Top 3 Successful Humorous Marketing Strategies [With Examples] And Why They Work
12 min read | Posted Mar 30, 2022
Heart and humor are two highly effective ways to trigger an emotional response in people. In general, we want to feel something and we want to laugh. In turn, that emotional response cultivates a positive association.
For small and mid-size businesses looking to improve their brand image and connect with clients, this is good news. Some of the most successful humorous marketing strategies manage to achieve remarkable results for the companies that utilize them. The key to success is knowing how and when to use humor to market your products or services.
Why Does Humor in Advertising Work Well?
Every business, no matter the size, is engaging with the public through various channels, whether that be print, radio or television ads; mass mailers; email marketing; and more. Humor can be an effective tool to create a positive and enjoyable experience that resonates with your audience. It can also be a way to deal with marketing snafus or potentially negative press.
A study conducted by Ispos found that 61% of all online sharers share things they find interesting; 43% share content that is funny and 29% share things they find to be unique. In general, people want to laugh. It’s something we all have in common, regardless of our identifying demographics. If you can trigger that laughter or a smile, people will think more positively about your brand and be more inclined to acquire your services or products in the future.
Humor can be situational, character-driven or anecdotal. The key is to know your audience and give them an experience that they enjoy and feel compelled to remember and to share. Also, keep your brand services or products front and center, so they become associated with the good feeling people have when interacting with your marketing campaign.
Humorous Marketing Campaign Strategies [With Examples]
Brand voices that aim to make their audience laugh, chuckle, or at least crack a smile typically become successful because they mark their brand as relatable, trustworthy, and create positive associations with audience members.
Think about it– you know someone knows you by the kinds of joking and banter that you can engage in; brands that deeply know their audience can also deploy this fundamental of human relationships.
Brands across industries are able to use humor to their advantage and set themselves apart as a playful brand. Humor isn’t the be all and end all for your marketing success, though, and there is a cost to adopting a humorous brand voice that must be weighed as well.
Similarly, it’s not enough to copy-cat big brands with generic kinds of humor. If you’re taking the approach of adding some funny bone back into your brand persona, you need to be intentional about staying industry specific and targeted with your humor. This is where a little goes a long way. Consider deploying one of the following three approaches to humorous marketing messaging:
- WordPlay Humor
- Inside Jokes & Playful Humor
- Surreal Humor
Here are a few examples of marketing campaigns that used these forms of humor successfully:
1. Word Play Humor
For several years, Spotify has run an end-of-the-year campaign that taps into listeners’ habits throughout the year and features some highlights. The campaign is called Wrapped and is built over time owing to its success.
Generally, its aggregate data, although the ads will also anonymously call out individuals who do random or funny things. The campaign effectively uses humor to foster a sense of community and offer content that is interesting and also relatable—for example, many of us can picture ourselves having listened to a breakup song 42 times on a rough Valentine’s Day.
The campaign is so successful that people look forward to it each year and you can get your own individualized Wrapped card to share on social media.
Of course, you always want to be very cautious when using customer data to advertise, but if you can do so in a way that is safe, playful and anonymous, it can make your brand feel less corporate and more like family.
Highlighters are not a product that you’d necessarily think to chuckle at. They are utilitarian by nature and often used in settings that evoke heightened sense of dread, like school and legal paperwork. Stabilo has worked to flip some of these emotions on their head by leveraging humor that contextually makes sense (blocks of text) while conveying a hidden message that gives readers pause.
Authentic, direct, and a bit self deprecating in nature, the form of brand humor that Stabilo deploys works to make their name stand out.
2. Inside Jokes & Playful Humor
State Farm is another example of a company that dabbles in a highly mundane industry—insurance—but somehow continues to create memorable and humorous advertisements.
After rebranding a few years ago, they introduced a normal, everyday character named Jake and made him into an icon that rivals the celebrity spokespeople they also utilize. They weave him into entertaining narratives that manage to make each advertisement feel fresh and engaging (Think, “What are you wearing, Jake from State Farm?”)
One takeaway for small businesses that work in similar industries or provide services that might seem a bit uninteresting on face is to embrace the ordinary and use it to your advantage. Show people who authentically embody your people, whether that be employees or clients. You can also throw in elements of surprise, like State Farm does in their commercials, as that is apt to trigger a comedic response in your audience.
It’s sort of like being the class clown. You throw out a bold subject line for an email campaign or something a bit startling on social media that leaves people chuckling and wondering, “Is this for real?” As long as you don’t cross the line into untasteful territory and your offering is still visible in the message, this is an effective way to build rapport with prospective and existing customers.
