Humour in advertising: Using it effectively

in Marketing by Kathleen Aoki
(4 Ratings)
Humourous advertising

Humour in advertising, when used effectively, can be a great way to capture peoples’ attention and create an emotional response, which has been shown to lead to positive brand associations and awareness.

Who can forget the humorous “Unbreakable” Toyota Hilux campaign, showing the ute surviving what are clearly ridiculous and exaggerated situations to great effect. Yet these ads, even after one viewing, are far more memorable than ones that simply highlight the benefits of the product could ever be.

As Todd Trautz, Vice President of Research Services at InsightExpress, says, “People tend to pay more attention to humorous ads than serious or factual ones, opening themselves up to influence.”

Make sure the humour is appropriate to your product or service

However, in order for humour in advertising to be effective, advertisers need to make sure that the humour is appropriate to the product or service being promoted. In general, humour seems to work best with products that are common, established and don’t require a lot of thought.

On the other hand, products that are complex, technical or targeted to a very specific audience do not lend themselves to humour as readily, although a creative, out-of-the-box approach can sometimes make it work.

Make sure the humour is suited to your audience

The type of humour used also needs to be well-suited to your audience, since what is considered funny differs greatly across demographics. For example, while an older, more sophisticated audience might be quite receptive to irony and satire, the same might not hold true for younger audiences.

“The humour should also be strongly branded and product-specific,” says Trautz. “Everyone has seen a really funny ad but forgotten the brand and what was being sold. Thus, these executions must relate directly to your business or product if you want to be remembered.”

Here are some guidelines to using humour effectively in your ad campaigns:

•  Be sure to test your humorous ad on an impartial target audience to determine if the humour is understood, actually considered funny and acceptable.

•  Don’t be overly repetitive – the first time consumers see an ad, it’s funny, but after a while it loses its impact.

•  Don’t make the humour more important than the marketing message. There is little point in using the humour if people can’t remember what the ad was about.

•  Be consistent in the style of humour across different ads, regardless of the channels used.

•  When using humour, resist the temptation to burden your audience with too much product information.

•  While humour in advertising should always be tasteful and socially acceptable, don’t be afraid to push the edge a bit. Playing it too safe can equate to boring material.

•  Never use humour to mask unfounded or deceptive claims, as this can seriously backfire.

Using humour effectively can give you an edge over the competition and help you achieve a more likeable brand image. Humour helps enhance recall, evaluation and even purchase intention when the humorous message combines effectively with the ad’s purpose.

Don’t be afraid to use humour in your advertising, but do everything you can to ensure that your message is one that will be well-received by your target audience.

This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.

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Kathleen Aoki

Kathleen has a degree in marketing with over 10 years experience in the IT field as a database developer and web designer. As a freelance writer, Kathleen has written for several publications across Australia as well as for various business and hi-tech blogs online.

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