Using humor in advertising

A recent question from a subscriber: I’m going into business for myself. I’m considering using humor in my advertising. Do you have any suggestions?

Be careful with humor in advertising. It can work for you. It can work against you.

Effective humor draws people to your message. It keeps the attention of your prospect. It makes your message easier to remember. It’s more likely they’ll tell others about your advertising. It tells others that you and your company have a sense of humor.

On the other hand, be careful with humor in advertising. Weak humor can undermine your credibility. It can detract from your advertising message. A frequently appearing ad with weak humor is often be a big turnoff to potential customers. It can reflect negatively on your judgment.

On the other hand I have seen lame humor used effectively. People remembered the name of the business because the ad was so stupid and frequently seen. Testing your ad is in order.

Here are some specific things to consider when planning on adding humor to your advertising.

  1. Sleep on it.  When you have an idea for using humor, give yourself some time to think about it. Use your time in the morning, while still in bed, to explore ideas around your humor seed. Brainstorm. Letting your mind wander. You’ll eventually come up with some creative ideas that might work. Avoid going to press with a half-baked humor effort.
  2. Test drive it.  No advertising professional would consider doing a large advertising campaign without first testing it on an impartial audience. This would not include your family. This would probably not include your friends and employees. You need to know what your target market thinks of your advertisement. You could test it, for example, with split mailings. See whether the humor or non-humor version of the ad draws best. Or get the opinions of your current customers. Avoid doing a large, costly campaign without first testing.
  3. Less is more.  Subtle humor is easier to create and often more effective than something on a larger scale. A business card with a baby picture, with your name below it, is an example of what I’d call gentle humor. On my web site you’ll find my small head-shot photo with the caption “not actual size”. Humor on a grand scale takes more talent and experience to effectively carry off.
  4. Get help.  Effective humor is a specialty that most people will need some editorial help with. Find someone who knows the humor business to help you create and fine tune your ideas.
  5. Avoid inside humor.  A sales person throwing a pie in the face of the sales manager on a TV ad will be hilarious to your company staff, but will probably make the general public yawn. A commercial featuring the boss or his kids often falls in the “too cute” category. It’s loved by the family and misses the mark when trying to reach your new customers. It’s the type of advertising which could have been corrected by sleeping on it, test driving it, remembering that less is more and getting help. Lame advertisements are usually the result of failing to take those steps.

Copyright 2005 by John Kinde

By John Kinde, Motivational Humorist from Las Vegas, NV.
(702) 263-4363


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