Our Blog

Humor in Marketing is No Laughing Matter

February 9, 2016 - Marketing - ,
By: Yolanda Fintschenko

Let ‘er Rip! Let Flatulence Keep Your Content Fresh.

Why use humor in marketing? Because it’s fun, dammit!! It turns out there are MUCH better reasons then your own enjoyment (but I think that should factor in – what you enjoy, you tend to put more into, no? And more of yourself, well that can build rapport – more later.)

Popular-Emotions Image from OkDork.com

So serious (ish) business writers recommend it. Inc. suggests three positive outcomes from using humor in marketing: memorability, rapport-building, and alignment through a shared experience.  It turns out there is data to support these conclusions. Vidyard points to research by Buzzsumo, where they mapped 10,000 highly shared pieces of content to an emotion. You can see from the image below, their results show that 25% of the content shared was linked to awe, 17% to laughter, 15% to amusement, and 14% to joy while only 6% was linked to anger.

Another important impact of using humor is creating a “personality” for your brand. Something  that helps you stand out among your peer companies. Something that shows you are not just a product and a site — you have character.  It makes your brand standout and feel like a personality.  The value is hard to measure. But it helps mitigate churn and increase renewals when people feel more connected to a personality, not just a product.

So why don’t more people turn to humor in their content marketing?

It seems risky.  What’s funny to one person can be offensive to others.  It’s easy to move from parody to insulting.

It’s difficult. Many writers have a distinct style – if humor isn’t part of it, adding humor can feel forced or unnatural.

It’s market and industry specific. Yep, you many need to have subject matter expertise to find a shared experience you can riff on.

I don’t care. I’m smart enough, I’m good enough, and people like me. I want to use humor in my marketing. How do I do it?

Right you are. Here are some tips gleaned from The Humor Research Lab and others.  I know, right? Right???!!!! It’s  a thing. The Humor Lab actually studies what makes things funny. I’m laughing right now.

The Humor Research Lab and others have dissected humor and written about it in dry, humorless articles that fortunately are chock full of data and specific examples.  There is also a lot of advice on humor on the inter web.  I’ve saved you the trouble of reading a lot of dry writing about a funny subject.  Here are three tips for using humor in your marketing content.

  1. Exploit benign violations. Meaning, take situations and create a violation of that situation where no-one is harmed. For example someone needing to leave a meeting is not that funny, suggesting someone won’t leave the meeting despite feeling a full on fart building with the potential for anal-leakage because of FOMO is funnier.
  2. Parody your customer’s pain, not your customer.  You must have an understanding of you customer’s experience to do this. Taking a situation your customer may be in that causes them grief and anxiety, and parodying that situation (perhaps even taking a pot shot at your industry) suggests empathy. Shared experience. Voila! Alignment. You are welcome.
  3. The truth is funny.   You can say it, but maybe you customers can’t. Exposing the truth about a situation, for example – “We all know most of these products are the same, and we are just buying from the person who bought us the best lunch…” can be an amusing way to start an explanation about why your product experience is different, even if your product features are pretty much like everyone else’s.

Strategic use of cutting up cuts through the crap and cuts through the noise.  Come on luv, give us a giggle.


Yolanda is a scientist, writer, marketer, coach and avid runner who lives and works in Livermore, CA.  She founded Common SciSense, a marketing company for technical products, and co-founded founderTRACTION, lean marketing services for startups.