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Humor Gets People To Lower Their Shields

June 7, 2018

In her post about how humor can drive marketing success, Kathy Klotz-Guest writes that “as content marketing explodes, so too, does the volume of noise. You have about 7 seconds to grab attention.”

Then she said something that really caught my attention:

Laughter lowers the intellectual shield your busy prospects have up all day just to survive the messaging onslaught. Humor opens up a space for connecting because it disrupts the expected pattern.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Which conjured up the following:blank vertical space, 32 pixels highguy sitting at computer wearing helmet with intellectual shields to deflect incoming spam and 24/7 marketing and advertising messages

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highNeil Patel thinks humor in marketing works for three reasons: it forces people to lower their defenses, it helps you connect with your audience, and humorous content often leads to sharing.

We’re skeptical about ads. We’re constantly bombarded with them, so we raise our shields. Humor catches us off guard. We find ourselves laughing and a bit more open to someone’s marketing message.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Tim Washer points out that a lot of comedy comes from pain. When we use humor to address a prospect’s problem, we’re showing that we understand his point of view. Tim also maintains that if you can make someone laugh, then you’ve made the most intimate connection you can make.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

In her article about boring big brands that use humor, Kim Speier notes that humor can be especially helpful to companies in highly-competitive or saturated industries. She asks:

“What better way to stand out from those that sell a product or service of similar quality and price than by letting your company’s personality shine?”blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Charmin bathroom tissue, State Farm and Allstate insurance, Old Spice deodorant, and Clorox bleach all use humorous ads to get attention.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You might be tempted to say: sure, humor’s fine for big brands with big budgets, but not for small brands with modest budgets. On the contrary: LinkedIn’s Jason Miller says humor helps level the playing field between big-budget creative ad agencies and a smaller clever marketer.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Digital marketing expert Ann Handley concurs: “Small businesses might be challenged with limited budgets and resources, but they nonetheless have an advantage when it comes to creating humorous marketing. Big companies generally have more bureaucracy and longer approval processes, making it difficult for them to be nimble or edgy in their marketing.”blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Nonprofits don’t have to settle for boring, either. Check out this video by the Calgary Humane Society. It has more than a million views on YouTube.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highHumor does carry some risk. Comedy is subjective– you can’t please everyone. You need to understand your target audience and how they’re likely to respond. Here’s a good rule of thumb. It’s from a book called The Humor Code by Peter McGraw & Joel Warner.

It’s not whether or not you’re funny, it’s what kind of funny you are. Be honest and authentic.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

In other words, be yourself. Stick to humor you’re comfortable with, and respect your audience.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Are there other advantages to using humor? Yes: humor gets shared, and it projects confidence.

Al Lautenslager puts it this way: “Humor is social by nature; people share funny stories all the time. It’s no secret or surprise that the most viral online videos are those that do the best job of making you laugh. A humorous brand is a confident brand, and a confident brand is in demand–and gets noticed.”

And I like this by Kevin Daum: “Combined with knowledge, humor enhances expertise, demonstrating confidence and strength.”blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

One last thought courtesy of Alison Beard at Harvard Business Review: in The Humor Code, McGraw & Warner cite a line from the anthropologist Edward Hall:

“If you can learn the humor of a people and really control it, you know that you are also in control of nearly everything else.”blank vertical space, 32 pixels highguy sitting at computer wearing helmet with intellectual shields to deflect incoming spam and 24/7 marketing and advertising messages humor opens space for connecting with prospects Kathy Klotz-Guest Keeping It Humanblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. I create images that get content seen and shared.

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Questions? Send me an email.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2018 5:23 AM

    Yes! Completely agree about the use of humour! It also makes your product/service more memorable too.

    A favourite example of mine: Trapped In A Commercial: Hot Pockets

    Not sure if it was a sponsored video or just for fun – but this was stuck in my head for days. I found myself singing it and wanting to try a Hot Pocket if I ever spotted one (which is unlikely as they don’t sell them here 😦 )

    As they say, make ’em laugh!

    Like

    • June 12, 2018 3:48 PM

      This comment is particularly meaningful because it comes from one of the most good-humored– oops, sorry– good-humoured people I know!! 🇬🇧😊

      I watched the Hot Pocket video– that is one frantic far-out ad! Believe it or not, I’d never heard of Hot Pockets!! So much for advertising, at least where boring people like me are concerned– I don’t get much more adventurous than peanut butter, bologna, and liverwurst!! 😋

      Always great to see you, Lily– thanks for checking in!! 👍🏆😊

      Like

  2. June 10, 2018 1:15 PM

    Great post! Cats always win. 🙂

    Like

    • June 12, 2018 3:57 PM

      Q: What’s a feline’s favorite drink?

      A: Cata Tonic. It knocks ’em for a loop! 🍹🍹🍹🐱💥😻

      Many thanks, RK– may your saucer always overflow with Reeses!! 👍🏆😋💥…. 🚑💨

      Like

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