Ever wondered how to be funny in your content through writing humour?
If not, it might be time to learn to stand out from the crowd.
From the moment we open our eyes and check our phone or turn on the TV, we’re bombarded with ads. Print ads in the morning paper, banners on the bus and train. Billboards dotting the landscape, ads that whisper in our ears through apps.
We’re drowning in an almost literal sea of advertisements. Some estimates place the average consumer at being exposed to more than 95 minutes of advertisements per day. With so many brands competing for our attention, how do you differentiate yours from the ocean of others?
The answer: learn how to be funny in your content.
Read further as we delve into the reasons why funny marketing works, along with tips on how you can practice writing humour today.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Why Create Funny Marketing?
From better establishing trust to being viral worthy, there a numerous reasons to include a light-hearted and entertaining tone to your content creation efforts. Here is a quick breakdown.
For starters, funny marketing can shift the perception of your brand. It might be a change from an uptight and rigid public image to a brand that is open, personable and friendly.
With humour, you can make your brand not only more personable but also more relatable. Well executed jokes such as pop-culture references or self-deprecating jokes help establish a special rapport with your audience. They serve to establish a trusting relationship.
Entertains and sets the right mood
Today’s consumers are warier than ever when it comes to advertisements. That’s why funny marketing achieved through writing humour can be so successful. If your content is entertaining, then your readers won’t even notice it’s an advertisement.
Another benefit of funny marketing: entertaining content is content worth sharing. There’s a plethora of brands who have executed funny commercials extremely well.
This humorous content inspires viewers to share it far and wide. And this buzz increases the advertisement’s viewership without any additional marketing costs.
Why Does Funny Marketing Work?
The reasons why are multi-faceted. But, they can be explained by a psychological principle called the humour effect.
What is The Humour Effect?
Thanks to the humour effect, content that makes us laugh is content that’s more interesting, memorable and positively energizing. Thus, it’s content that’s more sticky.
How is funny content sticky?
One way is that it distracts us from negative emotions like anger and anxiety. And because of this, our brains give funny content preferential treatment when storing and recalling it in our memory. The humour effect plays a large role in making humorous content stand out for us.
Our brains are wired to privilege the recall of humorous material — which can explain how we remember all of our funny stories.
Additionally, funny marketing is marketing that stands out. Differentiate yourself from your uptight competitors by being fun and incorporating a bit of humour– you’re sure to be better off.
However, it’s not that simple. Here are some precautions to consider before channelling your inner jester.
Precautions to Take Before Attempting to Be Funny
Humour is not a sure-fire way for better advertisements, but it can play a huge role. Any seasoned marketer can tell you that there are many variables involved in successful marketing campaigns.
The same also applies for creating truly funny marketing. Here are a number of things to pay special attention to before attempting to be funny with your content.
1. Content objective
As we explored above, humour can be an effective tool to give your content that enticing kick, but never at the expense of your brand or product.
At the end of the day, you’re creating content for your brand, not yourself or your friends. Take care to ensure your humour supports your content’s objectives. Jokes, stories, and anecdotes should emanate from your brand’s own personality and voice, not yours.
Review your brand’s brand book to verify that your humour is in line with your brand’s tone, voice, and vision before making the push for edgy jokes.
As writers, we recognize the importance of context and subtext.
If you’re composing a piece about medical illnesses, a joke which employs dark humour may not be the best call.
Being cognizant of the situation is just as important as being funny. If your topic is not favourable towards the use of humour, then abstain from including it. Humour should be delivered organically and naturally — it should never feel shoehorned or forced.
3. Offensive and tasteless humour
Advertisements that stop people in their tracks are great, but not when they rely (solely) on shock value.
An offensive or tasteless advertisement can serve to alienate your target market from your brand. Ensure that your advertisement isn’t rude or causes your audience to feel bad about themselves. Avoid any content that leverages traumatic events or controversies.
Although not serving a comedic purpose (depending on who you ask), Kendall Jenner’s 2017 Pepsi advert is a prolific case study for tasteless execution. Hot off the heels of the Black Lives Matter Movement, the ad displayed the celebrity uniting protests and police alike with a can of soda. Criticism of the ad, namely that it did not reflect the real-word experience of police brutality, eventually came to a head. And Pepsi pulled the advertisement and even publicly apologized for the misstep.
4. Doesn’t align with brand/target audience
As with any marketing, knowing your audience is key. If humour doesn’t reflect your brand’s personality — abstain, or opt for more subtle expressions. The same goes for your audience, especially if your readership is broad and less segmented.
Instead of going for niche humour, try being more general. Ensure that everyone can understand and appreciate your joke, not just those in the “in-group.”
