The classic film Singin’ In The Rain is a lighthearted musical comedy depicting a production company’s tumultuous transition from silent film to “talkies.” Gene Kelly and the gang sing and dance their way through some of the challenges film studios faced as they sought to keep up with the evolving film landscape in 1920s Hollywood. Though the technology involved differs, the transition from silent films to talking pictures is not unlike the current shift from traditional forms of advertising (think commercials, banner ads, and billboards) to content marketing (social media and content-based marketing). In this evolving advertising landscape brands are frantically re-working their marketing strategies to grab the attention of Millennials and digital natives who have built-in Adblock and an aversion to any content that is not sincere or authentic.

In this reinvented marketing space “communication becomes a two-way dialogue that focuses on earning, not buying, a person’s attention.” Gen Y and Z are inherently suspicious of pushy advertisers and reject ads that interrupt in favor of marketers that provide valuable information or a unique perspective. For these consumers it’s all about trust and authenticity, and the best way to develop these qualities is to build a relationship with your audience over time.

But how can brands develop a personality, build relationships, and be heard amongst all the noise? As Gene Kelly’s character laments the production studio’s imminent failure in the wake of talking pictures, his loyal companion Cosmo Brown reminds him that the best way to win over audiences is to make ‘em laugh. This philosophy couldn’t be more applicable today. In an age where brands have to be relatable and build relationships with their consumers over time, a little humour goes a long way with a generation that craves authenticity and personality from their brands.

3 Reasons To Make Yourself The Butt Of The Joke

Today one of the best and most memorable ways to facilitate connection with your audience is through a good laugh. A number of marketing and advertising experts emphasize the importance of humour in marketing because it’s fundamental to forming positive relationships.

1. Move away from the image of a rigid, corporate brand.

For David Alston content marketing creates an opportunity for brands to show us their soul. Brands use self-deprecating humour to show emotion without feeling artificial or contrived. According to Forbes, humour helps corporate brands distance themselves from the image of a “rigid and stereotyped” brand. Humour is a great way to show your audience that you’re humble, flexible, and fun, while helping your viewers feel relaxed and connected.

2. Poke fun at yourself to become more relatable.

Researchers at Seattle University conducted a study which found that “project managers who used self-deprecating humour tested highest for transformational leadership, defined by motivational qualities such as likeability, trust, individualized consideration, and intellectual stimulation.” Eric Markowitz of explains that when used correctly “self-deprecating humour enhances the perceptions of leadership ability because it tends to minimize status distinctions between leaders and folllowers.” Essentially, poking fun at yourself makes you more relatable.

3. Create a “unique transparency” with your audience.

Humour is a great way for brands to demonstrate self-awareness. Moz’s Rand Fishkin believes that self-deprecating humour is great way to show that you are aware of your weaknesses and that you don’t think too highly of yourself. Don’t give your audience a list of reasons why you’re better than all the other brands out there; boasting doesn’t craft meaningful relationships with the audience. Instead, poke fun at your weaknesses or find a clever way to play with the stereotypes associated with your brand. This strategy gives you a “unique transparency” that customers will naturally gravitate towards. Your audience is much more likely to get onboard and share your content if you can draw out a laugh.

So which brands are the best at turning the joke on themselves and creating humorous content? We’ve compiled some hilarious examples below:

1. IKEA’s Mänland, Apple Parodies, & Literary Critiques

IKEA is no stranger to using humour to win over their audience (they might even be considered masters in the field). They have a history of hilarious commercials such as the infamous and award-winning Lamp commercial. More recently the brand released several longer videos that parody different genres and brands while keeping IKEA furniture at the heart of their content.

In 2014 IKEA released a video playing on Apple’s product commercials. The video highlights the “bookbook” (or simply, the IKEA catalogue) as if it were a groundbreaking piece of new technology.

[quote]“The 2015 IKEA catalog comes fully charged, and the battery life is eternal,” narrator Jorgen Eghammer explains. “At only 8mm thin, and weighing in at less than 400g, the 2015 IKEA Catalogue comes pre-installed with thousands of home furnishing ideas.” [/quote]

This over-the-top video demonstrates that the brand isn’t taking itself too seriously, while also distancing themselves from the perception that they are a rigid and impersonal corporation.

The furniture chain also recently released a video featuring Hellmuth Karasek, Germany’s most famous living literary critic. Karasek critiques the IKEA catalogue as if it were a literary work.

[quote]“The characters are forced to crowd themselves between the furniture, they seldom get their say, they barely speak coherently — and yet this work has become such a success.”[/quote]

Once again, the overly academic nature of this parody actually brings the brand down to earth, demonstrating that IKEA can laugh at themselves while also being creative. IKEA isn’t trying to push the catalogue or furniture on the customer, and instead uses the video as an opportunity to laugh at both the catalogue and themselves.

In 2011 the brand also played on male stereotypes by building Mänland, a ‘daycare’ where men could hang out while their partners shop. Mänland was installed at various IKEA locations around the world and documented by films crews. The videos was watched, liked, and shared over half a million times online, fan growth grew by 11% in the week after posting, and 84% of male guests said they were more likely to come back to IKEA. By laughing at themselves IKEA becomes more relatable and also gives their audience engaging content to share.

2. Dissolve’s Stock Footage

In 2014 the stock footage company Dissolve released a video that both showcased their content while simultaneously poking fun at stock footage stereotypes. The “This Is A Generic Brand Video” features the company’s high-quality stock footage while the narrator points out various stereotypes and tropes such as, “See how this guy in a lab coat holds up a beaker? That means we do research” and “What about an ethnic old man whose wrinkled smile represents the happiness and wisdom of the poor.” By beating the viewer to the punchline the brand facilitates a “unique transparency” and facilitates a sense of trust. The humorous video has been viewed over 1 million times on YouTube and was successful in drawing attention to a company that would otherwise go unnoticed by the general public.

3. iStrategyLabs’ Beard Swipe App

In celebration of April Fools Day, iStrategyLabs created the Beard Swipe App. The app played on beard technology and fashion trends with a mobile application that “allows men to easily access their devices by simply rubbing their phones against their facial hair.” When users clicked on the download button, they wire send to ISL’s website and informed that they had been fooled. The humorous app was not only a great way to get a laugh out of their audience, but, like Dissolve, also showcased the company’s talent.

BeardSwipe from ISL on Vimeo.

4. Groupon’s Unicorn Rides

Groupon is a marketplace that connects subscribers with discounts on activities, travel, goods, and services. The company recently gave their subscribers a good laugh when they released an offer for a unique opportunity – a 1-Day Unicorn Ride. The ad explained that “despite common reduction to myths and theatrical ponies, USA imported unicorns welcome mortal riders through scenic greenery and streams of dreams also known as Sungai Ulu Yam.” The fake offer was obviously a hoax, but also a great way for the company to poke fun at themselves and show their viewers that they are fun, flexible, and relatable. The fake coupon was shared across social media, giving the company good exposure and giving the audience a good laugh.

Do you know any great examples of humorous content marketing?