5 ways to use humor in your marketing

Published by Jana Rumberger on

Comedy sells, but many businesses still shy away from humor in marketing. 

This is sometimes because of concerns that humor is off-brand. Funny copy can dumb down a brand or make a prospective buyer question the value of a product. Also, we’ve all heard stories about when humor goes wrong– advertising horror stories that take months to recover from. 

What is harder to admit is another reason marketers stay away from humor- it’s hard to be funny. 

Data shows that humor in marketing can improve organic reach and brand awareness for any small business. Humor can have dramatic positive effects on brand recognition and sales. Funny writing helps grab an audience. It makes them more receptive and gives your customers the feeling that they are a part of a community. 

But most of us don’t think that we’re funny, and even then we don’t know how to be funny on command. These tips will help you take your marketing to the next level with humor.

A child laughing is a great way to show humor in marketing - thinking about your audience will go a long way

1. Simple is best

Simplicity has value in all areas of business and humor in marketing and is no exception. The trick is getting started. 

Most elements of business start pretty simply, but they clutter and grow more complex as time goes on. 

Writing a joke can feel that way too. It’s not easy to find subject matter and humor that is appropriate to your customers with enough edge to hit a funny bone. It doesn’t take long to create a big mess.

To incorporate humor into your marketing, start with something simple and direct. 

When you’re giving an interview or creating a YouTube video, say no when you mean yes or yes when you mean no. This creates a little jolt in your listener, which leads them to pay closer attention. You can laugh and share your true feelings on the subject later in the conversation. 

For simplicity when you’re writing copy, try writing your joke with a Twitter limit. If it doesn’t fit in 240 characters, it’s time to edit. 

2. Be yourself

It’s important to do some research as you learn to be funny. Watch comedies, read blogs, and follow comedians on social media. 

As you gather this material, it can be tempting to copy a line or a formula. That can work on occasion, but it often falls flat because it’s not genuine.

Authenticity is funny. Being real is funny. Humor works for your business when it builds trust. So, find your natural funny. 

When you say something in a meeting or a casual conversation that makes someone laugh, write it down. Think about what got the laugh. Was it your timing? The context? Something about your audience? Start practicing these jokes. See if they work in another place and time until you figure out what works best for you.

3. Listen 

Some of the funniest comedians in history (Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, Sarah Beattie…) got where they are with their observational skills. 

Watch people and listen to the world around you. Listen to your customers. 

No matter where you are, you’re in a rich space for comedic material. It’s not that just jokes that we share in our professional interactions, it’s the tiny quirks of who we are. Pay attention and build your humor from these observations.

Ask yourself: 

  • What are the unique qualities of people in your niche
  • What social listening tools can help you find what’s funny to your customers? 
  • What scenarios or exchanges in your world are funny enough to share? 
  • What stories can make your customers laugh while also helping them better understand your products? 
  • What is funny about the problems that your products solve?

4. Expect the unexpected

One of the easiest ways to inspire laughter is to challenge expectations. That moment of surprise causes a reaction and makes whatever you say stick in your customer’s memory.

To incorporate the unexpected into your copy, play with this easy three-part structure. Establish a pattern with the first two sections, then close with something unexpected. Same, same, different. 

For example, I like shoes. I like earrings. I like Godzilla.

Another way to pull the unexpected into your writing is to exaggerate. Say something true, then exaggerate it. Take a look at this joke from Johnny Carson:

Johnny Carson: You know, I was visiting a small town last week.

The audience calls out: How small was it?

Carson: It was so small you had to make a reservation to use the parking meter.

Knowing your audience is important with this strategy. Be sensitive to where your audience is coming from, and their boundaries, but also have fun with it!

5. Practice adding humor to your marketing

The tips above will get you started, but humor is like anything else in marketing. It takes practice. 

Start with one joke and one funny personal story. Rehearse or rewrite them until you feel confident. Once you get comfortable, expand to new jokes and other forms of humor. 

Weave your best bits into your stories over time. Audiences love repetition in small doses. 

You may also want to play with improv in your social media interactions. If someone wants to banter, remember the classic, “Yes, and…” Whatever a commenter says, affirm and build on it. Your acceptance of their quip will help the dialogue grow and make that interaction more fun for everyone involved.

You don’t have to add puns to your marketing to add a bit of humor. With some practice, you can make your product and services more memorable with your own unique brand of humor.


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