The Funny Side of Marketing

Have you heard the one about humor in print marketing? It’s more effective than you might think. Humor is one of the best ways to differentiate your product or service, making your message memorable and increasing your visibility.

Information alone is not enough to sell your product. Otherwise everything would be communicated in black-and-white text. We live in a colorful, high-definition world with constant clutter, so your message has to engage customers for them to hear it. Humor is a powerful relationship-marketing tool that helps you stand out. However, unless you balance it with the right amount of information, your prospects will remember the gag and forget the product. Use humor properly and you will transform your business-as-usual communications without turning your message into a joke.

Keep humor in its place.
Your product or service should be front and center. Use humor to get the customer to stick around long enough to hear your message. It should enhance your communication, not overwhelm it.

Funny is subjective.
There is no objective measure for what makes good or bad marketing humor. In general, it should be amusing, relevant and in good taste. It doesn’t have to appeal to the lowest common denominator or be over-the-top to work. Think about the type of comedy your target audience might find funny. Slapstick or sophisticated? Laugh-out-loud or subtly clever?

Print can be funny, too.
Typically we think of funny marketing in the context of commercials or social media, but apply humor to your print communications and you will not only grab your customers’ attention but also help them recall your message. The biggest laugh might come from how punctuation paces a sentence or how a graphic makes the reader do a double take. The smallest detail can bring the biggest laughs.

Don’t take aim at your target customers.
The joke is always funnier if it is on someone else. Carefully craft your message so that your stakeholders feel like you are on their side. Use comedy well and you will tickle your customer’s funny bone. Use it poorly and you can offend that same customer.

Remove the color.
Keep the colorful fonts and graphics in your printed pieces, but take out the off-color jokes and innuendo. The basic rules of marketing still apply. Test your message for potentially dangerous material to avoid alienating your audience.

Follow cross-cultural rules, even at home.
Humor often requires the audience to have a specific bit of knowledge to understand it. If you send direct mail internationally you understand that differences in culture and language will impact the way readers receive your piece. But cultural gaps can exist anywhere there is diversity. Be wary of colloquialisms and variations in the meaning of words, even in different geographic areas of your own country.

No kidding, humor is serious business. Funny marketing attracts customers by creating a positive association with your brand. When used correctly, humor is an important tool for getting your message heard. Don’t knock-knock it until you’ve tried it.