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Inbound Marketing Blog

    Faux Pas and Slam Dunks in the Marketing Humor World

    Posted by Brittney Ervin

    How to Use Humor in Your Marketing

    Personalizing your brand is a must. You know this from the reaction you get to your own business’s efforts to reach its customers on a personal level. The same can be said for failing to do so; interactions, conversation and general interest in your brand declines sharply when you fail to engage your followers on social media in ways that resonate, even if it’s something as simple as making them laugh.

    Humor has long been one of the big guns of marketing and advertising; studies show that humor helps communicate a brand’s regard for its customers’ enjoyment and lets those customers see a sense of humor—a personal quality—in your brand. Palatable information about your product or service’s benefits should always be front and center in your marketing efforts, but adding a dose of humor every now and then can be the perfect way to get the personal branding benefits every company in the information age so desperately needs.

    Even with such a clear advantage given to companies and businesses who know how to incorporate humor into at least a fraction of their marketing efforts, the question—a pesky one at that—still remains: How do you use humor in marketing the right way?

    To give you a starting handle on it, we’ve compiled a few businesses and organizations that were successful at humorous marketing and a few that made a large, unfunny, and offensive mess of their efforts to do so.


    AT&T’s “It’s Not Complicated” Campaign

    We’ve all seen the commercials: a fully grown, be-suited man sits in a comically child-sized chair at a comically child-sized table and asks kids questions. The responses from the children are so outrageously accurate, and the be-suited man’s deadpan appraisal of their responses so perfectly executed, people can’t help but let their guards down, chuckle, and internally applaud AT&T for hitting the funny bone square on.

    This type of humor, while simple, is effective because it’s a universal reminder of something we’ve all experienced: the hilarity that can often ensue from seeing the world (and its dilemmas) from a child’s perspective. And because AT&T isn’t over-exposing their service to the audience, the humor stays in tact and AT&T’s reputation gets a solid boost, even if it’s just for having funny commercials.

    Old Spice’s “Smell Like a Man” Campaign

    Old Spice launched what is perhaps the most famous humorous marketing campaign of the past half-decade in 2010 and was immediately commended in marketing circles for finding a way to incorporate humor into their ads without overexposing the product. And while the Old Spice campaign does rely on a few gender stereotypes, the delivery is so steeped in humor and light-heartedness that no one has time to be offended. The ability to formulate a campaign that viewers will find mesmerizing, unique, and funny is the Holy Grail of humorous advertising. Many have attempted to achieve the trifecta, but few have succeeded, and in fact, many venture into downright bizarre and offensive territories in their efforts.

    Speaking of bizarre and offensive…


    Dr. Pepper 10’s “It’s Not for Women” Campaign

    You know a great way to alienate approximately 50% of the population and discourage them from buying your product? Specifically say, in your marketing campaign, that your product is “not for” them. And that is the outrageously offensive message at the heart of Dr. Pepper’s 2011 campaign for their low-calorie soda, Dr. Pepper 10. The campaign not only insults men as macho, violent, hyper-masculine, and not-very-smart, it portrays women as perpetually emotional, flowery, and only interested in “romantic comedies.” The response to the campaign was, appropriately, less than complimentary.

    Finding ways to incorporate humor in your social media marketing attempts can be a tricky situation, but one that can yield sterling results if done right. The first step to getting humor in marketing right is to know your customers and what they’ll find funny. Avoid creating marketing campaigns that alienate or offend a certain group of people, especially if it’s upon the assumption that those people won’t be exposed to your ads.

    Brands and organizations like PETA, Belvidere Vodka, Reebok, and even Got Milk? have created wildly offensive campaigns in the past that alienated and outright angered a large portion of the population, not to mention their customers. Avoiding sexist, racist, or otherwise offensive messages in your humorous marketing attempts is a must when it comes time to formulate a lighthearted, funny marketing campaign. Personal branding is important, but you want your personal brand to be one that people actually like.

    How do you incorporate humor into your marketing efforts?

    Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net/Theeradech Sanin

    Topics: Inbound Marketing