The Pros & Cons of Humor in Marketing

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Pros and cons of humor in marketing

Using humor in marketing campaigns has several benefits. It can work as a distraction, a cognitive challenge, and an intriguing element. Below we will look at some of the most common types of humorous marketing strategies and their potential for virality. The main benefits of using humor in marketing campaigns are described below. Weigh the benefits and risks carefully before using humor in your marketing campaign to not only avoid goofing it up, but to go about it most effectively! Also consider the risks associated with offending your audience and how to use humor responsibly.

Effectiveness of Humor in Marketing Campaigns

Studies have shown that the effectiveness of humor in marketing campaigns varies from industry to industry. While humor can draw attention and enhance comprehension, some products are less compatible with it. For example, a humorous product for cancer-fighting creams may offend some individuals. A study by Weinberger & Gulas and Fatt (2002) found that the effectiveness of humor in marketing campaigns varied depending on the type of product or service being marketed and the level of risk.

Humorous campaigns work best for products that sell and are already perceived to be funny by people. They grab attention more easily, and people tend to remember them longer. That being said, brands should avoid using humor in advertising for, say, products associated with public status. However, humor is great for brands trying to stand out from the crowd and establish a unique voice. Essentially, delivering your message with humor can be most successful when communicating with an audience you know well, and that has already established a relationship with your brand.

Facebook and Snapchat advertising are great ways to learn more about your target audience and what makes them tick. While most studies on the effectiveness of humor in marketing campaigns focus on television commercials, the general principles of commercializing humor are applicable to many other channels. Humor has been used in both a $5 million Super Bowl as well as in tweets from major franchise companies! It can always be challenging, however, to use humor in such a way that it captures the attention of consumers in a way that feels natural. It is for this reason that you must become familiar with communicating with this style in order to get the best results.

Unlike incongruity-based humor, or humor that is centered around paradoxical statements, relatable humor has a strong effect on consumer attention. Products that last consumers a long time that they interact with on a regular basis, say, a large kitchen appliance for example, would be a great candidate for using relatable humor. Additionally, it helps increase brand recall in your audience with less effort.

Some audiences will be much more responsive to a humorous approach than others. Some channels or niche groups within the same audience can even respond differently. Regardless of which route you take, the overall effectiveness of humor in marketing campaigns depends on how the people respond. Marketers have higher chances of more successful humorous campaigns when they reach out to consumers in a unique way.

Moreover, studies have shown that humor has the potential to influence people’s moods. It can also help brands to stand out from their competitors. Of course, the angle and timing must be appropriate enough not to cause offense! Previous studies of the effectiveness of humor in advertising have generally found that it does not increase the effectiveness of serious messages. 

However, when it comes to a more lighthearted stage, one-line jokes have been shown to improve message comprehension, support information processing, and improve operant conditioning. With findings like these, the effectiveness of any of your previous humorous campaigns can improve with a few adjustments. 

Risks of Offending Your Audience

Using humor in marketing campaigns can be a dangerous gamble. If your target audience does not appreciate the irony of your jokes, you may end up alienating them. Using humor in advertising for health and insurance companies was once considered taboo. Then, a famous slogan from Allstate read, “Are you in good hands?” or “Like a good neighbor” prompted the insurance industry to change its approach.

Although using humor can increase brand awareness, if it is not properly used, it can cause damage to your brand’s reputation. While it can both draw attention and create a positive memory, if your target audience finds your ads offensive, it may be time to reconsider your strategy. The best use of humor in marketing campaigns is when the jokes relate to the advertised product or theme. (Better yet, when they highlight already existing jokes or norms of a subculture in that particular industry!) If they are not appropriate, the audience may see them as irrelevant or offensive and will make a personal association of staying away from your brand.

Potential for Virality

If you’re planning a new marketing campaign, you’ll want to consider the viral potential of your chosen topic. The internet is a vast resource, and the right use of humor can increase any brand’s awareness and reach. Although bad sarcasm is rarely welcomed, good and witty sarcasm can have the opposite effect. 

