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Written by Paula Toole
“Comedy is a great art when it works, but is it meaningful? Well, sure it’s meaningful if you had a great laugh.”
The late, great Robin Williams certainly raised a few laughs, and was as well placed as anyone to discuss the impact of comedy as an artform and a device.
While adopting a less-than-serious approach can often lead to being taken less-than-seriously yourself, humour can also be extremely effective in building brand awareness, particularly in an age where the entire world is connected and friends, family, colleagues and even strangers can exchange humorous content at the click of a button.
Think about the videos you saw on your Facebook timeline today – what was the one thing that connected them? In 90 per cent of cases, it will have been the fact that they were funny.
Analysis of 100 million pieces of content found that 32 per cent of all videos, blogs, articles, images, posts and other content that is shared online is done so because it invokes either laughter or amusement. That’s a third of all content shared on the internet, and it’s easy to see why.
Comedy has a way of uniting people; it can transcend language and cultural barriers and – of course – help to raise awareness of a brand and create a positive perception and association.
Aldi has gained critical acclaim and a lot of new customers from its humorous adverts, which range from parody to sheer silliness, but for every successful comedy-based campaign there are several that shoot themselves in the foot by misjudging the audience and generating crickets and tumbleweed.
The key to a successful humour-based campaign is to ensure that the message is not diluted. Aldi may make people smile, but everyone who sees its ads is left with the clear message that the supermarket’s own-brand produce is cheaper than branded rivals, although it stocks both anyway so the customer can choose.
Capitalising on pop culture is always a risky strategy, as it not only limits the shelf life of the campaign, but also runs the risk of falling on deaf ears if people are not familiar with the subject matter.
Worse still is if the intended effect of making people laugh actual upsets or disgusts them, as Domino’s found out with its Fifty Shades of Grey-inspired hot sauce campaign, which thankfully never made it out of the marketing dungeon.
Of course, what works for a B2C client may not work for a B2B client, and in many cases the effect of any content will be dependent on exactly what it is – whether written, video or graphical.
The platform it is published on will also have a bearing on what kind of audience it reaches and be a determining factor in its shelf life. Intense social media amplification can help to generate impressions and buzz through increased shares that can give something serious legs and bridge into new networks and audiences, but it is important not to flog a dead horse if what you thought was funny is failing to crack smiles.
Trial and error is the key, but the fact is that people will always want humour in their lives, and if it is possible to do this while communicating a brand message, then it makes it all the more powerful.
In the 1989 classic Dead Poet’s Society, Robin Williams’ Mr Keating says: “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
While not every idea is a good one and not every attempt at being funny will make people laugh, the correct use of humour can help to set your organisation apart and carve a niche that helps to raise awareness and engagement with your brand.