Despite the proliferation of digital marketing resources, email remains one of the most effective tools for engaging with customers and clients. Unfortunately, given the constant inundation of today’s inboxes, many brands struggle to make an impression — or to convince recipients to open and read messages in the first place.
The good news? Email marketing need not feel impossible to conquer. The right tone can make all the difference. Many customers gravitate toward funny emails, which they find far more relatable than typical sale-sy marketing language. Humor can play a valuable role in telling your brand’s story while also enticing customers to hit up landing pages, blogs, or social media accounts. (For tips on being funny on social, check out our post, “Humor in Social Media Marketing.”)
Why Humor Writing Works in Email Marketing
We love comedy in TV commercials and on Facebook, but often neglect it in email marketing campaigns. That’s a shame — email offers an excellent platform for connecting with consumers through the power of humor.
Funny Emails Keep Readers Engaged
Email marketing can pay huge dividends, but only if recipients actually bother to read included content. If the messages they receive look and sound like the many other emails found within their crammed inboxes, consumers will skim, at best — or worse, send messages straight to the trash.
Humor can convince even skeptical recipients that marketing emails are worth reading in their entirety. If they find messages from a particular brand entertaining, they won’t just stop dreading new emails — they’ll actively look forward to these messages.
Comedy has a unique way of engaging readers that few other styles can match — so it should come as no surprise that many consumers strongly prefer to receive marketing messages with at least a hint of humor.
Comedy Sets Your Brand Apart
While the use of humor may seem ubiquitous in advertising, it can actually be a differentiating factor in email marketing. Despite this, many campaigns continue to rely on outdated formats that show little personality.
Comedy provides a wonderful opportunity to highlight your brand’s unique voice. You might sell the exact same products or provide identical services as your top competitor, but customers will ultimately remember the funnier brand.
Funny Abandoned Cart Emails Are More Appealing
Abandoned cart emails can be effective for recapturing ambivalent consumers, but not all recipients appreciate them. Businesses that rely on these emails do themselves few favors with their often whiney tone. It’s easy for such messages to feel like begging, but humor can change all that.
A light-hearted approach provides a gentle reminder while keeping readers entertained. Even if this email fails to produce an immediate conversion, it should provide a positive brand impression to encourage further interaction down the road.
Email Comedy Can Be Integrated With Other Marketing Efforts
A cohesive marketing campaign should draw on the benefits of several platforms while still ringing true to your brand. If humor plays a significant role on your blog or in social media updates, why not add it to the mix for your email content?
A humorous approach could help you establish a consistent brand voice and maximize your marketing ROI across multiple channels. Feel free to use wit to direct email recipients to new blog posts, silly YouTube videos, or bold updates on Instagram.
Comedy Writing Techniques to Help You Write Better Emails
Comedy is the ultimate high-risk, high-reward marketing proposition. If used effectively, it can turbocharge your campaign and transform consumers’ perception of your brand. Screw up, however, and you’ll bore, annoy, or even offend consumers. One bad joke could tear down a reputation you’ve spent years building.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know what your customers find funny or how such content can best be woven into your emails. Marketing experts provide plenty of insight into the value of punchy headlines and action-oriented language. But not every brand is cut out for a humorous approach.
Sometimes, the best advice comes straight from the source: comedians.
Keep these classic comedy writing techniques in mind as you add humor to your email campaign:
Tailor Humor to Your Audience
There is no such thing as a universally funny joke. While certain types of humor can delight a broad audience, many styles only hold niche appeal. Applied to the wrong marketing effort, sarcastic or biting humor, in particular, could prove problematic. Likewise, corny jokes could detract from branding for companies seeking to establish an edgy vibe.
The value of tailored humor can be seen in the work of today’s most beloved comedians. Iliza Shlesinger, for example, nailed this idea with the Netflix feature Elder Millennial, in which she referenced several memories and situations familiar to audience members born in the 80s. While Shlesinger’s humor might not appeal to everybody, it certainly made an impression with her target audience.
