Humour in marketing is like Marmite, people either love it or hate it.
Come up with a funny marketing campaign that tickles your audience and you can boost sales and awareness. Miss the mark, and your customers may not be laughing – seeing your sales figures falling as flat as your joke.
We’re looking at the psychology of advertising and how humour could be the key to converting your target customers. Plus, we’re throwing in some examples from top brands who hit a home run with their humorous advertisements.
Using psychology in advertising
Advertising is full of subliminal messages. From what colours are used, to the wording of the advert.
That means each element of your marketing strategy creates a response in your audience. This is known as advertising psychology.
Psychology is the study of the mind and human nature. While marketing is the act of creating relationships between customers and your products or services. So, it’s only natural the two go hand in hand.
What emotions do advertisements appeal to?
Marketers often use emotions to create a connection with their audience. If their efforts are successful, this encourages customers to buy into a brand and stay loyal.
The six basic emotions advertisers use are:
- Happiness – this is where humour comes into play. Anything that makes your audience smile, relax and feel good, is classed as happiness.
- Fear – considered to be the strongest emotion, fear sticks in the mind of your audience. However, it can be tricky to get right, as people experience fear at different levels.
- Anger – if you want your audience to act, anger can play an important role. Balance is key, as too much anger can have serious consequences.
- Sadness – to create empathy in your ad, you might want to use sadness. It can be especially effective for big occasion campaigns, think John Lewis’ Christmas ads.
- Disgust – making your audience think twice about their current lifestyle, particularly for health brands, can be a good way to sell a product as a ‘solution’.
- Surprise – this emotion can be used positively or negatively, so is often combined with fear or happiness. The latter creates a great opportunity for humour.
What role do colours play in advertising?
Colour theory is one of the biggest factors in advertising, having a big impact on your viewer’s mindset. Each colour creates an emotional response.
For instance, red is a warm colour that can evoke passion, anger and strength, depending on how it’s used. Meanwhile, blue is considered cool, creating a sense of calmness and confidence.
Advertisers will carefully choose their colour scheme for print, digital or video promotions. That’s because having the incorrect colour scheme can affect how a message is read, emotionally, by the viewer.
You can discover more about the importance of colours in print and how to use them in our guide.
Examples of humour in advertising
The tried and tested method of humour in advertising ideas has had some major successes for brands down the years.
It has helped keep companies relevant in the market, turned negative customer experiences into positive ones and given businesses the recognition it deserves.
Here are three brands who have launched successful humorous advertising campaigns.
KFC – FCK
If you need to know how to turn a PR disaster into a successful campaign, look no further than KFC.
Back in 2018, the brand faced major backlash after their chicken supplies ran short – causing them to close over a hundred of their stores.
But, instead of hiding in the shadows and waiting for the criticism to fade away, they turned to some tongue in cheek humour.
The company sent out a statement apologising in two national newspapers, changing their KFC logo to FCK. This simple rebranding was then published on their social media platforms and reached nearly 8 million people, with over 2 million shares.
Sometimes honesty is the best policy.
Snickers – You’re not you when you’re hungry
Snickers have taken celebrity endorsement to a whole new level with their series of commercials and print ads – with comical results.
Featuring the catchy slogan ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’, the TV ads have seen Betty White get tackled, Mr Bean free running, Joan Collins being a diva in the men’s locker room and Elton John perform in a rap battle.
They also took this slogan to their print and social ads too, with incorrect quotes from the likes of Star Wars and Muhammad Ali.
These funny commercials have kept the Snickers brand in the spotlight, thanks to big-name associations.
Marmite – Love it or hate it
If humour in marketing is like Marmite, you can be sure Marmite know how to sell it.
Their slogan ‘love it or hate it’ has been used in their marketing for decades. But the company still manages to find new ways to bring humour and fun into their ads.
From mind control, turning even the strongest Marmite haters into lovers, to ‘Marmite neglect’, for a satirical rescue mission to save forgotten Marmite jars – they’ve capitalised on the public perception of their brand.
They even launched an ad campaign to see if loving or hating Marmite is linked to your genes – a priceless piece of funny advertising.
Dollar Shave Club – Our blades are f**king great
Funny advertising campaigns can really cut through the noise, and this is something that California-based razor company Dollar Shave Club know a thing or two about.
Entering the personal grooming market in 2011 and competing with established brands such as Gillette, they knew that they were going to need to do something different to grab people’s attention.
The result was a brilliant video starring CEO Michael Dublin which generated 12,000 orders in two days after its release in 2012, and has since been viewed over 26 million times worldwide.
How can you start using humour in your advertising
Whether you’re printing a leaflet for your customer orders, or creating a roller banner for an event, using humour in your marketing can help your advert become more memorable and something that people love.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts to help get your customers laughing:
- Stay true to your brand. Humour for the sake of humour isn’t going to create that brand-to-audience connection. If you’re using comedy, make sure it resonates with your company voice.
- Use humour across your channels. If you have a funny slogan or image, use it across your marketing channels to maximise the amount of people who’ll see it. This includes social channels, print and TV ads.
- Plan ahead to hit or avoid key events. Depending on your type of business, you may be able to take advantage of seasonal events or trends in your creative advertising campaigns.
- Try to appeal to everyone. Everyone has their own sense of humour. Your ad isn’t going to have the whole nation in stitches, but if you can at least get your target audience laughing, it can boost brand awareness.
- Overuse the comedy aspect. If you have to point out what’s funny in your ad, chances are it isn’t. Clever and subliminal ads are more likely to get your audience smiling.
- Use insensitive or unprofessional humour. While humour can be effective, if used incorrectly, it can create a negative view of your brand. Avoid themes which can be deemed inappropriate.
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