On International Woman’s Day 20222, Burger King tweeted the words, ‘Women belong in the kitchen’.
Burger King followed up this tweet with more tweets highlighting the discrepancy between male and female chefs in restaurants.
Some people thought it was a great way to attract attention and highlight a problem.
But unfortunately, most of Twitter did not agree, and Burger King was heavily criticised.
Watching a brand get kicked through virtual mud on social media is enough to scare anyone off being funny.
But if you’ve ever felt fear at the thought of incorporating humour into your marketing, all you need to do is ask yourself some questions…
Am I being funny to deliver value to my audience in an entertaining way? Do I genuinely want to make them laugh?
Or is this about me? Is it about exposure? Is it about getting attention for myself? Is it about being controversial for controversial sake?
Like Burger King, you can’t control how someone interprets your message. But you can control your approach to comedy, to begin with. If it’s the former (i.e. delivering value to your audience in an entertaining way) you know you’re on solid ground and that your intent is good. If it’s the latter, maybe rethink your approach!
So you think you’re funny, do ya?
So you’ve asked yourself the question, do I want to be funny to entertain and give value to my audience?
Yes, Lyndsay. I do!
So the next question is: How do you use humour in your business?
The problem is, you might be funny to your friends and family. But sometimes, that humour doesn’t transfer to your business.
My four-year-old finds me hilarious. But I don’t think my clients would find my walrus impression using breadstick teeth particularly funny. (Although, hit me up if that’s something that tickles your funny bone).
So that’s why in this blog post, I’ll walk you through the actionable ways you can be funny. And I’ll also give you 11 prompts too, which will help amuse even the most serious of audiences.
This isn’t about being contrived or unauthentic. It still has to come from you. This blog post will get your funny juices flowing, but you’re the one who will need to think of the content.
Ready? Let’s go.
The psychology behind using humour in your marketing
You know ‘Terry the tight-arse’ who never buys a round on a night out but makes you spit your drink in laughter?
There’s a reason ‘Terry’ can get away with it: because he is funny.
Making people laugh is a superpower. Humour is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful ways to communicate. It can help your audience relieve tension, boost self-esteem and establish a connection to you.
Ultimately, it makes your audience feel good. And making people feel good helps you sell stuff. Wild, right?
Humour is subjective: but this isn’t a big problem
Some people find Mrs Brown’s Boys funny. I’ve never met such a person, but I’m sure they exist somewhere. They must do; it was voted the best sitcom in the UK.
Yet, I would rather have a root canal while simultaneously doing my taxes than watch it.
And this is the biggest problem people have with using humour in their marketing. It’s subjective. What appeals to one person will turn off another.
But this isn’t a bad thing for your brand.
The creators of Mrs Brown’s Boys won’t give two hoots I don’t like the show, and, in the same way, you shouldn’t worry that some people might not like your humour.
The only people who you should think about are your target audience. Not your mum, or your mates, or your competitors or business buddies…your audience (and we’ll come on to this a bit later).
It’s better to have 100 raving fans who find you hilarious and 100 people who find your humour a load of rubbish than simply 200 people who can’t even remember your name.
Some people might find me a bit dry or sarcastic. Some won’t find me funny at all. And that’s okay. Because they’re not my audience.
What are the ways you can be funny in your marketing?
So here’s the nitty-gritty bit.
And I’ll be honest, whenever I write a blog post, I always snoop around to see what other people have published on the topic.
A lot of people talk about why you should use humour. And there are lots of good examples out there, mainly from bigger brands like Dollar Shave Club.
But I have yet to come across someone who tackles the different ways you can be funny, and this is what I’m going to do in this blog post.
I’ve looked at the different ways businesses (and I’m mainly talking about small to mid-sized businesses here) use humour in their marketing.
I’ve broken these up into different categories, which you can find below. You don’t have to use all of these. But they should give you some really good ideas.
1. Making fun of your audience/customers
WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU, LYNDSAY?!
I know, I know. I am fully aware that pointing and laughing at our potential customers is not a good sales tactic (duh). So when I say ‘making fun of your audience,’ I mean in the right way.
But I notice A LOT of people get this wrong. But I understand 100%, why they get it wrong.