Jim Gaffigan targets a very different audience: nerdy family men. He might not be as edgy as his comedic counterparts, but his tailored approach has launched his career to new heights. By knowing his audience and catering to their unique sense of pride, he’s gained a massive fanbase and, in turn, sold-out performances around the country.
Follow Shlesinger and Gaffigan’s lead and think carefully about your intended audience before you rev up your funny bone.
What types of jokes will get email recipients chuckling? Which topics are off-limits?
If you suspect that a particular quip might cause offense, consider playing it safe and swapping your original joke for a less controversial option. That being said, risk-taking can pay dividends with the right audience. Stick with measured risks, as a joke made in poor taste could prove far more devastating for your brand than it might for a typical comedian.
Don’t Forget Phonetics
Word choice matters. The right language can level up your email, even if the content itself isn’t all that funny.
Research verifies that some words are simply funnier than others. Often, this appeal stems less from the word’s meaning, but rather, from phonetics. A study from the University of Alberta, for example, reveals that most people perceive specific sounds as humorous. Researchers highlight the letter k and the ‘oo’ sound as especially amusing. Combine these sounds with an already funny meaning, and you have a recipe for instant laughter.
While semantics matter, the message behind your content will have a limited impact if the words themselves sound stuffy. If you struggle to distinguish silly words from ordinary language, look to the aforementioned University of Alberta study or similar linguistics research for inspiration. It may also help to read early drafts aloud, focusing at least once on sound over the content.
Use Evocative Details
Humorous writing, like any content, should feature colorful language. Details make all the difference. Adjectives and adverbs help, but specific nouns are even better. Think petunia instead of flower or root beer instead of soda.
Strong, bold words paint an appealing picture to help you set the stage for an eventual punchline. This approach also makes it easier to maintain readers’ interest without being too dependent on cheesy puns. This tactic is particularly important if you’re intent on weaving subtle humor into your content.
Patton Oswalt exemplifies the value of descriptive language with his hilarious comedy bit, which uses specific descriptors to intrigue audiences. In one especially witty routine, he references the “unbroken belt of stink” that surrounds people in sweatpants. Said any other way, this concept would not be nearly as funny.
Don’t Go Overboard
If the point of a humorous marketing email is to make people laugh, why would you bother scaling back on its funniest elements? This may be one of the most confusing comedy writing secrets, but it’s also among the most effective.
Turns out, comedy — like many of the finer things in life — is best enjoyed in small doses. Even the most memorable stand-up comedy routines include far more than punchlines alone.
If your content is too dependent on comedy, each additional joke will produce diminishing returns. Done to excess, humor can grant content a try-hard tone, which could potentially make readers feel awkward or uncomfortable. Balance is essential.
Tell a Story
Comedians are storytellers. While their punchlines may generate the most laughs, this payoff is not possible if they fail to first set the stage with an engaging narrative. Likewise, every marketing email should tell a story before any attempts at infusing humor are incorporated.
Keep in mind that storytelling can take many forms. It need not involve long blocks of text. Some of the most effective marketing campaigns focus on humorous images, adding a caption or two as necessary to flesh out the story.
5 Examples of Funny Marketing Emails
We’ve come to expect humor in Super Bowl ads, YouTube clips, and even Instagram Stories — and now, a growing group of brands intends to bring this hilarity to our email inboxes. Let the following examples inspire you to take on a goofy tone with your next marketing campaign:
Poop jokes never fail to delight. Poo-Pourri makes the most of this reality by infusing its emails with the best bathroom puns. These jokes are interspersed with information about how the products can clear away odors or kill bacteria. Readers come away feeling both amused and reassured.
Beyond verifying our universal love of poop jokes, Poo~Pourri’s email strategy also underscores the importance of capitalizing on other forms of marketing success. After all, the company credits most of its current popularity with a viral YouTube clip claiming “Girls don’t poo.” Top emails build on this concept without allowing it to feel stale.
