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Make ‘em Laugh: The Power of Humour in Advertising

Glenda Wynyard

They say laughter is the best medicine, but is it the best advertising strategy?

When it comes to leaving a lasting impression or capturing attention, there are many ways we can do this. Like many on the dating scene, humour is a highly successful strategy in standing out from the crowd of many possible suitors, or in this case, brands.

Advertising is a dynamic industry that constantly seeks innovative ways to reach and resonate with consumers. In this blog post, we explore the effectiveness of humour in advertising, its impact on emotional connections, and how brands can harness its power to create engaging and memorable campaigns.

#1 Comedy can be seriously effective

Humour can create an emotional connection between viewer and brand. According to research conducted by Affectiva and Kantar, fun or humourous tones evoke stronger positive emotions than other advertisement genres – even dramatic or serious PSAs. Industries that have been traditionally “serious” in tone and content, such as the healthcare industry, are now turning to humour to motivate public response. So, even if there is a serious message to be told, humour can be the best method to deliver and communicate it. 

#2 Laughter offers likeability

Laughter is one of the most powerful ways a brand can connect with its audience on a human level. By incorporating humour, advertisers can establish a strategic shortcut to likeability, building positive perception and sentiment. Familiarising yourself with generational nuances, such as Gen Z's use of emojis and memes, is another tool you can use to ensure humour lands and forms likeability. Laughter, likeability, and loyal consumers – that’s a winning combo in our books.

#3 Chuckles cause chatter

Milward Brown recently underwent research discovering the connection between humour and brand memorability and found that using humour increases the likelihood of virality and positively impacts brand resonance.

Creating shareable content is one of the most sought-after ways to get brand awareness out there. Interestingly, humour is consistently proving to be an effective creative strategy to do so. But why is this actually important for brands? The answer lies in memorability. Ads that evoke stronger emotions have a greater impact on long-term brand equity and mental salience. 

Building salience with humour and understanding the nuances of the different social media platforms is crucial. Why? It determines its effectiveness. When looking at TikTok, for example, users found that humour is key for driving engagement and building audiences and following. 

#4 LOL helps ROI

When looking at reliable predictors of sales conversion, traditional metrics like click-through rates or completion rates are less reliable than that of engagement and attitudinal responses. 

In an experiment conducted by Ehrenberg-Bass, over 60 brands and 300 ads were analysed across various markets. Their aim was to determine the correlation between humour and advertising effectiveness. The results showed that 45% of ads that used humour were deemed good performers in driving sales.

With this in mind, remember that using humour requires finesse. Be sure to identify the type of humour that aligns with your brand archetype and provides a solid foundation for your humour strategy. Otherwise, the use of humour may not land, be deemed poor-form or even, out of touch. 

#5 Humour creates cut-through in B2B

Using humour in B2B advertising is a great tool to create cut-through. Adopting traditionally consumer-targeted messages and consumer-centric tones into your B2B campaigns will inject creativity and be a point of difference for other adverts in market (as opposed to corporate jargon). If you are nervous to incorporate this into your B2B advertising strategy, seek feedback from audiences and industry experts and undergo research to determine and improve your humour strategy.

To circle back to my earlier dating analogy, sometimes we have to kiss a few frogs before we find our prince. In other words, when it comes to humour in advertising, getting it right takes time, effort and a bit of trial and error. However, based on its success, humour in advertising is certainly worth exploring. It helps foster positive perceptions, drive engagement, and leave a lasting impression.

If you want to know other ways to improve your advertising strategy, read our article on Research in Australian Media and Advertising Agencies or join the conversation via our podcast – a guaranteed great topic of conversation for a first date.

This article is part of a series following the topics covered on our podcast, Pending Approval.

Glenda Wynyard is the Managing Director of The Media Precinct and host of the Pending Approval podcast. She draws on her wealth of experience in advertising to bring you key ideas from the topics covered in the show. 

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