Marketing August 10, 2018 Last updated August 10th, 2018 217 Reads share

Make ‘Em Laugh: Why Small Brands Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Humor in Marketing

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If I had to wager a guess, I would say that most advertisements don’t make you want to snarf your soda through your nose. Most advertisements – whether on Facebook, email, or television – are typically informative and polite. Stop in for our jewelry sale. Half-off bird houses. Don’t miss our tire rotating special. You’ll love our giant pretzels. There’s no humor, no emotion.

But sometimes a company reminds you that there’s a human on the other side of the sales counter. Their brand voice resonates like someone you’d grab a beer with. It’s witty, human, and laid back. And for whatever reason, it sticks in your head.

Large corporations from Geico to Arby’s leverage the power of humor to differentiate their brands. In fact, the brand president of Arby’s, Robert Lynch, believes that “advertising isn’t dead, it’s merely craving some courage.” It typically is the larger corporations who have the guts (and the wallets) to get funny in their advertising, but what about the little guys?

Social media proves that humor can rally a community around a small business. From the bubbly, vivacious voice of Nadia Cakes out of Woodbury, Minnesota to the Bangor Maine Police Department, using humor can get people’s attention and unite them around your cause. Nadia Cakes is a small bakery in the Midwest that has Facebook followers from all over the United States, because their humorous posts are too good to pass up. The Bangor Maine Police Department has a close relationship with the community they serve because they know how to connect with them – through the uniting power of humor.

And when your advertising stands out, it’s more likely to be engrained in the memory of your potential customers.

Here are a few reasons why humor can be a powerful tool for small businesses, and why the fine shops, businesses, and entrepreneurs of America should not be afraid to let their freak flags fly:

Humor Shows Customers That Your Business Is Made of Real People with Real Personalities.

When brands show a sense of humor, it shows customers that the people behind the brand are welcoming and easy going. It shows that the brand isn’t uptight, and that its people can see the forest through the trees. Brands that use humor are seen as more flexible, more trustworthy, and more human. And who doesn’t want to do business with a company like that?

What’s more, humor connects us. A good laugh is a solid bonding strategy. When businesses make their customers laugh, it shows that they’re not afraid to set aside stiff professionalism for a moment in the name of a real, human moment. It shows that they don’t take themselves too seriously.

Funny Content is More Likely to Be Shared.

My mother-in-law sends me promotional emails all the time that make her hoot. What do I have to do with an insurance company for farmers? Well nothing, but this stuff is hilarious! The magic of humor works especially well on social media, where people can share your post with friends, coworkers, and their Aunt Betsy in Anchorage.

Studies show that social media users like to share content that is both humorous and informative. In fact, people consider what they share online to be a reflection of their very own personality. Since social media users deem the content, humor, and information within a post to be most important, they might not even care that it comes from your brand. Nonetheless, your farcical messaging prevails. Why? Because it made them laugh.

Customers might not need a mattress when they see your silly Facebook video, but when they start waking up with back pain, they’ll remember your name.

Speaking of Memory, Humor Improves Recall.

Studies show that humor is linked to higher memory recall. You remember the funniest jokes from childhood, after all these years. You remember your favorite commercials from the 1998 Super Bowl. That’s because humor has a way of sticking in our minds. (Do you ever laugh to yourself at a joke you heard three years ago? Because I totally do, and it’s always in a quiet waiting room.)

People also remember humorous ads because they depart so sharply from what consumers are used to seeing and hearing. When we give customers humor, we give them something to focus on (even if that something is a side serving of chili fries).   

Even educators use the power of humor to boost recall. Edutopia reports that humor not only builds a sense of community, but kicks-in the brain’s dopamine reward system, which improves goal-oriented motivation and long-term memory. When we use humor, they remember what we said.

It’s a Great Way to Develop Your Brand Voice and Style.

Many businesses have so much to celebrate. You sell flowers, after all! Why so serious? From ice cream shops to natural markets to dog walkers, we’re all here to help someone. Might as well lighten up and enjoy a laugh with the people we’re helping.

Humor can help businesses develop a conversational brand voice and style. The more casual you are, the more welcoming you appear. It helps relax your customers and help them feel more comfortable walking through your door. It gives both customers and employees a healthy dose of perspective.

A Note About Humor

This is really important, so you in the back, simmer down. Humor can be a powerful tool, but only if it’s appropriate for the brand.

If you’re a high-class glass blower that’s been known for centuries as being formal and traditional, a sudden burst of sass might confuse your customers. Know who you are. Know how you’ve been speaking to your customers for the past 15, 25 years. Know your audience. Something a millennial finds hilarious might make a baby boomer roll their eyes.  

And finally, good humor comes naturally. Don’t force what’s not there, but don’t be afraid of what is. If your inner dork thinks up something hilarious, chances are, others will find it funny too. After all, your small business isn’t just about the bottom line. It’s about helping others, making human connections, and making your corner of the world a little brighter. Why not lighten up?

P.S.- Now that you have your audience’s attention, let’s make sure you’re converting on the things that matter most. These 12 value propositions can help you speak to the real needs of your future customers, so you can sell more products online!

Rebecca McCusker

Rebecca McCusker

Rebecca is a freelance writer, musician, and creative marketing consultant. She lives in the Ohio countryside with her husband, where they garden and ride around on mopeds. When she's not writing, she's playing guitar and piano in her folk-rock band Linden Hollow.

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