Brand Humor is Serious

Hummingbird CreativeBranding & Creative

What’s the worst thing about throwing a party in space?

You have to planet.

Humor is a character trait observed in all cultures and at all ages. Humor is now viewed as a character strength and is used to make others feel good, gain intimacy or help in stressful situations. Humor can help us forge connections in the world and provide a meaning to life.

From Dollar Shave Club to MailChimp, many brands are starting to create marketing messages revolving around the idea of humor. According to the Journal of Marketing, humor is a one-of-a-kind marketing message that tends to stand out.

Being silly or clever or weird in your brand messages can help you achieve a feeling of closeness with your customers and connect them to your brand. That being said, it’s not easy being funny.

Humor can be a double-edged sword– either it goes well and your brand is lauded, or it falls flat.

DiGiorno made headlines in 2014 with their attempt to be funny and relevant with their use of the #WhyIStayed hashtag on Twitter. Started as a way for abuse survivors to share their stories, DiGiorno jumped into the hashtag conversation without properly researching the context and posted the callous tweet. The brand had to backtrack and offer users offended by the post with personalized messages of regret.

Or, avoid following in the footsteps of Huggies in their 2012 ad poking a little too much fun at incompetent fathers.

First rule of using humor: don’t make your audience angry. It’s important to understand your audience and how they’re likely to take your humor. Humor should not be used to offend, but being non-offensive isn’t the enough.

consider the purpose of brand humor

Should your brand use humor? Some brands can get away with jokes while others can’t. The jokes that Taco Bell comes up with probably wouldn’t be able to work with a brand based in the financial planning industry. Any content that uses humor still should represent your brand and resonate with your audience.

Question your purpose of using humor. Do you just want to entertain your audience, or do you actually want to start building a deeper connection between your brand and your customers? There are other ways to entertain your audience than just jokes or memes; humor needs to have a grander purpose than just to entertain. Buyer personas can be extremely helpful when you’re questioning the purpose of humor. Knowing the demographics of your customer base is a great place to start to understand what kind of humor is going to go over well with them.

types of brand humor

Not all humor has to be slapstick comedy or memes of Grumpy Cat.

Brands within certain industries, like financial planning, medical insurance and security consulting, will have have a harder time using humor in a tasteful and on-brand manner. That doesn’t mean you can’t take a page out of Shakespeare’s book and play with the original form of non-offensive humor– clever language.

Humor doesn’t have to make your audience laugh out loud… it can be sharp and witty to really convey your brand’s message.

Zendesk, a customer service platform, focuses on keeping things simple and creating a supportive and easy-to-use platform. In 2016, they tweeted this:

It’s not “laugh until you cry” humorous but it does make you smile at how clever it is. But the best part is that the humor doesn’t overpower the message– Zendesk can support you.

Other brands can use more up-to-date references from pop culture. When leveraged right, pop culture references can seem like an easy-to-understand inside joke. The tricky part is for your brand to have a solid understanding of your brand’s demographics and picking references with immediate recognition.

Even though he defined a generation, David Bowie references might go over the heads of people born post-1980. By the same token, memes referencing Parks and Rec or The Office might not land with Baby Boomers or the MTV Generation.

GrubHub, a food delivery service aimed at pleasing the smartphone generation, understands the right way to play with pop culture.

Orange is the New Black is a wildly popular Netflix series. Most people, even if they haven’t seen the show, understand the reference.

Incongruity is another popular method of brand humor. With incongruity, you’re creating a mismatch between reality and expectations. Ikea released a video titled “Let’s Relax” that perfectly represents incongruity.

When you’re watching it, there’s no reference to Ikea and it has audiences questioning how a baroque lifestyle relates to Ikea. Finally, at the end, Ikea makes a soft entrance in the form of a comfortable and modern kitchen.

finding what works

Martin Eisend, a researcher who performed a meta-analysis of humor in advertising, found that humor in advertising and marketing is an “important part of everyday life” and that marketers have been studying the effects of being funny in marketing since at least 1984. That means that if you don’t know where to start for your brand, you can research what’s been done before, what worked, what didn’t work and why.

Humor should ultimately serve your bottom line. But, if you’re publishing a tweet while crossing your fingers and ultimately hoping for the best, you’re not likely to create a long-lasting connection between your brand and your audience.

rules for brand humor

Do your research, don’t be DiGiorno. Just like stand-up comedy, timing and context is everything.

Unify your brand voice. Every channel– customer service, online, direct mail and more– needs to be unified. Don’t be super funny online but a robot in direct mail pieces and customer service. It’s weird, and your customers won’t appreciate the inconsistencies in your branding. Confusion is bad for conversion.

Be original. While another brand might have had success with a joke or image, don’t use someone else’s work.

Keep it simple. If you tend towards complex and vague humor, there’s a higher chance it’s more likely to miss the mark. If the joke needs to be explained, it loses its effectiveness. Keep it simple, and your message has a better chance to resonate.

Humor is seriously no joke when it comes to your brand. It’s a potent way to build relationships and gain intimacy with your consumers. To capitalize on all the benefits of using humor in your brand, do your research, come up with a game plan, and execute it with conviction.

people love to laugh

And we love to elevate your brand. Humor might be risky but if you’re always playing it safe, you might be taking an even bigger risk– irrelevance. Our creative branding professionals can help you create a plan to showcase the humor in your brand. Schedule a call today to see what Hummingbird Creative Group can do for your brand. Contact us today!