When you should use humor in advertising

humor in advertising isn't always appropriate

We are flooded with thousands of brand messages every day. Many companies will try to force an emotional connection between the audience and their mundane product like laundry detergent, or mayo. Similar to mayo, I’m not trying to spread myself too thin (ha!) by having all of these “emotional attachments” to inanimate objects.

Even brands that force an emotional connection with animate objects, like dogs, can be difficult to stomach. Does anybody actually sit through an entire Sarah Mclachlan animal cruelty commercial? I had to look up what brand she was advertising for, because I’ve never watched more than two seconds of the commercial.

Humor is an excellent way to differentiate yourself from the thousands of brand messages. Utilizing humor in your advertising can help with brand recall. I’ve found myself sharing numerous ads I’ve thought were hilarious.

There is a time, a place, and an audience to be considered when using humor in advertising. Here are a few examples that highlight when using humor is appropriate:

1.Use humor when building client relationships

The funny people in your life are easily remembered. When I worked in sales, I never once thought of my clients’ “stellar business acumen,” or their “firm, million-dollar handshake.” I always found myself remembering the hilarious jokes my client Doug would make about his ex-wife, and how he would endlessly make fun of the way my voice cracked during meetings.

Doug was easy to work with, and I felt like I could be more of a human around him, and less of a corporate android. His sense of humor resonated with myself, and most of his clients.  It’s no wonder his business was so successful.

2.Be cognizant of your audience

Unfortunately, not every instance of humor will work for all people. I’ve always dreamt of doing a stand-up comedy routine in front of people that are exactly like my mother, because she laughs at every joke I’ve ever made.  It’s unrealistic to think that your sense of humor will resonant well with everyone. Take note of your audience’s interests and understand them before you attempt to make them laugh.

A perfect example of inappropriate use of humor is KitchenAid’s tweet about President Barack Obama’s grandmother dying just days before his presidency. The brand highlighted her death as foreshadowing for his term. This joke would work for people with an extraordinarily dark sense of humor, which is a small percentage of the population.

In general, it’s wise for a brand to steer clear of making political stabs (and death jokes) because you will be offending all of that politician’s supporters. Obama won the election, so KitchenAid successfully offended the majority of the voter population. Good job, KitchenAid.

3.Understand your brand’s current position

Understanding your brand’s position is crucial for implementing humor in your advertising. Ask yourself what people currently think about your brand.

How awkward would it have been for Chipotle to poke fun, like they have in the past, at fast food competitor’s food quality, when they recently experienced a 25 percent drop in stocks after their food poisoning epidemic? Their slogan “food with integrity” solidified their brand as a health-conscious alternative to fast food, although after recent events, it may be wise to change their slogan to “puke with integrity.” (Juuust kidding. Kind of.)

Chipotle thankfully understood their position, fully investigated the issue, and redeemed themselves by giving out $40 million worth of free burritos or, for a hungry guy like me, one lonely Friday night’s worth of burritos.

Now it’s time to pull out the 100+ page list of funny ideas, trim the fat, and start implementing them into your advertising! (Just don’t pull a KitchenAid.)

If your marketing strategy could use a little pick-me-up, or if you want to have your clients in stitches, then drop us a line! AGENCY H Inbound can help you develop a comprehensive strategy that will help you attract new customers, retain current customers, sell more products and services, and develop the tools necessary to create a steady flow of new business.