I once worked in a chocolate shop and had a customer berate me because her Easter egg melted after she’d left it in her car for 4 hours in 35+ degree heat.
And yes, when I’d replaced the egg, and the customer had stormed off with a new one, my colleague and I did go into the back room and laugh about it.
Because we’re human. And sometimes, we will run into customers who do or say things that seem utterly bizarre (and probably hilarious) to us.
Laughter is our way of dealing with the situation. It’s a way of relieving stress and tension. It’s a way of getting through the damn day when things are rubbish, and perhaps customers are being utterly weird and unreasonable.
Now the problem is, many people don’t have staff rooms or colleagues or an outlet for them to find someone to laugh with about these happenings.
So they turn to their trusty friend, the internet!
I’ve seen countless posts that make fun of customers. Some are more justifiable than others. Some about late payments or rude behaviour. Others blame customers for their lack of technical skills or knowledge or ‘perceived’’ stupidity.
Typically, people do this because they seek laughter and perhaps comfort from their business friends and others in their industry.
Now, I’m not here to wag my finger at you and tell you what you should or shouldn’t post on the internet.
But, when you post something like this, you could potentially discourage customers from working with you.
So you need to make sure you do it in the right way, and by that, I mean to provide value.
There’s a way of poking fun at your audience while getting them to learn something new or come to a realisation, and THAT’S where you can connect with them.
An example of how poking fun at your customers’ works
I’ll use our example here. On April 1st 2019, we published an article about how to create the perfect website. The date was, of course, April Fool’s Day.
In the blog post, we poked fun at the most common website mistakes business owners make.
This was everything from wanting a logo so ginormous it gave the website user ‘a virtual punch in the face’ to harassing your website visitors with pop-ups until they’re forced to give you their information.
This article gained us two new clients.
Mostly, people took it in good grace. Some people admitted that they were guilty of doing some of the things we’d described.
But the point is, they gained value from it. We had some people laugh and say they’d changed things on their website because of our post.
It wasn’t a personal attack on someone’s character, it simply made fun of common website mistakes.
If you do this the right way, you can attract better customers
Yes, many of our website designer and copywriter friends found this funny, but, more importantly, it allowed us to attract better clients.
People who read this understood that we were experts at website design. We don’t exactly come across as pushovers, right? So we attracted the kind of clients who wanted an expert and not someone to boss around!
An overview of comedy that pokes fun at your audience
Pros: can position you as an authority and can make customers understand what they’re doing wrong
Cons: there’s a fine line between getting your audience to laugh at themselves and downright insulting them–so try not to cross it.
Poking fun at your audience prompts:
- What does your audience get wrong (around what you sell)? For example, if you’re an email marketer, your audience could be guilty of only emailing their list every three months when they have something to sell.
- What classic things does your audience say that you disagree with? For us, it’s ‘my audience doesn’t expect to see a price on a website. They prefer to talk to us.’ (Said no one ever).
- What expectations does your audience have around your product or service that are incorrect? For example, for us, it’s that SEO is long-term, and it takes forever to see results
How can you turn the answers to these questions into funny anecdotes? Give it a try!
2. Personal Brand Comedy
Personal brand comedy is exactly that, it’s comedy related to you. It’s to enhance your personal brand. And it doesn’t (necessarily) have anything to do with what you sell. It can be more to do with your personality.
Now, I will hold my hands up and say that I used to struggle with this.
Not because I’m especially introverted–even though I am–but because I’m obsessed with giving value.
But not everything has to be value driven, particularly if you’re raising your profile. Simply making your audience laugh is value in itself.
Personal brand comedy will make you memorable. So when someone thinks who should I hire for this, they’re like, ‘oh yeah! Julie. They’re so funny, I love them!’
An example of personal brand comedy
Janine Coombes is a marketing coach and all-around business whizz. She’s also bloody hilarious.
Her LinkedIn is full of valuable, actionable business advice. But she also posts funny videos that have absolutely nothing to do with what she sells.
Like this video, all about Janine’s love of water butts (yes, water butt fans are a thing).
And you might think, well, what the heck does this have to do with anything?
Well, number one, when someone says the phrase ‘marketing coach’, I without question think of Janine. Her smiley face pops into my head immediately, and of course, I recommend her.
