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You’re so funny! Using Humor to Engage Customers

Marketing messages bombard us from all directions: watching the Sunday night football game, during the local news broadcast, billboards on the side of the road, or the ads in your Facebook news feed! So just how many ads are we exposed to each day? Researchers and marketing experts do not have a definitive answer but estimate the number to be upward towards 3,000. Only a handful get through and manage to rise above the visual “noise” to leave a lasting impression. So what is it about these messages that break through our consciousness and make a real connection?

Ever since the first newspaper advertisement (a 1704 announcement published in the Boston News-Letter, seeking a buyer for an Long Island estate) people have been searching for ways to connect with a potential audience

Ever since the first newspaper advertisement (a 1704 announcement published in the Boston News-Letter, seeking a buyer for an Long Island estate) people have been searching for ways to connect with a potential audience

It’s pretty funny…

Turns out, the answer isn’t all that surprising. According to a 2013 Forbes Insights report, 67% of consumers said that funny wins out when it comes to ads they remember. While we all don’t share the same sense of humor, there are a number of brands out there that have successfully melded humor into their message in such a way that we can’t possibly ignore what they have to say.

“Humor has virtually no media limits,” says Phil Saifer, President of Vertical Marketing Network, a top 100 integrated marketing agency. “Whether humor is incorporated in traditional media from out-of-home to broadcast, or through electronic media touch points, or even with the physicality of the brand with the product itself, when done right it can help fly under the consumer’s natural radar and deliver and important brand message.”

 

The “Eat Mor Chikin” campaign is often cited as an example of creative, integrated marketing in advertising textbooks across the country. The campaign has received  some of the industry’s most prestigious awards.

The “Eat Mor Chikin” campaign is often cited as an example of creative, integrated marketing in advertising textbooks across the country. The campaign has received some of the industry’s most prestigious awards.

Breaking through boundaries with billboards

 

The first “Eat Mor Chikin” billboard, complete with live-size model cows, debuted in 1995. Since then, the cows’ self-serving message (after all, if you eat chicken, you’re not eating them) has reached millions. Why has this campaign been so successful? It’s surprising, entertaining, easily identifiable with a specific brand, and it keeps delivering: over the years, consumers have come to expect and look forward to seeing the latest clever billboard.

you wanna piece of me?

Chick-fil-A had a “shoestring” advertising budget when they approached The Richard Group in 1995 to design their new campaign. Billboards were all the company could afford.

In fact, both Chick-fil-A and the Richards Group, the Dallas-based advertising agency that came up with the concept, credit the campaign with helping spur the growth for both companies.

Wayne Hassler, a 27-year food industry veteran who operates two Dallas-area Chick-fil-A outlets, says he saw a sales jump of at least 10 percent when the cows appeared.

Today, the cow is “truly a celebrity and our customers react that way,” he says.

From the moment the billboards went up in Atlanta and Dallas, “we were getting comment from all over town,” according to agency president Stan Richards. “We saw an immediate response from consumers and potential clients,” says Richards.

Airlines call these custom paint jobs liveries and they often sponsor or advertise for a company, sports team, charity or cause. Alaska Airlines is known for these unique, custom paint jobs

Painted planes

A company doesn’t have to have laugh-out-loud humor to connect with consumers. Sometimes it’s simply about not taking themselves too seriously. You’ve probably stopped in your tracks when you noticed the custom paint jobs on Alaska Airlines planes. These paint jobs are truly spectacular! The airliner’s fleet of 737s are adorned with images as diverse as a giant salmon to Genie from the Disney movie “Aladdin” to a Q400 with San Diego State University on the side.

While Alaska doesn’t have data available specific to whether the custom paint jobs on their planes directly leads to more customers, the company acknowledges that one of outcomes is that they are known as “the planes with the cool paint jobs.”

Using humor to break through internet clutter

One of the most groan-inducing aspects of the web is when you click on a link to a news story (or the latest cute-kitten video) but a pre-roll ad pops up, that 15 to 30 second advertisement you are forced to sit through before you can watch what you want. Pre-roll ads may actively annoy Internet users, adding to the challenge of making a real connection. But here is where doing specific pre-roll communications, versus a rehash of the TV spot, can work its charm. And if that pre-roll video involves humor, the brand has a real shot at higher engagement and click-through rates as well.

Burger King has developed a series of pre-roll ads that admit that, yes, pre roll ads are annoying. Each spot features a couple of guys making fun of pre-roll ads. The actors groan in sympathy about the viewer to watch yet another pre-roll ad. There are sixty four highly customized and universally hilarious spots that show of the burger chain’s sense of humor.

Impossible to ignore

According to a 2013 study by International Journal of Advanced Research in Management and Social Sciences 75% of the respondents said that the humor appeal used in ads increased the likelihood they would purchase that item. 62% even admitted that they have purchased a product just because they liked the commercial. According to International Business Times, funny ads are “more appealing and more memorable than their unfunny counterparts.”

