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How to Add Humor to Your Marketing

America spends millions of dollars on entertainment; we value our freedom and time off of work.  While being ‘professional’ is exacted by companies and sought by consumers, the notion of ‘comic relief’ has a place in business as well.

Surfing through a number of advertisements elicits many examples of humor-fused advertising regardless of specific industry.  Humor intrigues and satisfies consumers; however, going too far with humor can make a brand look asinine or unprofessional.

How can a brand balance the insertion of humor without turning present and future consumers away?

Introduce a Fall Guy

The ‘fall guy’ is a scapegoat, someone who takes the blame or ownership.  Assign a ‘fall guy’ to your brand, introducing a mascot or fictional character.  This way, the sentiments of the character, though indirectly related to your brand, are rooted in fiction rather than actual reality, granting a brand more allowance for humor.

For example, the Geico brand uses a gecko in its advertising, lampooning the sometimes mispronunciation of the brand name.  While the gecko entertains onlookers, it’s not understood to be the ‘official’ of the brand; therefore, the insurance company may infuse humor without consumers assuming patronage to the brand is associated with farce.

Use Humor in Bits

The most popular comedy sitcoms on television rally around an underlying message or serious theme.  For example, satire often brandishes an immediate face of humor, yet insinuated messages are often rooted in reality, relating to politics, freedoms, etc.  Use humor in bits rather than in an overwhelming fashion.

Unless you’re selling admission to clown college, it’s best to limit jocose sentiments.  While orators, teachers, and politicians often leverage humor, the better ones understand the line between making people laugh and making people view your company as a joke.  Subtlety is an art; learn to insert humor at warranted times.  Don’t allow it to become an overwhelming voice related to your brand.

Survey Pop Culture

Take a note from major news coverage.  Delivering news on a daily basis, anchors and reporters frame stories according to immediate culture.  For example, the fact that reality television is so popular may propel brands to lampoon or emulate the realistic layout.  For example, the hit series, The Office, borrows humor from reality television, offering interview-like segments within episodes, as if characters are being questioned about banal office participations.

What’s currently popular with your target market?  Take notes from pop culture, or find obscure elements, related to your specific market, which might make consumers chuckle or gravitate closer to your brand.

Humor, when used professionally and responsibly, helps brands appeal to target markets.  However, like other elements of marketing, the notion needs to be well-planned and executed.

When inserting humor, consider:

–         Electing a ‘fall guy’ or creating a fictional character

–         Use humor in bits and pieces rather than overwhelm

–         Leverage pop culture to tailor interests and humor toward the targeted market


Kurt Smith is a marketing consultant. His articles mainly appear on marketing blogs. Visit the site to see how they reach out to their customer base.

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