With social media’s help, memes are becoming more and more commonplace — a fact that many companies have not left alone.
Memes are great pop culture references. But when poorly executed they can serve to alienate not only your target audience but everyone else as well. Companies that try too hard to relate to younger generations come to mind.
5. It’s all about comedic timing
Operating hand-in-hand with positive and tasteful humour, comedic timing is another important, almost essential element of funny marketing. The delivery of a joke or pun should be clean and smooth. Your content shouldn’t be glaringly annoying or drawn out — comedy is all about the timing.
Knowing when to tell a joke and how many to tell for a specific audience is an important skill to learn.
Do you open up with some humour to set the tone or do you save it for the conclusion to end on a positive note? What about sprinkling some throughout your content for maximum coverage?
Whatever the case may be, practice the delivery of your jokes to make sure they’re well received!
Funny Marketing Examples
Looking for inspiration? Here are 6 video examples worth taking notes from.
1. Dollar Shave Club
At almost 26.5 million views, Dollar Shave Club’s, “Our Blades are F***ing Great” campaign, is a perfect example of how to do funny marketing right.
Their advertisement is both tastefully funny and is emblematic of their brand – showcasing their product as well as their brand’s personality.
2. Frank’s Red Hot
“Frank’s Red Hot” hot sauce created an advert that mastered the art of comedic timing while still positively marketing their product.
Utilizing a geriatric to deliver their catchphrase of “I put that s*** on everything” at the advert’s conclusion delivers on shock value without being overly offensive.
Taking into account their brand’s personality – this advert executed on their comedic timing flawlessly.
3. Old Spice
The bizarre Old Spice’s campaign is still widely regarded as one of the best and funniest adverts that exist today.
Released in 2010 and boasting a whopping 56.5 million views as of 2019, Old Spice combined humour with oddity. This combination delivered a timelessly funny and entertaining advertisement that people still talk about today.
4. Squatty Potty
Defecation is a taboo subject even in everyday life — how do you go about advertising a product that aids in it? Squatty Potty achieves just that by using humour in a tasteful way.
The use of a bizarre unicorn and an eccentric Bohemian prince makes the subject more socially palatable and allows them to showcase their product while educating the customer about its benefits.
Perhaps the most bizarre and outlandish ad, Quizno’s “We love the Subs” 2007 campaign leverages weird animated characters and offbeat music for more impact and the “sticking” factor.
Their advertisement almost plays out like a fever dream but is also undeniably memorable. Despite being ridiculous, the ad still places the product at the forefront of the 30 seconds short.
Following the same thought process as Squatty Potty, PooPourri endeavours to make the topic of excrement exciting and interesting.
The comedic delivery of their product pitch, coupled with their figurative, excessively descriptive language and their authoritative and at times sarcastic tone of voice paves the way for a humorous yet captivating advertisement. Authentic and amusing, PooPourri’s advertisement is a perfect marriage of humor and content.
How To Be Funny With Your Content
Now that we’ve looked at well and poorly executed case studies, it’s time to delve into our list of 10 tips on how to be funny with content.
10 Ways You Can Create Funny Marketing
- Tell anecdotes and stories
- Use puns
- Keep it relevant and timeless
- Use images
- Memes and pop culture
- Tone and comedic delivery
- Word choice
- Avoid sarcasm
- Ridiculous re-imaginings
- Remember the 4 P’s
1. Tell anecdotes and stories
Stories will always be more memorable than straight facts, doubly so if it’s a funny and entertaining one.
Instead of writing about straight facts and numbers, try to tell a story with your information.
A funny or self-deprecating anecdote is inoffensive and easy to include and a great way to instill some humour into your piece.
Take this example:
Want to sell a toothbrush? Here’s how you can with a funny story:
“A lot of things in life don’t last forever. Youth and hair being the most prominent ones.
I lost my youth to a string of bad chicken fight bets which forced me to spend many youthful summers cleaning the chicken pens. As for my hair, I lost that through a stressful and messy divorce.
Youth, hair and love, how elusive they are!
One thing that has stood the test of time for me, however, is my toothbrush.
And let me tell you why…”
2. Use puns
Puns can be hit or miss but remain generally safe and inoffensive to use, eliciting laughter at its best and an audible groan at its worst.
Tie in puns with your brand or product names to make them “punny” and memorable.
3. Keep it relevant and timeless
Creating an engaging and informative piece of content can take a lot of work. If you’re going to be investing the time to write a quality, humorous piece, then you should also endeavour to keep it timeless and relevant.