The Most Interesting Man in the World campaign for Dos Equis beer features radio ads that make outrageous claims, delivered in a smooth, sophisticated voice over. "he gave his father 'the talk'" and "Sharks have a week dedicated to him" are two examples

The Most Interesting Man in the World campaign for Dos Equis beer features radio ads that make outrageous claims, delivered in a smooth, sophisticated voice over: “He gave his father ‘the talk'” and “Sharks have a week dedicated to him” are two examples

“Humor, when executed properly, helps cut through the noise and helps you stand out,” notes Tim Washer, a senior social media and marketing manager for Cisco Systems. “If you can make someone laugh, there is an emotional connection with them. And anything you say beyond that is going to be more meaningful.”

The most important challenge for advertisers isn’t merely to attract attention but to hold attention and focus it. However humorous an ad may be, ultimately messages must have substance. Consumers need to know what is great about a product, not just that their advertising team is clever. Humor should be used as a supplement — not a replacement — to create the most effective ads.

So thinking back, what are the ads that you remember most? Was it the humor that made them stand out for you or something else? Do you think they were effective? Enlighten us with your stories in the comment section below.

 


Brought to you by Vertical Marketing Network, a Leading Integrated Marketing Agency.

Screen captures intended as illustrative examples only. Registered trademarks and logos are the property of their respective owners.

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14 comments on “You’re so funny! Using Humor to Engage Customers

  1. Pingback: Here’s What Politicians and Selling Bleach Have in Common | Blogging Out Loud

  2. jeffs zen garden
    September 22, 2014

    As Charlie Chaplan proved, great humor doesn’t need words. Some great visual humor from Europe. http://youtu.be/ulPwA-RnmlQ

    Like

  3. Tonja Hughes
    September 17, 2014

    Irreverent humor works best for me or something that shocks you out of your normal routine. American Standard Toilet still is one the best. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWV026E7rLY

    Like

  4. karenelinder
    September 17, 2014

    I love humor in advertising–few people don’t. And it is especially hard to write a good ad with humor. Go ahead and try it. Few did it as well as DDB did when they turned the word of advertising on its head back in the 60’s. Humor + truth + some attitude paid off especially in their Volkswagon ads. A winning recipe for an emotional connection. Check out some of the old ads here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/copyranter/all-the-great-1960s-volkswagen-ads#3t2v5gb

    Like

    • Kim Haman
      September 18, 2014

      Thanks, Karen–the Volkswagon ad is good stuff. I’m a big fan of wry humor that makes you smile without being too over-the-top. People are smart–we don’t need to be pointed right at the joke to understand it. 🙂

      Like

  5. Tommy Humphreys
    September 17, 2014

    A good post making some great points. My favorite humorous ads are ads from other countries, where they aren’t afraid to push the envelope a little bit and be risque. Though I do like the Snickers ads with Betty White playing football as well…and I remember a Kmart web ad that was so funny it went viral in about two hours (I won’t repeat it here, it was a little off-color as well).

    Like

    • Kim Haman
      September 18, 2014

      I saw a hilarious/cringe-inducing ad while I was researching for this post–it was a Norweigian ad for English classes. I won’t post it here–too vulgar–but I laughed, even though I was a bit taken back by the language. In Europe, people take a much more relaxed view of such things.

      Like

  6. joannemhilton
    September 17, 2014

    I appreciate humor in ads. Humor in advertising is a feel-good emotion. Companies taking the negative emotions we feel everyday (through the media, home/work situations, etc.) and relating to these emotions through humor, providing substance, and without losing site of their message, then they’ve accomplished their goal. The more humorous the ad, the more a company can get beneath the surface to appeal to the consumer. Some of the funniest ads air during Super bowl. One of my favorites is e-trade – a serious matter about investments carried off by a talking baby! I especially love the one where he gets his phone taken away from him!

    Like

    • Kim Haman
      September 18, 2014

      I remember the E-Trade ad with the talking baby! I had a different reaction: I didn’t like the ad because the whole talking baby thing just weirded me out. But I was in the minority: most people loved that ad! It underscores my point that humor is great, but not everyone defines “humor” the same way. 🙂

      Like

  7. Diane
    September 17, 2014

    I think any ad that evokes a heartfelt emotion works – both heart tugging ads like the Budweiser after 9/11 and old Kodak ones with children and for sure the humorous ones. I don’t think you would fine one person out there that would not know exactly what “where’s the beef” was advertising – and that is the sign of a sure winner.

    Like

    • Kim Haman
      September 18, 2014

      Exactly, Diane! Where’s the Beef? will go down in history as one of the most memorable ads ever made!

      Another ad that became part of the collective consciousness was the Bud LIght “Whassssupppp?” ads. Remember those? “Whassssupppp?” became the nation’s catch phrase for a while!

      Like

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