Many popular social media platforms have embraced the use of humor in their marketing campaigns. Essentially, people use social media to share entertainment with their friends and followers. By adding humor to your content, you have a high chance of boosting engagement. Everyone likes to laugh, and by making your content funny, your audience is more likely to share it with others. That’s how viral content spreads. Once someone shares your video on their social media, it can continue to get exposure and growth.

The primary benefit of humor is its ability to engage customers. When used correctly, humor evokes strong emotional reactions and strengthens brand recognition. It also stimulates memory parts in the brain. When analyzing data, humor makes a lasting impression. This is great for viral marketing. Moreover, funny content is memorable and more often shared. A popular brand that presents an example of this is Dollar Shave Club, a shaving subscription service that has garnered over 25 million views with humorously optimized videos.

While using humor in a marketing campaign can be effective, the misuse of it can backfire quickly. The potential of virality for humor used in marketing campaigns depends on the content, risks, creativity, and the quality of the content being created. Be sure to stay away from sensitive topics! If your campaign achieves a combination of being both funny and well-received, your audience will share it and your marketing message will spread!

The use of humor on social media is a great way to engage with your audience and attract attention but should not be used for just any situation. If you’re targeting consumers with a more serious social issue, you should switch your tone to demonstrate empathy and understanding with your content. Humor can be a great tool in social media, but don’t overdo it, as it can make your company look insensitive and mean-spirited when used in excess.

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Humor in marketing. This approach certainly calls for a lot more planning and important things to consider than your average knock-knock joke. Listed below are what we define to be the positives and negatives of using humor in marketing your product or service:

Pros

Attention-grabbing

A great campaign not only sells your brand and ideas, it sets the tone of your company in a memorable way. After grabbing the consumer’s attention, it plants a seed that will stick with them through their entire buyer’s journey.

People love to spread laughter

We live in a fast pace world equipped with short attention spans. We want what we want and we want it now. That being said, something people still slow down for is for a good laugh. It makes the most sense that you engage them with humor and who knows, you might have a chance to go viral.

Funny brands are more relatable

Laughter is universal, even though all people find several different types of things funny. Laughing is about reacting to the things we find funny, whether it takes thought or not. More often than not, the reason we find something funny is that we can relate to it. The more it “clicks” with us, the stronger our reaction will be.

Humor in marketing is linked to higher recall

A connection becomes even stronger when we also experience an emotional reaction to what is engaging us. The less control we have over that reaction means the more impactful it will be! If you make them laugh, they will no doubt remember you.

Cons

Cracking jokes just for attention

Most of us can sniff out a fake, and it just feels wrong when we do it. It can leave an awkward air about the whole situation. So if your making jokes just to jump on a bandwagon, your consumers might be turned off by it.
You may find your brand more estranged from your audience than before you engaged them! There is a reason why not all body wash companies sell like the Old Spice commercials.

Humor Can Communicate Immaturity

Some industries should stay away from comedy in order to maintain a more clinical approach. For instance, health care companies, or other industries that deal with life and death situations, would want to avoid using humor in marketing. They can more easily preserve and convey their professionalism.

Humor Can Be Outright Offensive

There are particular niche audiences that can appreciate a humorously offensive approach. These audiences require the most authenticity and can best receive you when there is a strong foundation of brand loyalty. You might attract more flies with honey than with vinegar, but certain animals can really appreciate the remedies vinegar provides.


With as many opinions and approaches to communicating the ideas you want your consumers to get on board with, it is important to make an online reputation for yourself that can succeed. Choose OCGnow to market your product or service and build advertising that will resonate. Give us a call today at (904) 600-3600 to learn more.

This post was originally published on 8/8/2019 and updated on 4/19/2022 for accuracy and a larger scope of information.

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