You don’t want your readers to come upon an old content piece only to be turned away by jokes that have aged. What you once thought was funny might have become offensive and or irrelevant over time.
Think of jokes and humour that are timeless (like puns) that don’t rely on current events, trends, or fads.
4. Use images
The age-old adage of a picture being equal to a thousand words is not always true. Instead, a funny picture is often easier to digest and laugh at than a thousand words!
Pick images that are relevant to your content and use them strategically – you don’t want your readers being put off by excessive imagery.
A funny caption or quote can go a long way as well! Tie the 2 together for perfect, comedic harmony.
5. Memes and pop culture
— Dunkin’ (@dunkindonuts) February 27, 2015
It might come off as contradictory to suggest the use of popular culture in humour. Especially when one of the tips suggest keeping your content relevant and timeless. But leveraging popular culture in your humour is great for attracting a wider readership.
To be safe, exercise caution and proper knowledge of current trends and popular culture. There are many contemporary examples of clueless corporate executives struggling to relate to the younger generation.
Their attempts fail as they try to inorganically incorporate memes and youth culture into their campaigns. Such failure can only serve to alienate your entire readership.
Stick with uncontroversial topics. And be sure to incorporate your brand or product with popular culture and trends in a meaningful and impactful way. Make it memorable and humorous – to the point where your content adds to the experience.
Check out the Dunkin’ Donuts tweet above for a seamless blend of a timely issue, humour and product branding rolled into one!
6. Tone and comedic delivery
Depending on the angle you’re going for, the tone of your article will be impactful in the delivery of your humour.
Try simulating a friendly and lighthearted tone to deliver jokes and puns throughout your piece.
Or you can write in a professional and formal tone only to subvert your reader’s expectations at the end of your piece through a joke.
7. Word choice
Some words are just inherently funny. “Shenanigans”, “quagmires” and “kerfuffle” are just a few examples. Replace a few of your words with these humorous ones or better yet — make up your own.
They don’t have to be real or even sound real — as long as the meaning of the word that your made-up word is replacing is not lost in translation, you’ll be fine.
8. Avoid sarcasm
While hilarious in other mediums such as television and radio, sarcasm is just one of those things that translate horribly into text.
A general rule of thumb is to avoid any sarcasm at all — no matter how obvious you think it may be. It’s sad but true.
Sarcasm as a comedic device is heavily dependent on the tone of voice and the context of the situation — 2 things that are prominently absent in copywriting.
9. Ridiculous re-imaginings
Extreme examples and comparisons are often hilarious for their absurdity and bizarreness. Instead of relaying information in a boring, standardized way, tell a ridiculous story.
How to tell a ridiculous story:
Normal version: All ink and toner cartridges will be 25 percent off for the next week
Funny version: Since somebody forgot to turn off the machines on Friday (we’re looking at you, Brent), all ink and toner cartridges will be 25 percent off for the next week. In the meantime, we will work on rectifying this problem (and Brent).
10. Remember the 4 P’s
While the goal is to be humorous, take care that the 4 P’s of marketing, product, price, promotion, and place are still being respected.
Be cautious of trading product placement for a witty punchline. You want to keep the focus on your product and brand and center the humour around them because at the end of the day, your brand and product are just as important as your audience.
In other words, keep the funny marketing relevant to your brand!
Key Takeaways: Confident You Know How to Be Funny?
You’re not a comedian or a stand-up artist, you’re a writer and marketer. Writing humour for funny marketing doesn’t have to leave your readership with their abs cramped — it just has to be entertaining while remaining sincere and relatable.
Here are some final tips.
- Funny marketing works: With the success of “Old Spice,” “Frank’s Red Hot,” and the “Dollar Shave Club”, humour’s role in captivating consumers cannot be understated. Each ad is tastefully funny, emblematic of their brand and through the roof in meeting all types of marketing KPIs (15 million views, etc).
- Humour helps you remember: Distracting us from negative emotions, funny content is given preferential treatment for both memory and recall, thus, when it comes to content marketing, using humour is no joke. We remember funny things more and the science backs it up.
- Be tactful with humour: You’re writing content, not stand up material for the late hours of a dive bar. Ensure that your punchlines are tasteful and receptive towards your target audience. Be cognizant of your writing environment and situation and always place your content objective as your priority — not the humour.
- It’s about your product, not you: Remove your ego. You may be the funniest person in the room, but remember when writing, it’s all about your brand, your products and your audience. Not you.
We hope our guide on how to be funny through writing humour was helpful. Remember, the right writing approach can build brand value, brand awareness and aid in generating new leads. Be sure to cultivate and strengthen that funny muscle!