Tread Lightly When Using Humor in Your Marketing and Advertising

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In advertising, there’s one debate that rages eternal: does funny actually sell?

Some integrated marketers insist, yes, funny breaks through the clutter and helps customers remember you. But then, there are naysayers who point out that the famous “Yo Quiero Taco Bell?” ads actually tanked the restaurant’s sales by 6%.

However, there’s one thing that isn’t up for debate: being funny does not mean being offensive, and being offensive is a terrible strategy.

The Cost of Crossing the Line

Sure, humor can draw attention, but at what cost? According to service industry expert Aaron Pederson, happy customers drive 80% of your sales. While most businesses experience some churn, winning a new customer can cost up to ten times more than retaining a current customer.

Find Your Funny

No matter what creative strategy you use, it should complement your brand. That’s especially true for integrated marketers in small business.

Ellis Verdi, president of the DeVito/Verdi agency in New York City, says, “The biggest impact you can have with a small budget is to reveal who you are and what is unique about you.”

Made Movement’s Chief Creative Officer Dave Schiff says, “The best jokes are about something everyone knows to be true but no one has courage to talk about…It’s a matter of harnessing what is being said…and making it relevant to your brand.”

Schiff also says that if you’re going for witty, make sure there’s a reason: “You can’t just have a funny skit and tack the company logo on the end of a video. It has to advance the cause of the business.”

A masterful example of how it all comes together is in this long-running Snickers campaign: it’s funny for a reason, solves a business problem, and it’s on-point with the brand persona.

Try Heartfelt Rather Than Humorous

Humor is hard – even Jerry Seinfeld bombs sometimes. Even better than making your audience laugh is making them feel. Take a look at memorable, earnest efforts fromUnilever/Vaseline and WestJet. These campaigns aligned with the brand, fostered deep emotional connections, and were wildly successful. You may not know funny, but you know what’s true. And so do your customers.

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