The Case for Funny
What was the last piece of marketing you really loved? Chances are, it’s probably not something you saw during a commercial break or driving down the road on a billboard. We’ve gotten so effective at tuning out traditional marketing methods that content that goes viral – like Old Spice’s famous commercials – gains a lot more views on YouTube than in between commercial breaks on ABC’s Nashville.
Unfortunately, being funny enough to go viral is tougher than you think. Not convinced? In theater festivals, comedies are typically outnumbered by dramas, in numbers as high as 1 to 20. Why? It’s because being funny enough to make hundreds of people laugh – without offending anyone – is actually really tough.
Chances are, it’s easy to make your best friend or wife laugh, because you know them well. You understand a fair amount about their personal history, tastes in movies and politics. You understand their politics well enough to avoid stepping on any toes. Using humor in your content marketing is really about becoming BFFs with your buyer personas and optimizing the content for maximum laughs. Here are some reasons why it’s essential to use humor, even if it’s not the easiest way to get started:
- Humor Builds Connections Even though people use Google to research products and services, they’re not going to buy from a company they don’t trust. Humor is essentially a shared experience. Even if you personally hate the meme you posted on your Facebook page, your prospects don’t need to know that. They’ll come to associate your brand with the positive feelings of laughing and the trust associated with that shared experience.
- Humor is Memorable Marketing is really about creating “aha!” moments in your prospects’ minds. If you can be memorable, they’ll be more likely to open your lead nurturing campaigns and head back to your website when they’re ready to make the buy. Chances are, you can remember your favorite joke from Freshman year of college better than a news article you read a month ago. Humor sticks with people.
It’s not easy to be funny, and we’ve compiled 6 nearly fool-proof ways to make people laugh and love you without hurting anyone’s feelings:
1. Optimize for Buyer Personas
Are your clients creative 20-somethings or straight-laced, middle-aged men? It’s no secret that what’s going to work for one group just won’t fly with another. Use social media stalking to see what’s driving laughs among your fans in social media, based on their content and retweets. Are their jokes typically fueled by references to popular films? Are they current events junkies? The best way to really make them laugh is to see what’s already driving their social media content.
2 Be Creative
Few good marketers would dare use a Big Bird meme in the light of recent current events. Not only does it run the risk of offending a huge segment of the population, most people would agree that it’s just plain tired at this point. Try for relevance but maintain an element of surprise and originality. You’ll come across as much more clever that way.
3. Be Pithy
Unless your buyer personas are humor writers or essayists, keep your humor short. Your clients don’t want to have to work to crack a smile. If you can combine a visual element with less text than a Tweet, you’ve likely struck gold. Captioned photos, tongue-in-cheek infographics and memes are likely to do extremely well on Facebook and your company blog. Consider humorous quotations as a means for adding variety to your Tweets.
4. Pick Targets Carefully
You can poke fun at yourself. You can poke fun at the weather, though it’s not likely to be very funny. You can technically poke fun at your competition, but it’s hard to stay classy while doing that. It’s always best to entirely avoid any demographic groups, even if your buyer personas don’t overlap. You might get some laughs out of your millennial followers by poking fun at senior citizens or vice versa, but the risk of damaging your brand far outweighs the benefits.
5. Approach Sarcasm with Caution
Sarcasm is one of the most likely forms of humor to backfire entirely. The marketing community is still discussing a PR disaster involving FedEx and PR Firm Ketchum back in 2009. A PR employee flying into town for a huge corporate meeting tweeted “True Confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say – I would die if I had to live here.” The Tweet was read by Fed-Ex executives, who issued a strongly-worded response by email which went public. The lessons are clear: while strong statements might be fine for your private conversations, not everyone will see the humor. As Seth Godin responded, “you are judged almost entirely by your actions, usually based on your fingers…online interactions are largely expected to be intentional.”
The lesson is clear: be funny, but be careful about how you approach it. Humorous marketing is about meeting your prospects on common ground. If they’re still laughing about the movie The Hangover, go for it. Just make sure your words are clear and no one else is harmed in the process!