But also, imagine you’re looking for a marketing coach–someone you have to talk to regularly over a long period. You’ll want to find someone who you like, right? And if you’re comparing two marketing coaches who offer a similar service and have similar knowledge, are you going to go with the bland one or the one that makes you laugh? I bet it’s the latter!
When you let your personality shine through using humour, you will attract like-minded people who love who you are and how you work.
An overview of personal brand comedy
Pros: it can make you stand out, and people could choose you over your competition
Cons: too much of it can make people forget exactly what it is you do. You have to balance it with more relatable, actionable content
Personal brand comedy prompts:
- What weird shit are you into? Okay, try not to go too weird. But don’t be afraid to show your quirky side. For example, I happen to know that health coach Hayley has a love for Louis Theroux. It makes me laugh every time I see her talk about him.
- What’s something funny that happened to you today? Take me, for example, having an utterly disastrous conversation with a woman in a cafe and using it for content…
3. Making fun of your industry
Do you know what I find utterly bizarre? When I see more people making fun of their customers than their competition.
Newsflash – your competition does not pay the bills!
Now I’m not saying you should slag off individual companies, that’s a recipe for disaster (and a lawsuit), but there are often things about our industry our customers find bewildering, frustrating or downright dodgy.
And you’re well within your right to call that shit out and make fun of it (if you like).
Because when you point all of this stuff out, you’re saying to your prospective customers, I’m not like this. You may think that everyone in our industry does this, and many do, but I don’t. You immediately position yourself as more trustworthy.
We’re in the SEO industry, and I’m not sure if you’ve come across the industry, dear reader, but if you have, you probably know there’s A LOT of stuff I could make fun of.
A lot of shady shit goes down, from companies that make SEO sound like some sort of dark art to those who make their customers hand over their firstborn child before they give an actual price.
You might be in a similar industry. You may see your competitors do stuff that makes you wince or winds you up. Or even stuff you find quirky or odd. Whatever it is, it makes for great, funny content.
And hey, you might just find you give people in your industry a laugh too.
An example of making fun of your industry
Mike is a funnel-building expert and author of Five Figure Funnels. And I love what Mike has done here. Here’s made fun of a subset of the marketing industry, ‘bro marketers’.
You may have come across bro marketers before, they tend to sell you a rags-to-riches story after they discovered some super secret success sales formula (they like to alliterate with the letter S) which they will sell to you for just five grand.
So I enjoyed Mike thoroughly taking the piss out of them. Will he offend ‘bro-marketers’ who identify with what he posts in the video? Probably. Should he care? Absolutely not. Because ultimately, he’s putting his customers first. He’s showing them the kind of people they should avoid and positioning himself as someone with a completely different ethos and approach to ‘bro-marketers’.
An overview of comedy that makes fun of your industry
Pros: positions you as someone who isn’t like the ‘competition’ and attracts new people
Cons: you could face disagreements from others in your industry, but that’s okay!
Making fun of your industry comedy prompts:
- What do others do in your industry that annoys you? For example, if you’re a SaaS company, this could be others in your industry not giving essential product features on their lower plans–forcing customers to move up. Or getting charged so much more for extra features.
- What’s something that’s the ‘norm’ for your industry that you don’t do? For example, for us, that’s the whole ‘have a call with a client, send a proposal, and only THEN give a price’ thing. We’re upfront with our SEO content writing prices.
4. Relatable business comedy
This is probably the most common form of comedy you’ll come across. Relatable business comedy takes everyday shenanigans that we experience and turns them into…well, comedy.
This can be related to what you sell or completely unrelated. For example, Innocent crack me up yearly for their social media commentary on Eurovision. Eurovision has absolutely nothing to do with smoothies (but it helps brand loyalty and awareness).
So it’s entirely up to you how you do this. But one thing that is difficult about this is thinking of it on the spot. Some people can do it, but most cannot (I personally find it difficult). I prefer to note something funny that happened in my day. They make great stories.
Example of relatable business comedy
Dead Happy, a life insurance company (yes, that is their name), will have you in literal stitches with their relatable comedy all about the topic of…death.
Their content is aimed at the 8 million people in the UK who wouldn’t use a financial adviser but do need life insurance.
