How to Build Your Brand with Humor

Moazzam Adnan
by Moazzam Adnan 27 Nov, 2013


A few years ago, a ridiculous theater of life marketing experiment took place in Santa Monica. Two car dealerships, one Audi and one BMW, started a tug-of-war match of one-upmanship, through billboards targeting each other


Audi started the impromptu sign war with a picture of the A4 and the taunting tagline, "Your move, BMW." BMW responded with a billboard across the street with a shot of its own M3 Coupe and the line, "Checkmate." Audi came back with a second sign featuring another rib: "Your pawn is no match for our king." Finally, BMW had the last word by raising a blimp above the second Audi board, emblazoned with its Formula One car and the words, "Game over."


The essence of this lighthearted advertising contest is that showing personality and humor can draw attention to brands. The ridiculousness of the racecar as the ultimate victory is clear, because no commuter will be driving 200 mph to work. Both BMW and Audi received significant press attention for the interaction, attention diverted away from the other luxury automakers.


Luckily with content marketing through social media and the blog on your site, it's not necessary to rent roadway signs to make an impact. Let's look at how you can use humor to build your business's brand.


Why humor works for marketing

Former news anchor and social media speaker Cindy W. Morrison believes that showing your sense of humor on Facebook and Twitter generates a twist on ROI called ROR, which stands for "Return On Relationships." She provides the example of a sign at a brick-and-mortar business stating, "Children Left Unattended Will Be Given An Espresso And A Free Puppy." As she notes, the sign serves a function while also giving patrons a chuckle and the opportunity to relate to the business owner's perspective.


The same angle can be used on the various social sharing platforms. Humor offers a great opportunity to present something amusing to you, perhaps an anecdote. As long as the joke isn't mean-spirited, it provides potential customers an opportunity to connect with your humanity. Developing loyalty is all about forming relationships, and the "Return On Relationships" often starts with marketing.


Broadening the picture, marketing gives brands an opportunity to stand out. Humor is recommended because people like to laugh, so you're giving away an emotional upswing for free, as long as your users can connect with the sensibility of the comedy.


Several of the other bold maneuvers mentioned further demonstrate why humor works. One of them is personalization of the company through its brand pages, which is certainly achieved with humor. Another is relationship building, again central to humor and in agreement with the ROR concept above. What better way to connect with people and to show them that "you" (the business's identity) don't take yourself too seriously?


Different types of marketing humor

According to Business 2 Community, buyer personas and demographics are primary concerns with humor. You don't want to appear disrespectful or distasteful. Luckily, though, there are a variety of tactics you can use to deliver humorous content through your blog and social media pages:


Double entendres - Using puns or wordplay with multiple meanings works for everyone. It's especially helpful for serious fields such as healthcare and law. Humor must be more conscientious in those arenas, but you can at least go for a smile (as with Kaiser Permanente's shot of celery stalks with the line, "Beat obesity with a stick"). If you are in a more carefree industry, of course, double entendres are a great way to be adult and family-friendly at the same time.


Pop culture & current events - Nothing places you in the here and now like a reference to a TV show or movie, which subtly expresses the fact that your company is made up of real people who appreciate similar entertainment to your audience. These references can create an inside joke across a broad spectrum of people. A good example is a meme created by Impact Branding and Design, featuring Dwight from NBC's The Office and the line, "Fact: I sold 70% more beets online this year because of inbound marketing."


Memejacking - Numerous types of media hijacking are popular online, including newsjacking ("stealing" the thunder created by a news story) and memejacking (creating a twist on a popular meme). The fact is, online hijacking is simply following trends and relating to the current climate. Following the leader in this way can work very well on social media. For instance, a Willy Wonka meme starting with the line, "Oh you have 57 Facebook fans?" was repurposed with the new punchline, "You must be an inbound marketing expert." It's not hilarious, but it's light and relatable to those who get the parody.


Let's face it: everyone appreciates a laugh. You can create a real-world stir with a stunt like that pulled by the Santa Monica car dealerships. Even if you just focus on your website's presence to express humor, marketing can create a Return On Relationships. Just be sure you consider your buyer personas before determining what type of approach your humor should take.


Moazzam Adnan - Director of Business Development, Atlantic.Net


Moazzam currently holds the position of Director of Business Development at Atlantic.Net, where he contributes to the growth of Atlantic.Net by branding and leveraging their product offerings with Web and social media marketing. With over 12 years of experience in marketing and business strategy, he has successfully launched and managed products from concept to marketing to profitable campaigns.