How Comedy Can Be Good For Your Brand



Skittles does it. Oreo does it. Everyone on Earth knows Old Spice does it. Could your brand successfully harness the power of humor?

There’s a reason that marketers refer to real-time marketing success as an “Oreo moment.” When Oreo posted their blackout image during the Superbowl, they were using humor to defuse a situation. Everyone was thinking “What is going on? There’s a blackout!” And Oreo swooped in with a humorous reply: You can still dunk in the dark.” They did the impossible: achieving viral success with a humorous observation that referenced the brand directly.

Using humor is a great way for your brand to appear more human on social media. Humor helps messages spread, and helps engender positive brand associations with your company.

Humor is something a lot of brands shy away from in the interest of “professionalism” and “not wanting to offend potential customers.” If done correctly, neither of these concerns needs to be founded. “Professionalism” is a bit of a canard. With social media becoming the marketing standard, the expectations of consumers has shifted to expect more “human” interactions with brands. Offense is only caused when humor is applied incorrectly, and the work isn’t tested on fresh eyes and ears before deployment.

How can you imbue your brand with more humor?

Before you begin, you will likely have to sell in the idea of employing humor. Know that if your brand is a bank or defence contractor, you’re going to have a tough road ahead. It’s not impossible, but you will need to work at it.

The easiest method if you’ve got a brand that is stuck in a professionalism trap is to pick a special event to test out a humorous approach. Most brands on social media do fun one-offs for events like April Fool’s or Hallowe’en, so there is a good place to start. Another place to consider comedy is on Fridays, because people are eagerly anticipating having fun on weekends, or on Wednesday, when your customers might be in the doldrums.

You might want to begin by sharing a humorous photo from another brand, or from a content creator on Tumblr. You can know in advance whether it has been successful, to predict how it will fare on your channels. Make note of the responses you get (or don’t get). It’s possible your fans might not connect with it on the first try. That’s also valuable information.

This testing base can help show you the lines you can draw inside when you create your own comedic content.

Choose your target wisely

It’s important to not make cheap shots or to beat a dead horse. Yes, something might be in the news a lot and an easy joke, but you might alienate just as many people as you entertain. Look for the types of things great stand-ups do: small things from life people generally love or hate, with a fresh, new angle. What things about your brand, vertical, or customers are funny to your existing fans? Sometimes, the smallest things are universal. If you were a dry-cleaning chain, you could show a picture of a mis-buttoned shirt, referencing the fact that you only get the shirts clean, you take no responsibility for how they’re put together.

This is the type of joke that is fairly universal, clean, and not putting anything down for the sake of the joke.

Remember power dynamics to turn the joke

Just like “man bites dog” is the better headline than “dog bites man,” it’s important to remember power dynamics in humor. No one really wants to side with the ruling group. They’d rather root for the underdogs. If you come up with an idea you think is funny, remember to check it for dynamics. (Middle class people joking about bankers is way funnier than the other way around.)

Get feedback from disinterested parties

It’s impossible to understate the need for you to run your humor campaigns past someone who doesn’t work for you, isn’t related to you, and doesn’t need something from you. You will need to test your work against an objective audience to know if your work is funny.

Test, and listen to feedback

As you begin to pepper your campaigns with humor, make note of the types of humor that work, and the types that don’t resonate. Also, if someone gives you feedback, make sure you take it on board. For humor to succeed at underpinning your brand, you’ll have to continuously work at it.

Injecting humor is the type of brand update that can really take your social media efforts to a new level. You have to be aware of internal and external resistance, plan well, and make sure you’re testing your work for best success


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