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Using Humor Effectively in Your Content Marketing Plan

inbound marketing
Using Humor Effectively in Your Content Marketing Plan

Everyone's a comedian.

Alright, maybe the actual saying is “Everyone’s a critic.” But it’s worth acknowledging that in today’s content-infused world, comedy is omnipresent. Brands are increasingly using humor to stand out from the noise. After all, who doesn’t like to laugh?

While humor is used correctly, it helps people learn, retain and recall information – all valuable things to a marketer.  For that reason, it makes a lot of sense to include humor in your content marketing plan.  

A (Very, Very) Brief History of Humor in Modern Marketing

The concept of blending comedy and marketing isn’t new. In fact, when I was thinking about this topic, the beer ads of the 1980s were one of the first things that came to mind. Most notably Miller Lite’s ubiquitous “Tastes Great, Less Filling” campaign.

Other well-known examples include the Geico cavemen of the 2000s and the campaign that, for my money, kicked in the door on modern absurdism in marketing: Old Spice’s award-winning The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.



Sounds great, doesn’t it? After all, each of the examples above were huge hits, captured the public imagination and elevated their brands. Why not do it in your own way, even if you’re not running the multimillion dollar advertising campaigns of a Miller Lite or Old Spice?

Well, hold off on sliding those zingers into your upcoming eBook and don’t add that killer punchline to your next email subject line just yet...

4 Tips When Using Humor In Your Content Marketing Plan

While humor can be a powerful tool in your arsenal as a marketer, it can be a double edged sword. An attempt at humor that falls flat is unfortunate. An attempt at humor that alienates your audience or is flat out inappropriate is much worse. 

To avoid a misfire, keep these four tips in mind next time you're itchin' to add some comedic stylings to your content:

1. Remember That Humor is Subjective

My father-in-law loves puns. Me, not so much. When he and his siblings are together, they try to out-pun each other to the merriment of all. When I get together with my siblings, we exchange (good-natured, I think) putdowns at each other's expense, laughing over particularly clever insults.

Just as my family’s sense of humor falls flat when I try it out on my in-laws, your brand needs to consider how attempts at humor will be received by your audience. If you have buyer personas defined in your content marketing plan, you can use that as a guidepost. While humor will never successfully land for everybody – even those within the same persona – knowing where your audience is at will start you off on the right foot.

2. Stay True to Your Brand’s Identity

Your brand is your company’s perceived emotional corporate image. It’s the way people come to identify your company. To have an effective brand identity, an organization needs to clearly convey its purpose in each audience interaction. Over time, this strategy can begin to develop loyalty and trust from your audience.

Cutting-edge jokes on religion, race or politics work for professional comedians, but dollars to doughnuts it won’t work for most companies. Attempts at humor misaligned with your brand can be detrimental to a carefully crafted brand strategy.

3. Be Genuine – Your Audience Will See Through It Otherwise


As Media Junction’s Whitney Sletten explained in our Marketing to Millennials video, younger consumers are savvy and see right through falsehoods – such as a brands trying to use a meme they don’t quite understand. Millennials are used to being marketed to at every turn. Yet humor is still a great way to reach this much sought-after age group. Just make sure it’s authentic.

While this relates to all audiences, it’s particularly applicable to Millennials. It’s not worth it to pretend being something you’re not. A clever subject line referencing a shocking moment at the latest MTV Movie Awards will fall flat if your audience isn’t within the MTV demographic.

4. Tread Carefully with Social Media

The upside of social media, an instantaneous interaction with an audience, is also its downside – especially when trying to be funny or clever. Just ask DiGiorno. In case you don’t know the story, here’s the condensed version:

In 2014, the hashtag #WhyIStayed was trending on Twitter, which dealt with domestic violence. In an attempt to get involved with a trending topic, the DiGiorno Twitter account tweeted “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” As you’d imagine, people were upset. To DiGiorno’s credit, they acknowledge their mistake and apologized, but the damage was done.

To avoid coming across as tone deaf or callous, take care when engaging with larger societal issues or current events. Also make sure to push back scheduled posts during major news events. A clever quip isn’t worth the potential fallout. When in doubt, get a second (or third) opinion.

Go Forth, and be Humorous

As we established earlier, humor is a great way to connect with an audience. You just need to know when and how to use it. Keep these tips in mind when developing your content marketing plan and you should be able to avoid humor-induced catastrophes.

All that you have to do now is, you know, actually be funny.

Interested in learning more about how you can help your content resonate with your audience? Talk to us.


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