Should You Use Humor in Your Marketing?

Should you use humor

Sometimes, humor is used as a genius marketing move. Other times, not so much. Humor has the potential to both build your brand and destroy your reputation. Would it work for you? Should you even try?

Last December, the internet lost their ever-lovin’ minds over the infamous “Wendy’s Twitter Roast”. In case you missed it, the famous fast food chain Wendy’s got involved in a heated exchange on Twitter with – for a lack of a better word – an internet troll. It went a little something like this:

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Ouch! Thuggy-D might need a little aloe vera for that burn.

Admittedly, this verbal takedown was an unusual approach. It definitely brought attention to the brand, and probably won quite a few sassy hearts. They lost a few customers, too, without a doubt. Not every brand can afford to take the risk Wendy’s did so blatantly on social media. Most other companies are busy trying their darndest to make sure their customer service department bends over backwards to make people happy – like Pier 1 Imports (incidentally, our next door neighbor!) for instance:

 

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And, of course, using humor for your brand isn’t limited to social media and customer service. It can be used in advertisements, content offers, website material, brochures, or anything else related to your company. The question remains: should you use humor for your brand? How do you know?

There are pros and cons to implementing humor in your marketing strategy.

As a Fort Worth creative agency that likes to have fun, we like to think there are some pretty good upsides to using humor. But, as with most things, there are some pros and cons, and there is no universal, one-size-fits-all answer – every company is different! You should first consider your audience: who are you trying to connect with? Although you personally might be someone who appreciates humor, your ideal customers may not be. Know your audience and focus on speaking to them the way that they want to be spoken to.

Next, consider your long term goals. Will implementing humor get you closer to those goals? Will humor bring you closer to your target market – or will it repel them?  It’s important to think about whether humor will serve your brand’s greater good or just provide short term/shallow results.

Pros:

  • Potential relationship builder: If your target market appreciates humor, they’ll also appreciate your use of it. Using humor can instantly boost customers’ view of you, and create a more favorable impression of your brand in their minds.
  • Adds personability: Humor can show the personable side of your brand, and showcase the brand’s unique personality, and what makes you different.
  • Proves you’re not a robot: It’s easy for companies to get so caught up in appearing professional that they go too far the other way, and end up feeling mechanical. Humor can break a brand away from this, and make your brand feel less stiff and more relevant.
  • Creates memories: People remember things that make them laugh. Using humor in your brand’s voice is a great way to stick with people. This is especially true for television commercials, where the funniest commercials are usually the most remembered (Heck, off the top of my head I remember a funny Velveeta cheese commercial from 3 years ago).

Cons:

  • Potential suicide/alienation: Will using humor alienate your current fan base? If your current customers see your brand as sleek and professional, using humor can potentially hurt the solid reputation you’ve built up, alienating faithful customers. Don’t alienate the customers you already have by trying to reach out to new customers: it’s incredibly risky, and the odds aren’t in your favor.
  • You might not be as funny as you think: Before you post that comment or hit “print” on that flyer, ask for several outsiders’ opinions first. We’ve all laughed at our own jokes, only to find ourselves the only person in the room that enjoyed it. There’s too much on the line to risk that in your business. Some people like knock-knock jokes. Some people like puns. Some people would rather jump off of golden gate bridge than hear either one of those things, and will dismiss your brand completely if they see you use them.

In the end, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Here are some questions to ask yourself to find out if humor is right for your brand:

Ask yourself these questions first:

  • Is the overall message I’m trying to convey getting lost in the laughs?
  • Will this alienate my current fanbase?
  • Will this offend ideal customers?
  • Is it too confusing?
  • Is it an “inside joke” that some won’t get? (e.g., a Friends tv show reference that your market may not be familiar with)
  • Will it further my end goal?
  • Is it really funny?

If you still aren’t sure if you can afford to use humor, consider trying it out on a case-by-case basis. It’s a solid place to start, and based on the reactions you receive, it should give you a pretty good idea of how to move forward. Remember, no matter how many “likes” you get on Facebook, or giggles you get from viewers, the bottom line is your bottom line. Sales should always be your long term end goal, and if humor helps you get there, then congratulations, you’re officially crushing it.