More often than not, marketing campaigns are designed around the central idea to keep your target audience happy and feel good. Humour, the one emotion that keeps us wanting more. Just as how watching Gordon Ramsay scream ‘’You Donkey!’’ on Hell’s Kitchen is such a mood pleaser, entertaining marketing campaigns and social media content go viral simply because it’s attention grabbing. 

This is exactly why memes have persisted till today, and are more popular than ever. Sharing funny content and spreading laughter is in our nature. Better yet research proves humour is indeed linked to better recall.  Thus, brands that incorporate humour in their communication channels have an edge to stand out from their competitors. GlobalWebIndex’s recent study in 2020 has also indicated a rise in entertaining online video consumption.

However, brands should not create entertaining content just for gaining attention. This runs the risk of being perceived as offensive or outright deceitful by their audience.

Burger King’s recent attempt at being witty in marking International Women’s Day failed spectacularly. What started with a short statement, that “Women belong in the kitchen” led to a furor over the provocative nature of the tweet.  

While the stakes can be high, humour is still an essential tool for the digital marketer. Since today is April Fools’, we explore some examples of humour done right courtesy of past April Fools’ campaigns.

1. Duolingo Push

The infamous language teaching application takes its ominous push notifications into reality with its April Fools Day campaign. Making Duo the owl show up physically to remind you of practice has spawned a barrage of meme worthy comments in its YouTube video. From “Learn your French or get hit by a wrench” to “It’s simple, Spanish or vanish.” 

2. Virgin Atlantic’s  New Technology

Ahh, the epitome of British Humour. Richard Branson employed it well unveiling the latest technology for Virgin Atlantic. Inspired by his childhood dream of flying, the Dreambird 1417 Virgin flight utilises “flap energy” to power all systems. As cool as it may sound, there are probably better dreams to be inspired by.

3. Amazon Echo with Petlexa

Now this would be a joy or dismay for all pet owners. A ‘what if’ scenario where Amazon’s Echo can recognise and be controlled by pets. Plausible for a plug in The Secret Life of Pets, and all too adorable or horrifying to be true. 

4. Honda’s Polite Horn

The passive aggressiveness of showing civility on the roads is all the rage. The polite horn tries to teach some bouts of courtesy and manners onto Canadian road users. Might be effective for Canada, not so much for others.

5. Jamie Oliver’s 1 New Book

Renowned for making complicated and sometimes confusing recipes (say NO to chili jam), Jamie Oliver brings his next best seller, a 1 ingredient recipe cookbook. Featuring the quickest and easiest recipes ever, eg. how to make toast…with toast.

From all these examples, we’ve extracted some tips for you to come up with a humour campaign for your brand:

4 Tips for Incorporating Humour in Your Marketing

  1. Consider Your Audience — Knowing who your target audience is is critical in any kind of campaign. There’s a fine line between humour for a niche target audience and anyone else. Trying to successfully appeal to a particular audience can be daunting. It will be good to test the reception of the content with a smaller audience first.
  2. Consider the Current Climate — An overall atmosphere of the target audience’s country will play a part in effectiveness. Recent Atlanta shootings have raised ethnic tensions in the United States, that will possibly thwart certain campaigns. If brands chose to publish their campaigns during tensions, it can result in a public relations crisis. Take for example Tropicana’s TakeAMimoment Campaign, which was found to be offensive due to a rise in problem drinking for women during the pandemic.
  3. Get Creative — Break out of the usual professional persona and think out of the box. Try switching up your product offers for a tease and gather some valuable feedback. Make spicy things even spicier, and introduce new features or functions that nobody has considered before. Remember #1, and appeal specifically to local and niche tastes. This will make your campaign even more memorable to your audience.
  4. Crowdsource — Monitor what your audience is saying about your product and competitors. Social media sites such as Twitter and Reddit forums can be great sources of ideas. In fact, the Duolingo Push campaign was predated by memes dating back to 2018. They were viral on Twitter, their popularity building up into 2019. Duolingo grabbed the opportunity and ran with it, embracing an evil side to Duo who was originally meant to appear “sad and pathetic” and tug on people’s heartstrings.

    Boom. It met with resounding success.

We hope that these case studies and tips will help you with infusing humour into your marketing! With all that said however, remember to ensure that the brand voice is aligned with your social media presence for a more engaged audience.

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