Humor does a lot more than entertain. It sells. Advertisers spend millions of dollars for a 30 second spot to showcase their client’s products and services during the 4 hour phenomena we call the Superbowl. Ask anyone after the Superbowl which commercials they remembered and most will tell you about the ones that made them laugh.
The Journal of Advertising conducted an interesting study noting that using humor…
- Increases the attention paid to a commercial.
- Improves the liking of a commercial.
- Reduces the irritation experienced from commercials.
- Increases the liking of the product or service being advertised.
Now before you run off and start incorporating humor into all your communications streams, there are a few things you should know.
Know your audience. Humor comes in various flavors. Dry, slapstick, cerebral, corny, off-beat, and silly just to name a few. When serving up a scoop of humor, you had better know your market’s taste. College students might respond better to a different style of humor than senior citizens. Kids might like the slapstick approach so don’t waste any cerebral guffaws on them. All that being said, there are no hard and fast rules — using humor is definitely an art. The safest way to begin is to know your audience.
Not everyone can be funny. You might have something funny to say, but your ability to make people laugh shouldn’t be assumed. Most people, who fancy themselves as comedic, really aren’t. And if that’s you, it can be embarrassing to find that out. Find a good writer, cartoonist, or editor with the talent and track record for making people laugh. And don’t try to cut corners. In the end it’s not worth it. That reminds me of what one astronaut said to the other as they awaited lift off. “Does it bother you that we are about to be blasted into space on a craft that was built by the lowest bidder?”
Test your humor. The “home team” will almost always laugh at their own material. Staff and family will probably not give you the objectivity you need. So use focus groups. If you can’t afford a focus group at least bounce it off of someone who can be objective — or try an online survey. Remember, what is funny to one may go over another’s head. Or worse, it may offend. Don’t subject your valuable brand reputation to a “humor bomb”. Test it first.
Being too funny. You really can’t be too funny if it’s appropriate. But you can allow your humor to overpower your message. One of the worst things you can do is to be so funny that the audience remembers the humor but forgets you. Have you ever told someone how funny a commercial was? But when asked, you couldn’t remember who it was for or what they were selling. You don’t have to dial down the humor. Just don’t forget why you’re using it.
The potential for success by using humor in your communication is significant. The “feel good association” benefit can pay dividends greater than you may have thought possible. But you’ll need to use it appropriately and proportionately. When humor is correctly used, you’ll see that there really is “money in funny.”
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