We try a lot of tricks when it comes to content marketing. Sometimes it feels like we’re throwing everything (even pancakes) at the wall and seeing what sticks. The end result? Consumers ignore most of our content, making us feel a bit like Rodney Dangerfield: like we’re getting “no respect!”
Ironically, though, there’s a lot marketers can learn from Dangerfield himself. Adding screwball or slapstick humor to our marketing content is a proven way to make it more effective.
Think we’re joking? Keep reading to learn more about how and why screwball comedy makes content better (and more fun).
Funny Kind of Memory
When it comes to adding humor to content marketing, we often get a very blunt question: why? Aside from the fact that everyone loves a good joke, what are the tangible benefits to adding humor to your marketing?
The first answer may surprise you: humor enhances memory. Why is this? Most commercials are straightforward pitches asking customers to buy their product. Such commercials are seen as disposable, and they are also not memorable because they are so simple.
Humor, though, forces the brain to process what is going on. We have to process the joke and punchline, and this extra brainpower makes us remember the marketing far longer than we otherwise would. Just think about how many people learned about the relationship between wine and grapes by laughing at the grape stomping in I Love Lucy!
Lowers the Defense Mechanism
Many customers are wary about being pitched to. This is especially true of Millennials, as they are a demographic very sensitive to the ways that they think companies are trying to manipulate them.
However, the great thing about humor in marketing is that it helps lower the defense mechanisms. Instead of feeling like they are being pitched to, customers feel like they are in on the joke, creating a sense of fellowship with the company.
One of the greatest modern examples of this is when Tide used Stranger Things star David Harbour in a commercial that made fun of commercials. Consumers thought they were watching one kind of ad, and then Harbour would pop up and say “it’s a Tide ad.”
This is a really brilliant marketing strategy. Tide mocked commercial marketing and even laughed at themselves…and they ended up creating an ad that is much more memorable to consumers than a traditional “serious” advertisement.
Weird But Relevant
It’s worth noting that not all humor is effective when it comes to your marketing content. The best use of humor is when it manages to be topical and relevant to the product and to the consumers.
Think about the funny teachers you’ve had in your life. There are two kinds of funny teachers: the first will tell on-topic jokes regarding the lesson, while the other will tell off-topic jokes to their captive audience of students.
Both of these teachers may be funny. But only the first example is pairing the humor with good content that is worth remembering. Any humor you use in your marketing needs to be relevant to your product and your consumers or your humor becomes abstract, absurd, and ultimately unmemorable. Narratively, a great example of this is the screwball classic Bringing Up Baby. Much of the humor might seem like random chaos…but every wacky gag moves the plot forward, making sure we pay attention to every bit of it.
Humor Is the New Storytelling
There’s a marketing buzzword we bet you’re tired of hearing: “storytelling.” Sure, it’s true that customers respond to narrative in a powerful way. And a well-done narrative commercial can ignite our emotions and end up being far more memorable than a dry commercial with no narrative at all.
Here’s a little secret, though: humor works just as well as storytelling for your purposes, and in many cases is more memorable. This is because the power of the narrative hinges on making your audience curious about what comes next: as we said earlier, well-crafted humor makes the brain constantly trying to figure out what’s going on, giving you a similar effect. You can see this at the movies, where the modern screwball classic A Fish Called Wanda wasn’t just good for a laugh, but ended up being nominated for three Oscars. Audiences didn’t just laugh at these characters: they laughed with them and wanted to learn more about their world.
And humor helps to do the impossible: it humanizes your company as honest and a bit silly even as it conditions them to react in a positive way to your marketing. This gives you an unexpected bonus, too, as audiences that find your marketing funny will be that much likelier to share it with their friends.
Teaspoon of Sugar
We’ve been talking a lot about humor and content marketing. Here’s the thing, though: many of us sell very basic products and work in very straightforward industries. Sometimes, it can be tough to imagine anyone finding our products or companies very funny.
However, humor can help make anything easier to relate to. Most of us would agree that insurance is a boring industry…but commercials featuring the Geico Gecko or Allstate’s Mayhem character help make this dry and serious subject into something we can laugh at together.
It’s a lot like the classic lyric: “a teaspoon of sugar helps the medicine go down.” You don’t have to create a commercial of wall-to-wall slapstick: even small doses of humor are welcome, as they help us memorize and pay attention to everything else in the ad.
Comedy Is Universal
One of the most convincing arguments for why you should include humor in your marketing is also one of the simplest: humor is universal.
Marketers spend a lot of time, money, and research trying to figure out what different demographics like and what they don’t like. And while this is well and good, comedy is nice and simple: everyone loves to laugh. Shakespeare understood this centuries ago: he basically invented the crowd-pleasing screwball genre with The Comedy of Errors, and he was smart enough to insert comedy throughout even his darkest tragedies to keep audiences engaged.
Focus on things like situational comedy everyone can relate to, or even outlandish humor that still connects to what you are selling. It’s something that your entire audience can laugh at and enjoy, and as we’ve been saying, it virtually ensures that your audience will remember your content far more than they would remember a straightforward advertisement.
That’s All, Folks
Humor isn’t easy. As the old saying goes, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” However, it’s very rewarding for your company and your consumers.
Whether it’s screwball or slapstick or situational or anything in-between, comedy helps make all of your content more memorable and more effective. To see how consumer laughter leads to consumer loyalty, start cracking those jokes today!
Chris S is a professor of English at a small college in Northwest Florida. He has over ten years of experience in teaching others how to write and uses his knowledge to provide clients with well-researched answers and explanations. He has answered over 1500 questions for Ask.com and written hundreds of articles for other sites ranging from entertainment-centric “Top 10 lists” to detailed breakdowns of how to enter new career fields. From blogs to lists to any custom content, he is here to impress you.