Humor in Marketing.

By Posted in - Marketing Tips on November 12th, 2014

I have friends who if given the choice between watching Monty Python on a large screen TV in large comfy chairs or watching Charlie Rose with the volume muted from inside a Japanese packing crate prone to slivers, they would choose the latter.

Humor is a subjective beast. One man’s Three Stooges is another person’s C-Span.

Which may explain why so few companies use humor in business content. It’s too risky they say, as unpredictable as Mexican bottled water.

Yet as Southwest Airlines, Federal Express, and E-Trade prove, humor, when properly used, can be an effective optimization tool, especially for companies or services not traditionally humor-centered. Humor creates word of mouth and helps businesses stand-out from the competition.

The key lies in the writing, which requires understanding the intricacies of humor.

Top 5 Humor Marketing Writing Tips

1) Know your audience. Making Larry from the accounting department laugh is easy. Making a mass audience comprised of different ages and cultural backgrounds laugh is difficult. No longer do you have the benefit of inside references born from association.

If you’re writing for a broad-based demographic, for instance, be aware that a knee-slapping reference to MTV’s 16 and Pregnant may appeal to those who still remember their SAT score, but fail with the 21 and older crowd.

2) Keep in mind that you’re not writing a sit-com or sketch material for Saturday Night Live. There must be a strategic link between the humor and the message. Your main intent is to present the company’s product or services in an interesting manner. Or as Peter Ustinov once said, “Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.”

When it comes to business content humor must be secondary to the message. Humor should be treated like a spice. Its intent is to enhance the message rather than overpower it.

 3) Don’t mistake brash or shocking for being universally funny. It’s fine for comedy clubs or morning radio jocks, but not as a marketing tool. The purpose of adding humor to business content is to transcend not offend. The use of shock humor in marketing is on par with a rock band mistaking loud for good.

4) Temper immediate expectations. At Mooncut we often receive requests to write a company video script that will go viral. Aiming high is to be applauded. But given the panning-for-gold probability of “going viral” this all-or-nothing approach is bound for disappointment.

Phil Mickelson is considered one of the game’s greatest golfers. Yet if golf success was solely based on winning a U.S. Open, Mickelson would be deemed a woeful failure.

Focusing only on “going viral” blinds from the long-term benefits humorous marketing provides: identity, likeability, word-of-mouth.

5)  Rely on your humor instincts. Nothing stifles comedy more than pragmatic rationalization.  As Mark Twain said, “Trying to figure out why something is funny is like dissecting a frog. You’ll come up with the answers, but the frog always dies.”

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