The Dos and Don’ts of making your audience laugh

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Today is Comic Relief 2019 and the NGI Solutions team are getting ready to camp out in front of the TV all evening and be seriously entertained. (Who else is excited for the Four Weddings and a Funeral reunion?)

With all this comedy in the air we got to thinking about the ways that humour can be used to enhance content for ourselves and our clients. So here are some of our Dos and Don’ts of using humour in marketing, and some great examples of brands that have done it well.

Why use humour in your content?

Using humour is a great way to increase your brand presence without audiences getting tired of constant sales messages, everyone likes to be entertained, but very few people like being pitched to. With the wealth of content out there people now often switch off in the face of straight forward sales – can you name any of the bog standard adverts you’ve seen on social media in the last year? – but if something makes you laugh you’re much more likely to pay attention which opens you up to be influenced by the content.

And I don’t know about you, but if I see something that makes me laugh, not only do I tend to remember it myself but I’ll talk about it with my friends and family, ask everyone at work if they’ve seen it and if I think it’s funny enough I’ll share it on social media. If your marketing manages to make people laugh its reach can be extended far beyond your target audience and through repeated sharing and conversation can reinforce your brand as funny and relevant.

Viral Comedy – Old Spice

We’re going all the way back to 2010 for this one for the ad that a lot of people still call the best viral advert ever (high praise indeed).  The advert was a parody of all the nonsensical clichés used in traditional advertising for male grooming products, and by doing this the brand not only showed a sense of humour about their own industry but also struck a chord with the brand’s target market.

Their use of humour which directly appealed to their target market paid off. In the summer of 2010 an article in Adweek reported that the sales of the brand jumped 55% following the advert going viral, and rose 107% in the first three months following the advert. This jump was enough to see Old Spice become the #1 brand of body wash and anti-perspirant!

Do: Be willing to make a joke at your own expense.
Don’t: Attempt to “go viral” without having thought about how the humour connects with your target audience.

Pop Culture References – Direct Line

References to popular culture in advertising are difficult to get quite right. This type of content often relies on the film/character/song being so ubiquitous that everyone will know the context in order to get the joke.

Direct Line managed to avoid this pitfall with their ad series featuring Harvey Keitel as the character Winston Wolf. If you’re familiar with Pulp Fiction and Winston’s role as the hardnosed “fixer” who cleans up after Jules and Vincent, then the idea of him appearing to solve your problems with a broken boiler or small car accident is already inherently funny.

But where Direct Line have been clever with this series of adverts is in realising that not all of their target market will recognise the character, so they’ve injected humour by exaggerating the misunderstanding of the people he’s helping when he says his first line. In doing this Direct Line have managed to create an advert that has a fantastic resonance with fans of Pulp Fiction, whilst also entertaining people who aren’t familiar with the reference.

Do: Use references to popular culture to create humour in your content.
Don’t: Rely on the reference to create the humour for you.

Banter with other brands – Lidl

As more and more brands have become comfortable with the use of social media and started to show more humour and personality on their channels, there has been an increase in brands directly reacting to each other’s content and entertaining their followers with friendly banter.

During the annual Christmas advert race in 2018 John Lewis produced a heart-warming advert with Elton John which traced his amazing career back to when he received a piano as a birthday present, with the inspiring line “Some gifts are more than just a gift”. The advert was destined to be big news and get a lot of attention on social media, so Lidl shrewdly piggybacked onto the conversation by producing this advert for their £89.99 keyboard.

The genius of this advert was not only in the way it responded to a popular piece of content and made people laugh, but also the fact that it made a joke without detracting from the offer John Lewis was presenting.

Do: Engage with other brands on social media in a friendly and humorous way.
Don’t: Make a joke that detracts from the other brand’s offer.

Laugh off a crisis – KFC

Most people in the UK will have heard about the problems that hit KFC after they changed their delivery partner last year which left hundreds of their UK restaurants without any chicken (a pretty crucial ingredient in Kentucky Fried Chicken…). The incident was major news and could have been a serious blow for the chain, but amazingly when you hear it referred to now, it’s usually the way that KFC reacted to the situation with humour that people remember.

When the news broke the KFC social media team immediately responded with a post that not only answered people’s questions about what the issue had been, but also brought humour to the situation which led to the majority of people online responding to their jokes rather than the issue.

They then continued to employ this technique across all of their content related to the incident, from an advert in the Metro newspaper to their own Q&A section on the website, as well as keeping people updated on social media.

The reason that this response was so effective was that it combined two traits that consumers find endearing in brands, humour and humility. KFC didn’t try to use the humour to mask their own role in the situation, and were genuine and apologetic, with their last posts about the issue thanking customers for their patience and loyalty.

Do: Feel free to use humour even in a tricky situation.
Don’t: Try to use humour to distract people from the issue.

What next?

So there you have it, by using humour in your content you can resonate more with your audiences, connect with like-minded brands, evade a brand crisis and maybe even go viral!

If you’re still not sure how humour can work for you and your content, why not get in touch with us at hello@ngisolutions.com to talk about how we can help.

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