Laughter makes the world go around, it's the best medicine, and it forms the basis of everyone's favourite digital age acronym. But should you use humour in your marketing? Will attempts to be funny be laughed off by your customers? Can comedy deviate from the message your brand is trying to put across?
Should I Use Humour in My Marketing?
As with jokes IRL (our second favourite digital age acronym), there is a time and a place. You wouldn't regale guests of the one about the three blondes at your old Aunt Sharon's funeral, and you wouldn't appreciate the doctor making a doctor, doctor joke after dishing out a painful diagnosis. But, especially as social media provides the backdrop for brand conversations, not using humour when everyone around you is, could leave you and your unfunny brand alone with no customers.
How to Use Reactive Humour - Sainsbury's
Sainsbury's gave us a comedic reaction driven solely through one of their competitors more misguided tweets on social media last week. Waitrose offered a list of the items every student should keep in their larder (you see where this is going already). The items were the antithesis of student life. Most students don't own a tea towel, but are expected to keep harissa paste in their cupboard? OK then. Saino's replied with a simple pictorial representation of what students actually keep in: Basics pasta and Basics cheese. The ad itself isn't particularly funny. It's probably true and they have sales figures to back it up, but in the context of their competitor's own fumble, it becomes very clever. Spot on. Funny. Irreverent. Hitting social media metrics targets without even being featured on the content calendar.
Using Humour When It Doesn't Fit With Your Brand - Sixt
I won't bore you with the theory of comedy, but one of the theories suggests that laughter is a mechanism to something shocking. Jokes often zig one way only to zag back the other, which is what makes us laugh. The unexpected can be funny. One example is from Sixt, the car rental company. Not exactly known for being rip-roaring when you sign a policy to borrow a Fiat Punto for a week in Great Yarmouth, Sixt used the corporate image with a comical message to great effect. Their ad compared car rental companies to condoms, implying their condom equivalent would prevent gruesome diseases, or worse, a baby. A corporate brand identity merged with a comical marketing message can be effective in brand awareness and retention.
When Not to Use Humour - The Scottish Gin Society
Not all humour hits the mark though. Contentious topics should avoid tongue-in-cheek 'banter'. The Scottish Gin Society recently had several ads pulled on social media because they endorsed excessive drinking and made misleading claims about health. The posts were more of the kind you'd expect Uncle Dave to post to justify his second night out on a bank holiday, not what a recognised brand should be creating. It further shows the level of content made by brands should be of a high quality and maybe shouldn't incite customers to forego medical advice in the name of drinking.
Comedy helps brands shake their corporate image and give a nudge and a wink to their customers. In such saturated markets, using comedy can help you stand out. While there are some messages that should be delivered straight, using humour can have unexpected results for your company.
To inject some light-heartedness into your corporate copy or to shake up your stale social media strategy, get in touch with a Leeds freelance copywriter today (me).
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