The ProShade Stunt
Marketing stunts are one type of humorous campaign that you can use to your advantage as long as they’re playful, harmless and draw attention. For example, in 2006, ProShade offered $4 million to the National Park Service to put branded visors on the heads at Mount Rushmore. Although their bid was not successful, many journalists loved the idea and wanted to cover the hilarious story.
Thanks to the journalists that covered the story, the stunt may as well have actually been planned. ProShade received a lot of publicity for the offer in spite of its failure.
The press is a worthy asset to tap into if you can find an angle. Humor on a large scale can attract journalists to cover your story, giving you a wide reach. Even on a community level, a unique event or simple, harmless stunt can bring attention to your small business and create a memorable experience for the public.
Bear in mind that you will initially need to invest in coverage of your idea. Before you invest, ensure that press coverage is appropriate for your marketing goals and target audience and that you’ll be cultivating an interesting or important story.
Bodyform: The Truth
In 2012, British female hygiene brand Bodyform made a funny video advertisement in response to one man’s comment on their Facebook page. Richard, who watched their most recent advert on TV, made a tongue-in-cheek comment on the company’s Facebook page accusing the company of lying to him and misconstruing the public’s understanding of the “wonderful time of the month” that women have.
Bodyform’s adverts have for years shown this “time of the month” as a joyous and fun time, where women have bundles of energy. Richard claims that when he got a girlfriend, the truth came out.
The comment received over 100,000 likes, so the company felt that they needed to respond. However, instead of using a sensible and corporate tone, the company found humor in the situation, allowing them to turn it around to their advantage. The result is a video called “The Truth” made by the CEO. The number of hits, comments and subsequent exposure that the company received is testament to the success of this humorous campaign that is centered on authenticity and honesty.
While most small and mid-size companies can’t necessarily create a video advertisement in response to negative or mocking comments on social media platforms, you do have the opportunity to comment back in a way that is playful yet direct (the Wendy’s franchise is a master in cheeky social media comebacks).
Keep in mind that social media marketing is all about conversation. When a member of the public reaches out to make a conversation with a brand, you have the chance to spark a meaningful conversation to bring the brand closer to its community. Make sure to listen to potential opportunities on social media. Every time someone reaches out on one of your business pages or profiles, be sure to respond in an appropriate way.
3. Surreal Humor
Old Spice is a fairly classic example of a brand using humor and quirkiness to spice up their digital and video advertisements.
Part of what makes their approach successful is that they take common, every day scenarios and relatable issues—like shaving and body odor—and address them in outrageous, over-the-top materials that invoke laughter but still make a point. As a result, the Old Spice brand has made itself unique with its outrageous hilarity.
For small businesses that offer services or products that aren’t all that exciting or flashy to begin with, over-exaggeration and calling out their mundanity in a playful way are useful tools for any type of advertisement. The same is true if you are helping customers solve commonplace issues that are generally awkward or uncomfortable. Sometimes, simply being up front can cut through the awkwardness and help customers realize that they’re not alone.
The Dollar Shave Club
Even if you have a minimal marketing budget, you can effectively incorporate humor when creating materials to launch a new company or advertise over time.
The Dollar Shave Club was just getting established when their launch video became one of the most talked about marketing campaigns in the start-up community. The video depicts the CEO of the company walking around what seems to be the company’s warehouse, making more than a joke a minute in a very understated, sarcastic way.
The team was willing to make fun of themselves and their position as a small fish in a very big pond. Because it’s content that people would actually choose to watch, it’s competitive against the big budgets of other major names in their industry.
If you can wow your target market, you are likely to compel them to share that experience with others. Humor, in such a way, has helped The Dollar Shaving Club hit all three features of shareable content, resulting in them receiving near 20 million hits and significant online coverage.
Now, the Dollar Shave club is competing with new entrants to the market like Jeremy’s Razors that also use this style of brand voice in their marketing messages.
Using Humor in Your Digital and Print Advertising
Companies across a variety of industries of different sizes can use the simplicity and honesty of humor to reach out to their target audiences and communicate their key brand messages. The trick is knowing where to get started and how to create memorable marketing messages for your target audience.
One benefit of working with a local advertising agency, such as Third Angle, is that we are familiar with the area and the people who live here. There is unique insider knowledge that resonates with Colorado locals generally and Colorado Springs residents more specifically. Even if humor is not the direction your brand voice leans, it will work with you to create a brand identity that supports your marketing strategies as tailored to your specific audience and mission.
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