Humor is effective enough on its own, but it’s that much better when combined with adorable images. Therein lies the genius of pet-oriented subscription service BarkBox, which ups the ante by including quirky captions alongside its emails’ cute graphics.
Puns play a key role in BarkBox’s content, with the company making ample use of “pawfectly” and other dog-themed words. A passage about a beloved subscription box exemplifies the value of pet puns for creating a goofy tone: “Checkmutt! Pups were straight-up doggled by this game-themed box of puzzle toys that were chew-ly challenging.”
While the majority of BarkBox’s silly email content involves product descriptions, the business also infuses a humorous tone in the CTA area with such questions as “Wanna talk about your dog’s ridiculous PJs?” This attention to detail ensures that subscribers read every last sentence.
Even their billing update email uses comedic imagery to get users to take action.
Duluth Trading Company
Obvious puns have their place, but some brands require a little more subtlety in their marketing efforts. Duluth Trading Company proves that an in-your-face approach to email humor is not necessary. The clothing brand adds the occasional silly statement or observation without making comedy the dominant theme.
A previous holiday-oriented email, for example, advised “Don’t sweat it, Santa” when finding gifts for loved ones. The brand further exemplified its general approach to email humor with the subheader “Hilarious but oh-so-useful.” While this statement referenced top gifts for men, it also reflects the brand’s ability to produce chuckles while still providing helpful and detailed information within its emails.
Digital video game retailer Chrono.gg uses humor to stand out in a crowded marketplace. The company’s cleverly-written emails may be hilarious, but they don’t pander to gaming enthusiasts. Instead, Chrono.gg entices customers with a little wit — and then reels them in with excellent deals on indie games.
To begin, Chrono.gg grabs gamers’ attention with chuckle-worthy subject lines such as “My kingdom for a slice of lasagna.” In this specific instance, curious customers soon discovered a special on the racing game Garfield Kart.
In another email, Chrono.gg pitched customers on the merits of cooperative simulation Moving Out. This conversational email poked fun at the company itself for trying to make a bland premise sound like a fun video game.
By relating to their user base in these and other goofy emails, Chrono.gg positions itself as less of a retailer and more of a lovably dorky friend with excellent game recommendations.
P.F. Candle Co.
Many comedians believe that the secret to humor is a dash of the unexpected. While your tone should be tailored for your audience, content needs to feel fresh to keep readers chuckling. P.F. Candle Co. accomplishes exactly that by defying all expectations a typical customer might hold when signing up for a candle company’s email newsletter.
In a particularly amusing email, the company took on a celebratory tone with a bold caption that stated “It’s f***ing candle season!” The mere thought of somebody freaking out over candles is hilarious — and the unexpected swear makes the email that much better. Milder humor is interspersed throughout the remainder of the email, including several evocative descriptions of candle scents.
Humor marketing can instantly elevate your company’s email campaigns. Whether you’re looking to drive sales or keep customers engaged with your brand, comedic content may do the trick. Tongue-in-cheek messages are more powerful than they seem, so don’t hesitate to punch up your email with a few good jokes.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you should tailor your comedy to your audience. Find out what type of humor they enjoy best, and use that to take a smart approach to fun, witty email copy.
Don’t have a humor writer on staff? We’ve got plenty of writers here at WriterAccess with serious comedy chops.
Hire a newsletter writer with some comedy experience today to help you spice up those emails.
Stephanie G.‘s writing experience covers a vast array of topics and industries. Specialties include legal, entertainment, lifestyle, marketing, and automotive writing. A regular contributor for SheKnows Entertainment, Stephanie covers trending news, creates entertaining recaps, and interviews today’s hottest reality stars. Like most Minnesotans, Stephanie takes pride in her hometown. She regularly creates content about her home state; her articles for Twin Cities NewsCastic and other local sites have generated hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets.