September 26, 2019 Dan Duval, CEO

Why humor in brand advertising is so important.

What you’re about to read is the opinion of an ad guy (me) that’s been doing this for 25 years. I’m not going to barrage you with stats and graphs, but I will provide you with why (I think) humor works so well, particularly with branding.

You may or may not be aware that in any given day, thousands of marketing messages are flashed in front of our eyes, ears, noses and fingers. Every human sense is a target. What do we do? Well, most of us do our best to avoid the “noise.” We do this because most marketing messages are so futile that they actually deplete our intellect.

When we see a never-ending ad for some prescription drug that’s 30% (bad) acting and 70% legal (CYA) declaimer, we change the channel. When we hear a radio spot about how some car dealership offers the “best price first” so there’s “no negotiation necessary,” we yell “BS” and then change the station. Why is it that companies pay big bucks for advertising that people can’t stand or simply don’t believe? I suppose they have their reasons, but I still don’t get it.

Humor, in any medium, sets the advertiser apart. It creates “theater of the mind” for listeners, a 30-second smile for viewers, and can leave a really good “taste in the mouth” for your brand. People like to laugh and feel good. Right? People relate to a brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously, at least in public. There’s enough to be angry, serious and upset about out there. Why would you want your advertising to add fuel to that fire?

I think the reality is that humor is hard. It’s challenging. Just ask anyone who has tried stand-up comedy. When you kill it, you can drop the mic, but when you bomb, the only thing you should drop is your act—and a few resumes in the mail.

Humor that bombs in any medium is painful to your audience. The cringe factor is almost as bad as fingernails to a chalkboard. So why bother, right? You’re not funny, right? That’s why you should keep funny and smart people on your team. You may know everything there is to know about running your business, but humor just isn’t your strong suit. That’s fine, but I’ll bet you do know “funny” when you see it. Am I right?

Humor in advertising makes an emotional connection between your brand and your audience. All of a sudden you become relevant and memorable. You’re even attracting a new demographic audience–you know, the one everyone is going after. Humor creates a positive response in an otherwise negative media environment. Humor makes people happy, at least ephemerally, and leaves a lasting impression way back in the mind. If they see enough of your humorous messaging, aka a great campaign, that impression moves to the “top of mind.” That’s exactly where you want it! When they’re ready to buy, to switch or to try, your brand is the first thing that will come to mind.

Short and funny can last a long, long time. Believe it or not, there is humor in everything from circuit board manufacturing to banking. You just have to find it. Once you find it, by all means share it. We all love a good laugh. For more information on humor in brand advertising, and for a few chuckles, check out the McDougall + Duval on our YouTube Channel

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