3 tips to get laughs—not a social gaff—with your advertising

by: Amy Blasco

Think of the last ad you remember liking. Did it make you laugh? Odds are that it did.

Researchers in various fields have found that humor boosts memory retention. This is because smiling and laughing activates the brain’s dopamine reward system, an important part of long-term memory and goal-oriented motivation.

From a marketing perspective, brands that are funny are often seen as more relatable and trustworthy—but only if the joke lands. Just like a comedian floundering on stage, ads that tell inappropriate, poorly timed, or confusing jokes are likely to crash and burn.

For example, the fast food empire Burger King recently got grilled for tweeting “Women belong in the kitchen” on International Women’s Day. The provocative statement—used to promote BK’s new H.E.R. (Helping Equalize Restaurants) Scholarship—was followed by another tweet listing various kinds of kitchens and ending with, “If there’s a professional kitchen, women belong there.” But without context, that first tweet didn’t fly with lots of people.

So what can your organization do to make sure its ads tickle funny bones? Here are three things to remember while planning a campaign:

  1. Know your brand. Does humor naturally complement the work you do or the services and products you provide? All brands, like people, have personalities. People are more inclined to appreciate jokes about food, drinks, and everyday products than they are the service they receive at a bank or hospital. However, a brand doesn’t have to be inherently funny in order to use humor effectively. Take, for example, this ad from Notarize. A remote notary service doesn’t immediately inspire laughs, but the brand’s tongue-in-cheek approach to explaining what they do does.
  2. Know your audience. Humor is a social phenomenon that depends on the collective culture and lifestyle touch points of the audience. Some easy ways to do this include social media listening (visiting social media platforms frequented by your target audience) and testing out ideas with small groups.
  3. Consider timing. It’s imperative that you “read the room” before telling a joke in your advertising. What’s happening in the world right now? How are your target audiences being impacted? Do your research before approving something just because you think it’s funny. If needed, reach out to people with experiences or cultures different than your own to better understand their perspectives.

Here’s an example of how Verdin successfully used humor in a 2020 holiday ad for our client Idler’s Home. It recently won a Bronze Addy from the American Advertising Awards for Coastal California!

When used authentically and wisely, humor can be a key ingredient in your recipe for advertising success. Need help cooking up something funny? Connect with us at www.verdinmarketing.com.

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