It’s not stuffy or formal –as co-founder Phil Zeidler puts it, it’s ‘like talking to a mate at the pub about death, which for many us has an edge of humour’. Dead Happy is trying to get people to be more open about death in a humorous, informal way. Or, in their words, ‘Talking about sex won’t make you pregnant. Talking about funerals won’t make you dead.’
Here are some of their recent social media posts so you can see what I mean.
FYI, top middle for me.
All of the above for Martin. As he explained, ‘I’m not fussy,’ which made me feel extra special.
And here are a few more examples…
An overview of relatable business comedy
Pros: mass appeal and usually makes people laugh! It also doesn’t have to be controversial or attention-seeking.
Cons: too much of it and people can easily forget what you do!
Using relatable business comedy prompts:
- What are some funny things you laugh at all the time in your business For example, for me, it’s the number of people who find learning about SEO truly painful or boring (which is why I wrote this…)
- What happened to you today that was funny?
Our good friends Rob and Kennedy gave us a great piece of advice–there are stories in your day that can easily be turned into entertaining and valuable content. You just have to look for them. What happened today to you that was funny? Can you use this?
5. Political humour
Have you ever heard of the phrase, ‘belief-driven buying’?
Simply put, it’s when a customer buys a product because the brand aligns with their values and beliefs. According to a study by the Edelman Trust in 2019, 64% of people classed themselves as ‘belief-driven buyers’, an increase from 51% in 2017.
This ain’t just a millennial or Generation Z ‘thing’ either: ‘Almost as many consumers aged 35 to 54 buy on belief as 18- to 34-year-olds. And 60% of people overall said brands should make it easier to see their values and position on important issues at the point of sale.
So if you’ve steered clear of politics for fear of putting people off, you may find that talking about your views isn’t such a bad thing. It tells people who you are and what you stand for, which will attract customers with similar beliefs and ethics.
Don’t manufacture something to care about
The problem is, brands have never had to prove that they care about something until recently; they could just tell us they cared.
But now we can find the proof, and we can also find out when they’re lying. All you have to do is take a look at the news every once in a while, and you can see the stories of brand hypocrisy; for example, stories of ‘greenwashing’, where brands claim that they care about the environment but actually do things that harm the planet.
Or the companies giving lipservice on International Women’s Day, only for a Twitter Bot to highlight the differences in pay between their male and female employees.
Ultimately, it’s better to decide not to discuss anything political in your business rather than manufacture something to care about.
If you’re going to talk politics, make sure you walk the walk. Because no one likes a hypocrite.
But if you do want to talk politics, bringing in a little humour to get your point across is one of the best ways to do this.
An example of political humour
There are very few rules I’ve stuck to that I had at the start of my business ten years ago, except this one: AVOID POLITICS.
That was until July 2022, when I decided to call out the UK government. What I decided to call them out on was important to me–but more importantly–to my audience.
In all its wisdom, the UK government decided to advise businesses to cut their marketing spend prior to the upcoming recession (I know, they’re just so good at filling businesses with confidence and a positive outlook).
So I decided to highlight just how bizarre this advice was, and I posted about it. It’s one of my most successful LinkedIn posts to date.
Sometimes, a political issue doesn’t have to be part of your brand, it can just be something that annoys you!
An overview of political humour
Pros: can attract people with similar values and ethics as you
Cons: your views could potentially turn people off
Using political humour prompts:
- What don’t you agree with that’s happening right now? For example, like me with the government’s decision to advise businesses to cut their marketing spend.
- What do you and your audience care about?
For example, if that’s the environment, can you incorporate that into your marketing and brand? This won’t always have a ‘humourous’ slant, particularly if it’s a serious topic, but sometimes it can.
What’s your next step?
The first thing to do is just test it out. Be a little funny in your blog or post something humorous on social media.
But what if I don’t get anything back from my audience?
I’ll hold my hands up and say I’ve tried to be funny only to see tumbleweed in return. Sometimes you won’t always hit the mark. You learn from it and move on!
Or if you’d like us to write you hilarious content that ranks on search engines, check out our content writing packages.
Owner at Jammy Digital, Digital Marketing Specialist and Writer of Young-Adult Fiction.