it. I tend to zone out TV ads. There's always something more compelling whirring about in my brain that wins my attention during commercial time (and, often during programme time too). 

But, right now I can tell you right off the bat two current TV commercials that I like AND what they are selling. (This is important because usually, on the off chance I can remember a TV ad, I will still not recall what they are pushing). My current fave commercials spruik milk and Smith’s chips. Special mention goes to another older commercial that also had a habit of cutting through to my consciousness - the Ronda and Ketut ads for AAMI.

Common denominator: humour. These are all funny. Funny is memorable. Funny is likeable. 

However, there are two main reasons why humour in marketing is NOT a no-brainer. 

The first is that, research has shown that funny won’t necessarily sell the most amount of product. It has however, proven to be a highly effective awareness-building tool. If done well, it can engage punters in an impactful way. If used as a supplement to products and marketing programs of substance, humour can be used to create a strong connection with target customers. It can be integrated into a marketing program, if not solely relied upon to rack up the sales.

Secondly, funny aint easy. It takes a good idea, a good grasp of who you're selling to and comedic flair to make humour work (holy grail: going viral).

Here's some tips if you want to use humour in your marcoms campaigns:

1. Know your audience. Research trends in humour that your demographic responds to – what’s funny to a blue chip C suite suited professional is normally different to something that will make a tech developer laugh.

2. Be careful with controversial topics. If you want to be ‘disruptive’ you need to take risks and if you want to be edgy, it’s hard to pull it off if you do it half-arsed. A joke may get you laughs and attention but be sure it does not betray the values of your company – even if it is just a harmless, tongue in cheek gag.

3. Be careful with topical issues. Be aware of your surroundings and sensitivities. It’s not possible to always pre-empt news stories and sometimes unfortunate coincidences occur, but be aware. For example, imagining for a moment that this might elicit a few chuckles: 

Following the news last weekend that an Australian man nearly died from liver poisoning after taking certain diet pills, if the ad went live this week it would not be great timing. That said, such is the fickle, fleeting nature of public mood, it would probably be OK to release it next month.

4. Be relatable. Ask any comedian and they will tell you that the best reactions and the safest bets are jokes that are based on shared experiences. Every day pain points and common phobias are great for comedic content.

5. Self-deprecation gets appreciation – sticking fun at your industry wins fans and builds trust.

6. Don’t over-think the delivery. If you have to explain it, you reduce the impact (and the point). Keep it simple.

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