Yes, it can. But there’s some caveats, just like when it comes to marketing with memes or other cutting-edge humor.
Humor isn’t monolithic and depending on the audience you have–and the audience you want–absurdist humor in the vein of Monty Python, less topical SNL sketches, or the more out-there satire that was shown on the likes of Broad City could actually be the direction you want to take for your content marketing efforts. Absurdist humor is often thought of as a death knell in marketing, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Here’s why absurdist humor has a place in content, and how to implement it well.
Absurdism Has the Flexibility of Being a Last OR First Resort
While humor in and of itself is as diverse as any given audience, the basic tenets of using humor in marketing still apply: don’t punch down, keep it easy to relate to, and put people at ease, especially if you’re in an industry not really known for being the life of the party.
Absurdist humor actually has a lot of flexibility in that you can plan something far in advance like the infamous “Two Sheds” Monty Python sketch that has been riffed on by numerous entertainers in the ensuing decades and could easily be referenced in a funny ad campaign or original video meant to inform or entertain. Or if your team is stumped coming up with a way to make a presentation or post appeal to people, then someone suddenly creates a funny doodle on the sly that becomes a bizarre creature with a message, absurdism also works well at the last minute.
Become a Better Storyteller with Bizarre, Out-There Humor Resulting From Wordplay
A former SNL writer actually recommends using randomization and totally out-there concepts to get outside your comfort zone and genuinely make people laugh.
Using the examples from the article, connecting words like “bacon and circus” led to an ad with a clown farmer that definitely made people stop in their tracks. The free association resulting from “chinchilla” and “marshmallow” led to “marshmallow traps” in a crowd exercise, with potential ideas being a s’more in a psychologist’s office that no longer traps marshmallows. The possibilities are endless, but by practicing word association among seemingly unrelated ideas, you can not only get some absurd premises for memorable marketing but also improve your storytelling skills and on-the-spot thinking immensely.
If free association seems too out there, think about common pains in your target audience or relatable problems people face. Can they be satirized into something even bigger than it actually is, or stay on point with some bizarre word association stemming from the common problems your audience is trying to solve? Becoming more attuned with both of these things leads to more humor that resonates and potentially become meme-able.
Absurd Humor Can Still Be G-Rated and Doesn’t Have to Be a “Big-Lipped Alligator Moment”
A common misconception about absurdist humor is that it has to always push the envelope when it couldn’t be farther from the truth. You can have funny and bizarre content that isn’t racy or too controversial, but regardless of how “mature” the content can seem, it also doesn’t have to be a non-sequitur from the main point you’re trying to make.
The “Big-Lipped Alligator Moment” is a reference to a scene from the 1989 Don Bluth flick All Dogs Go to Heaven where this ostentatiously-dressed alligator completely comes out of nowhere, sings a song with surrealistic visuals, then disappears and is never brought up again. It’s completely devoid of context and has virtually nothing to do with the rest of the film, and it had no foreshadowing whatsoever.
If trippy visuals and meme-worthy musical numbers help get the audience’s attention, go for it! But the scene or bizarre characters still need some kind of contextualizing with your chief message, like “We solve this problem our competition doesn’t” or “We were the first brand to do X” even if you’re using something like break-dancing aliens using vegetables for money.
All types of humor have a place in content marketing, it’s just a matter of knowing how to bury the lede properly and get the right context once your audience is hooked by the strange or surreal premise.
Rachel P is an indie game developer, writer, and consultant. She is also a content strategist here at Writer Access and would be happy to help you with keyword maps, customer journey maps, and buyer personas in addition to writing for you. If you would to like to hire Rachel to devise a content strategy for you, please contact your account manager or send a direct message.