10 Ways to Rock your Brand’s Marketing with Humor

Humour the best way to connect and deepen relationship with audience 

This data is from The Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising which polled 29,000+ online respondents in 58 countries to measure sentiments on different forms of advertising formats. Get inspired from 100+ marketing campaigns that touched the right chord. 

But is your business meant for humour? 

Humor is more likely to enhance recall, evaluation, and purchase intention when the humorous message coincides with ad objectives, is well-integrated with those objectives, and is viewed as appropriate for the product category. Under such circumstances, humorous advertising is more likely to secure audience attention, increase memorability, overcome sales resistance, and enhance message persuasiveness – 1993 Journal of Marketing study

We’ve seen a lot of serious businesses such as American Express, Cisco, and GE taking the humour route to connect with their audience. Remember the Cisco’s ‘The Perfect Gift for Valentine’s Day’ video?  

Tim Washer, the creator of the video and a stand up comedian, saysWe wanted to find a fun way to get some attention with our key influencers, analysts, bloggers, and press … so we thought: wouldn’t it be absurd to position our product as the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for your lover? And that’s what we did.

Another must-mention campaign is the 1972 Alka-Seltzer spot “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”. 

Right kind of humour can strengthen your brand personality 

And humour gone wrong will backfire and you’ll end up falling flat on your face.

The picture is of a Chicago plane crash which killed a child. It was posted by the London Luton Airport when half of Britain was hit with snow. It was meant to show how efficient the airport was at clearing runways. Check here a couple of other social media stunts that went wrong. 

Here’re 10 ways how you can be funny without being offensive 

1) Keep it simple & short

Old Spice is a naturally fun brand. They keep their messages short and simple with the right dose of humor injected into it. 

2) Joking about tragedies = a recipe for disaster 

Jokes about tragic incidents, natural disasters and death can put you on the spot.  Remember Kenneth Cole’s tweet during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011; Cairo was at the epicentre of the revolution.  

Another example is Kurl-On’s Malala ad. The ad shows Malala’s journey – from being shot in the face with all the gory details (read Malala’s blood) to winning an award. Along the way she falls on a Kurl-On mattress and bounces back.

3) Timing is everything 

We find this conversation from Sandra Bullock’s Miss Congeniality funny because the set-up line leads us to think about a romantic date but her answer surprises us. Then a split second later we realise that she’s actually talking about a day of the year!  Scientists call this incongruity-resolution theory.  The set-up makes us think along one direction but when the punch line comes it makes us realize that there’s a different viewpoint, another way to see the situation. That accompanying feeling of sudden surprise tickles our funny bone. 

But not all interpreted incongruities are funny

Most successful jokes are funny because the incongruity occurs within the few beats that exist between the set-up and the punch line. So, don’t make your audience wait too long for the surprise element.

4) Stay away from creepy if you aren’t confident 

It’s a delicate balancing act. Watch the Dirt Devil’s ‘Exorcist’ you’ll know what we’re talking about. 

Not everyone can pull off creepy and humour together. 

5) There’s a very thin line between funny and offensive 

Remember Justine Sacco? Her 1 tweet “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” which she thought was funny got her fired. Here’s the story – Sacco posted the tweet before boarding the flight to Cape Town. And when she landed in Cape Town after an 11 hour flight she was the no 1 worldwide trend on Twitter. Her twitter feed was a nightmare with tweets full of rage. 

This ad by British fashion brand Harvey Nichols with the tagline “Try to stop your excitement” showed the models peeing in their pants.

Funny or offensive? You decide. 

6) Turn something awful into pure silly 

Social farting & social nibbling campaigns by the Ontario Government gives out a very strong message – social smoking is no different from smoking. 

Another example that comes to our mind is the end of the world Durex ads. 

7) Will adult themed jokes work for you? Also, can you pull them off? 

Yes or No depends on your product, your target audience, ad objectives + other factors. 

Stay away from rape jokes

You don’t want to be seen as a brand that belittles the seriousness of sex attacks. Remember you’re using humour in your marketing message to give your brand a human face. And making fun of a crime as serious as rape will replace that human face with that of a monster. 

A terrified woman, a jerk with a grinning face grabbing her from behind and the tagline “Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly.” Which part of it you think is funny? Belvedere Vodka though took down the ad from Facebook and Twitter within an hour of posting but the damage was done. 

8) Never underestimate the power of a great funny story 


Within 10 days of the launch of the video it fetched 25 million views, 50,000+ interactions on Facebook, 1 tweet in every 3 minutes and an increase of sales by 130%. 

9) Be ready to take calculated risk

A risk is a risk. With right approach, right audience and right channel you can be a viral sensation. Sainsbury’s got it right. 

This interaction between Sainsbury’s social media team and a customer became an internet sensation.  Being edgy has its own benefits too, if done right. People take notice of you, talk about you, share your content, interact with you – and if all goes right even buy from you or recommend you. 

An interesting study by Nielson shows that if your target audience is Millennial males then edgy ads work the best.  

10)  Don’t be funny just for the sake of being funny

Entertain people with genuine humor. Give them the gift of laughter and create a positive feeling around your brand

Arena Flowers is a UK flower delivery company. And they know how to tickle that funny bone of yours with genuinely funny tweets which’ve no relation whatsoever to their business. Their humor laden tweets have helped them create associations that’ve converted into sales. 

Know about a great humor marketing campaign that we missed. Add to the comments section.