Humor Can Save Your Campaign, No Joke

Take a moment to reflect on your favorite advertisement over the past year. This advertisement most likely triggered a connection with your emotions to leave an impression, which ultimately made it memorable. We reflect on those that brought us feelings of joy, excitement, sadness, or sympathy. But, the commercials that managed to bring us a full toothed smile, genuine chuckle, or tears from laughing too hard stand in a category all of their own. Who doesn’t love a good laugh, especially if it’s unexpected? If you are trying to sell your business, organization, products, or services, laughter lends the opportunity to appeal to people’s happiness.

Since the original commercial aired in 2011, “Jake from State Farm” has grown to become a household name. As part of State Farm’s State of Unrest campaign, the commercial shows how customers can feel doubtful and uneasy about insurance at any given time, even at 3:00am. “Jake from State Farm,” was originally just a character from a commercial, and now he has an official and verified twitter account with over 37,000 followers. This is a brilliant example of how humor can be used as a tool in advertising because it is clever and relatable, which makes it appealing. In a mass of millions of advertisements per day, humor offsets the common feeling of being “targeted” or bombarded, and makes an organization or company approachable and genuine.

Additionally, adding humor to your campaign gives a personality to your business or organization, and isn’t this the goal of advertising in general? Creating something people will look for, talk about, or remember? The benefits to successful humorous advertising are virtually unlimited, but humor comes with an associated risk in a world where no one wants to be “not funny.” Businesses and organizations cannot afford to hear crickets on stage after the punchline; use these six do’s and don’ts as guidelines to incorporating humor in direct marketing campaigns:

  1. DO NOT over-analyze a proposed humorous idea: it is either funny or it’s not. If you do not think it’s funny the first time, chances are neither will your target audience.
  2. DO NOT use humor for its own sake. Add humor to make it relevant to the overall objective of your campaign. How will humor help you reach your goal?
  3. DO NOT just “wing it” when it comes to doing your homework. Humor comes from knowing the little details and specific insights about your audience. This reveals their boundaries: No one wants their joke to be taken as offensive.
  4. DO use humor to entertain. People love to be entertained; think about what you do on the weekends or in your spare time. For example, a Friday night with friends, a chaotic Saturday afternoon of running errands with the kids, or a lazy Sunday with your spouse.
  5. DO engage the imagination of your audience. Think daydreams or anecdotes: Theirs may be even bigger than yours.
  6. DO test humorous concepts; not techniques. Slapstick, irony and wordplay are all techniques. Think about the big picture and the ultimate idea you want to convey.

Your audience wants to laugh and humor grabs their attention; therefore, fill it with what you have to offer. Comedy sets you apart from the crowd and reaches further to an audience, compared to basic call-to-action or plain-visual advertisements. Today, advertising is full of ironic, clever, shameless, and surprising humor because laughter is timeless. Jokes continue to be relevant far after the commercial has ended, billboard has passed, or event is over. The public will remember your humor, so if you are specific they will remember your business, organization, products, and services as well.