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The Pros and Cons of Using Humor in Marketing

Humor in Marketing

People are 90% more likely to remember funny ads. Could adding humor to your marketing campaigns be the key to more sales? Let’s look at the pros and cons of using humor in marketing to help you decide.

Should you use humor in marketing?

Humorous marketing campaigns work well, when executed well. Unfortunately, humorous campaigns can be hard to pull off and definitely don’t work for every business model.

Before we talk about how to infuse humor into your marketing strategy, let’s make sure humor is a good fit for your business.

The easiest way to decide if humor is appropriate for your brand is to follow this three-part formula: What you do + Your audience + Your brand personality = Your answer.

Part 1: Think About What You Do

The first thing to consider is your profession or industry. For some businesses, funny content would leave a lasting impression and increase customer loyalty. For other businesses, humorous campaigns would be outright offensive.

Let’s say you’re a surgeon or a funeral home director. If you work in a serious, high-stakes industry like these two, any joke is the wrong joke. Do not use humor in your marketing. It would increase brand awareness for all the wrong reasons.

However, if you sell razor blades, deodorant or some other not-so-glamorous product, humorous campaigns are a great way to stand out from your dull and boring competitors.

Part 2: Know Your Audience

As a general rule of thumb, using humor in marketing works pretty well for everyday, necessary products like take-out, car insurance, personal care items, etc.

The more expensive your product, the less humor is used. Historically, humor was never used in luxury marketing but things seem to be shifting a bit in recent years, to target younger audiences.

Although any business could use humor in their marketing, not every business should. You have to know your target audience.

Using humor in marketing can be a great tool but it comes with potential risks. Not everyone has the same sense of humor. What one demographic finds funny could be offensive or mean spirited to another.

For example, if you’re targeting a younger audience, you might want to use more irreverent, sarcastic humor mixed with pop culture references. An older audience, on the other hand, likely wouldn’t understand your pop culture references and might appreciate gentler, more nostalgic humor instead.

The key isn’t just thinking up a good punchline. It is remembering who your punchline is for. The better you know your target audience, the more likely you will be to succeed with a humorous approach to your marketing campaigns.

Part 3: Know Your Brand’s VTA

The next piece to think about is your brand’s voice, tone, and archetype (VTA).

Every brand has a unique personality. That personality shows up in the way you interact with customers, through your marketing campaigns and other brand communications. When you feel deeply connected to a brand, it is because their VTA resonates with you and your personality.

Humor is a better fit for some company VTAs than others. For example, if your brand is known for being playful and fun, humor is probably going to be a valuable marketing strategy for your company.

If your brand is more serious or intellectual, humor wouldn’t align well with your studious company image. Infusing humor in your marketing could rub customers the wrong way, instead of drawing them in.

Humor also isn’t a one-time tactic. Once you position your company as one of those ‘funny brands’, consumers want you to continue being a funny brand. You can’t use absurd humor to spread laughter one week and then be an uptight, serious business the next.

A consistent marketing message is more important than one-off tactics.

Viral content isn’t the key to growing your business. Consistency is. So, before you use humor to attract attention to your next marketing campaign, make sure that is really who you want to be as a brand.

6 Tips for Using Humor in Your Marketing

For most of us, pulling off a good joke is tough in person. It is even harder to do well digitally. So, if the formula above points to yes and you want to try adding humor in your marketing, use these 6 tips to help you do it well:

  1. Understand Your Audience’s Humor: Research and understand what type of humor appeals to your target audience. Is it sarcasm, wit, slapstick, dry humor, etc.? Knowing what your audience finds funny is the first step to using humor in marketing well.
  2. Be Authentic: Don’t crack a joke just to crack a joke. Humor should enhance your brand message, not distract from it. Staying consistent in your marketing campaigns is always going to be more successful than trying to be something your brand is not.
  3. Test It Out: Before sharing your humorous content widely, test it out on a small group. Start with your die hard fans–the customers who would stick around even if you whipped out one of the worst jokes they’ve ever heard. Their reaction will help you gauge your target audience’s response and make any necessary tweaks.
  4. Balance Humor with Information: While humor can make your marketing campaign more engaging, you don’t want to overdo it. The bulk of your content should still be important, useful information about your product or service, not punchlines.
  5. Avoid Offensive or Sensitive Topics: As a general rule, you should avoid jokes about topics like race, religion, gender, politics, etc.

Obviously there are brands who have broken this rule and pulled it off. Dollar Shave Club is a great example of that. Just know your audience well before you try anything crazy and brace yourself for the backlash.

  1. Consistency is Key: If you choose to use humor, make sure it’s consistent across your social media platforms and marketing campaigns. A funny ad followed by a serious email marketing campaign would confuse consumers and kill any momentum you gained using humor in your marketing.

Get Laughs and Sales

Remember, using humor in marketing is a powerful tool but it needs to be used appropriately and thoughtfully. Humor helps humanize your brand, make your advertising more memorable, and build a strong connection with the right audience.

However, humor in marketing is a lot easier to mess up than it is to pull off. Especially if marketing isn’t really “what you do” you probably shouldn’t try this tactic on your own.

We love it when we get to have a little fun and infuse humor into our clients’ marketing materials, like this one:

humor in marketing SAL mockup

However, we also know how to create a humorous marketing campaign that converts. Before we created this marketing campaign, we had already dialed in this company’s messaging and knew their target audience would respond well.

If you need a thinking partner to dive into the details and determine the best marketing strategy for your target audience, schedule a call with Guide MKTG today. We will work together to craft an effective marketing plan that helps you reach your business goals…and that’s no joke!


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