Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Everyone loves a good laugh and some of the most memorable brands are revered for their successful use of humour in positioning themselves and their products and services.
Humour as an emotional appeal is a double-edged sword. The right jokes can easily elevate your brand perception while the wrong ones can destroy it. Either way, showing your audience a lighter side of your brand has its advantages when properly executed. It’s essentially a marketing strategy for humanising your brand.
How can you effectively incorporate humour in your marketing strategy?
Here are some tips on how you can leverage humour in your marketing content:
1. Keep your humour on brand
Just because a meme or GIF cracks you up, doesn’t mean it suitable for your brand. The humour you use must tie back to your brand messaging or products and services or unique selling proposition (USP). It’s not just about being funny for the sake of being funny, rather it’s a tactic in which you use humour as an emotional appeal to induce a certain reaction from your audience. If the audience fails to tie back the joke to your product and service, then what’s the point? Adding a ‘fun’ tone to your brand may be difficult but there are still ways you can use a subliminal emotional appeal that’s relevant to your brand.
Lato Milk used a series of advertisements in which they’d feature a family in different goofy scenarios and where their product served as the solution to their problem. For example, in this second instalment, the family was brought together by sharing tea with milk.
2. Keep it simple
No one really enjoys a joke they can’t understand or take long to understand. Simplicity is key when delivering humour to your audiences. A concise joke that delivers the punchline will have a better chance at triggering your audience’s feelings. Additionally, ideas that are simple to implement will be easier to replicate for future campaigns or marketing messages.
Sprite’s interactive billboard is a good example of simple humour. The company set up a billboard that could converse with itself in the middle of a busy intersection in Nairobi. It’s silly sense of humour achieved talkability, keeping Sprite in the audience’s mind while entertaining those stuck in traffic or interested individuals.
3. Know your audience
You have to fully understand the target audience for your humour messages. Humour is multifaceted and different types may appeal to various demographics. For example, if you’re targeting women, think further about what group of women your humour will get to buy your product or service. Is it mothers, housewives, 9 to 5 working women, students or even retired women. Be specific and intentional about picking your target audience. To get yourself started, download your Buyer Persona Template and create your ideal customer profile:
By understanding the pain-points of its competitor’s consumers, Airtel was able to successfully use humour in the Switch To Airtel Campaign. The idea of the campaign was so to showcase Airtel as being the more trustworthy company since you get exactly what you pay for. Although comparative messages such as these can easily go wrong, Airtel hit the mark in using humour to target a specific audience segment.
4. Beware of context
Context can either be a big asset or setback for your humour appeal. If used correctly, context enhances your joke and makes it more relevant to the receiver. On the other hand, if you fail to consider the context of your joke, you may end up sounding very tone-deaf or worse, offend the receivers of the joke.
Airtel once again used humour effectively for their Tubonge campaign. In this advertisement, the company used a Kenyan family trope to sell their favourable call rates. If the same humour was applied in a different cultural setting, it would’ve lost its essence. Airtel was able to use context to sell to not only relate to its audience, but also sell its service.
Humour in marketing is about taking risks
It’s important to note that using humour doesn’t always result in positive reactions. There is a certain degree of risk you must consider when deciding whether you should incorporate humour in your marketing strategy. Here are some of the pros and cons you should keep in mind:
Brand differentiation & memorability - Humour can be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors. It can similarly help you stick in your audience’s mind if the joke is executed well.
Virality - If your aim is visibility, using humour as an emotional appeal might be a good strategy. Great jokes can easily go viral such as the mentioned KFC campaign.
Easily grab attention - Humour can be useful in catching the attention of your audience. In a sea of countless marketing messages, audiences are likely to pay more attention to content that elicits joy.
Enhance your message - As stated humour should be tied to your brand messaging and products or services. Consequently, it can be used to get your point across especially if the matter is difficult to understand.
Considered offensive or inappropriate - Your joke(s) can easily fall flat or possibly end up offending your audience. This happens when you fail to understand your target audience or the context you set your joke in. For example, we’re currently in a global pandemic that’s claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Jokes regarding people’s health may come off as tone-deaf regardless of how funny they are.
Can be seen as an attention seeker or immature - This will be the result if you engage your audiences with humour just for the sake of it. If there’s no goal to it and if it doesn’t speak to who you are as a brand, don’t use it.
As you plan on using humour in your content strategy, think through its purpose and how it will help you achieve your marketing objectives. This tactic might be risky, but it might yield a bigger reward for your brand. Be intentional and ensure you have metrics set up to measure the success of your joke(s).