While remaining professional is important, your audience probably isn’t as stuffy as you might think. So, how can you inject a bit of humor into content marketing?
Let’s explore some tips, providing some inspiration and examples that your content team can leverage.
When Should You Use Humor in Content Marketing?
Your brand probably has a voice and tone guide built into your content strategy. This set of guidelines provides the framework for content creators. While voice is consistent across channels, tone can change. For example, there’s going to be a big difference in tone between a data-driven white paper and a social media post.
So, when should humor be part of your tone? Let’s take a look at the research.
Brand Humor Is Different
Dr. James Barry, a professor and humorist, began to study brands’ attempts at levity in the hilariously-titled paper, A Typological Examination of Effective Humor for Content Marketing.
The study looked at over 2,100 samples, and found that brand humor is generally more purposeful than everyday jokes and observations. Brand humor must both entertain and ring true with brand identity.
Dr. Barry puts brands into three classifications:
- Red: Highly emotional buying experiences that reflect aspirational or inspirational content.
- Yellow: Lower stake purchases that humor can make feel less boring.
- White: Brands are crafting highly technical content, and the buying process is longer. This group most aligns with B2B brands.
B2B businesses will find that humor can make abstract ideas or complicated topics more approachable. The key is to introduce humor early in the buying process when prospects are still in an awareness, or ‘top of the funnel’, state. If done well, humor can grab attention and provide comic relief. This can be even more impactful when your competitors are playing it safe with their content.
Where Should You Start with Humor in Content Marketing?
If your brand has never attempted humor in content marketing, it can seem precarious. You’ll have to get out of your comfort zone. Before you do anything, you should get leadership buy-in. C-suite leaders need to be “in on the joke,” otherwise things may go awry.
There is risk in humor. Not every joke will work. There are types of humor to avoid, of course, like stereotypes, cultural insensitivity, or general meanness. Humor doesn’t have to be dehumanizing. In fact, it should lift up your audience and give them a “break” from the seriousness of the world. Humor can create strong emotional responses—you want yours to be on the positive side.
Here’s more from Tim Washer, a comedy writer who has spent the last 20 years helping brands like IBM and Cisco humanize their marketing with humor.
Humor Tips for B2B Brands
If your brand is all-in with bringing humor into your content plan, here are some tips to get it right.
Know Your Audience
Understand what they may find comical based on their preferences, motivations, and challenges. For instance, if your business is software, your buyers are technical types. They may have an affinity for sci-fi or gaming. Think about how you could work in some humor around these things to get them interested to learn more about your product.
Look to Thought Leaders
Every industry has respected thought leaders. They likely produce content regularly. Monitor what they’re saying and their attempts at humor. These are smart people, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a sense of humor.
Use Puns and Jokes
Having fun with language can be an easy way to add humor to content marketing. A play on words can have your audience laughing. They may border on “dad jokes,” but it’s hard not to snicker a bit when you see them. Here are a few examples for marketers:
- How did Yoda get his first lead? He used the Sales Force!
- What’s the safest place to quarantine? On the second page of Google.
- An SEO marketer walks into a…. bar, bars, pubs, tavern, saloon, roadhouse…
Define Channels and Formats
Humor doesn’t have to be only in social media or via industry memes. There are greater opportunities for this across your content calendar. For example, just about any industry writes about fails common to their vertical and how to avoid them. This topic would make an excellent ebook with illustrations of funny fails.
Video is a common format for comedy. The world does spend hours watching funny videos every day. Consider how you could do this. Think of the “Conference Call in Real Life” viral video from a few years back. It was hilarious and rather accurate.
The last thing you want is to offend your audience. Although humor, especially in the context of stand-up comedy and satire, often pushes the boundaries, you should probably err on the safe side when it comes to brand humor. There is a fine line between being funny and being offensive. Always keep this in mind and pull back if something seems insensitive.
How to Know If Humor Is Working
Once you’ve launched your humor campaign, you can measure its performance through content analytics. You’ll want to pay special attention to the channels where you introduced humor.
Social media engagement is a top metric to watch. If you have a benchmark for the volume of engagement received on a typical post, you can easily compare that to the engagement of your humorous posts. Email marketing may be as well if you’ve deployed humor content here. If you bomb, you’ll know it. If it works, you should see upticks in website traffic and pageviews. Research shows that humor is great for recollection, so executing it well could drive more brand awareness.
Is Humor Right for Your Organization’s Content Marketing?
Every brand can make humor work in content marketing. No matter how serious the industry, there’s always an opportunity to be lighthearted. Understanding your audience and “reading the room” are vital in making it successful and not a flop. Use good judgment and ensure you have leadership buy-in from the start. You could be laughing all the way to higher engagement, conversions, and revenue!