Everybody loves to laugh. Even people who claim that they don’t like “comedy” still love to laugh – it’s just the framework of the genre that they dislike. And framework, or context, is everything. Because as much as people love to laugh, exactly what they’re laughing at can vary wildly depending on a number of factors: Age, upbringing, and cultural background, just to name a few. There’s a reason that comedic films almost never become giant international hits – humor rarely translates well across borders because the context of each country is so specific, and the nature of language so complex, that the jokes just don’t travel.
But even with all this in mind, comedy is still one of the most powerful tools you have access to as a content marketer. During a Content Marketing World talk, Tim Washer (who has written for multiple late night talk shows and worked as a “corporate humorist” with international clients like Google, FedEx, and Pepsi) urged brands not to take themselves too seriously. Comedy, Washer argued, was a potent way to get a point across “efficiently and economically.” So why shouldn’t brands utilize a sense of humor in their content and learn to manage the high risk/high reward balance that accompanies it?
Here are just a few helpful tips we’ve put together to help your team create authentically funny content that both supports and elevates your brand, while genuinely engaging with audiences!
Keep It Simple
Shakespeare once wrote that “Brevity is the soul of wit,” and while those words may have come from the mouth of Hamlet’s oafish Polonius, there is a certain truth to them still – and especially when it comes to comedy, less tends to be more.
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We’ve already written at length about Gen Z and younger audience’s thirst for authentic video content. For comedy, the most authentic route to take is also usually the simplest. The more that your brand extends itself attempting to be funny, the more fake you will appear. Never forget, the eternal paradox of content marketing is that while no impactful content was ever created without serious effort, nothing is less appealing than the perception of that effort. In short, nobody likes a try-hard, and few things are as unfunny as someone who publicly insists that they are hilarious.
Think about some of the most popular jokes in the world: “Knock-knock,” Why did the chicken cross the road,” etc.. Their power comes from their simplicity, variability, and overall familiarity. Audiences don’t need to alter their mental context to understand and–more importantly–enjoy them. So rather than assault your viewers with tons of elaborate, high-energy humor, take a step back to evaluate your core message. Then, find a way to communicate it directly and persuasively, utilizing humor as a tool that helps convey your brand aesthetic – instead of noisily distracting from it.
Another timeless maxim of the content marketing industry, but one that often gets lost in the shuffle, is that we are not creating videos for ourselves. Everything we do is for the customer. To that end, in comedy as in everything else, empathy is essential. That means before your brand tries to create something comedic, you first have to ask yourself: “What would my audience find funny, and why?”
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Break down their pain points, how your product or services alleviate those pains, and the space where these factors intersect in humorous ways. It’s a fine, fine line to walk – you want to bring a sense of levity to your potential customers’ very real struggles, without inadvertently making them feel like the butt of the joke. Once you know what drives your customers crazy, you can illustrate those issues with an empathetic sense of humor. Share their pain, and then reveal how your brand helps to alleviate it.
This may feel like a small thing, or an obvious one, but most businesses truly don’t understand how disvalued customers feel. Almost every facet of modern marketing has become more and more impersonal with the rise of digitization and automation, so even a trace of empathy or genuine compassion can help elevate your comedic content. Try to think of your relationship with customers as a long-term marriage. If your spouse made your favorite dinner without even asking, wouldn’t you feel comforted that they understand your wants and needs intuitively? In marketing, it’s the same. Make customers laugh about their problems, and they will know that your brand truly has their back.
Expect the Unexpected
All humor is fundamentally built on the fulfillment and subversion of expectations. A good joke lulls you into a false sense of confidence (“Oh, I know what that duck is going to say to that bartender!”) and then pulls the rug out from under you. Conventional situations are turned on their heads. The world you thought that you understood is reversed. You are caught off-guard through a mixture of craft, deception, and unpredictable ridiculousness – resulting in, hopefully, a chuckle or two.
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Because content marketing has become so prevalent, producing truly original concepts can feel next to impossible. People say that every story in the world has already been told 10,000 times before. Well, the same thing is true of jokes, which is why your brand needs to work twice as hard to create something original.
Luckily, one of the most effective ways to do so is by satirizing or otherwise subverting the conventions of content marketing itself. What does your audience expect from your brand’s content – or the content of other similar brands? And how can you toy with those expectations in a way that is both hilarious and true to the spirit of your product? By reverse-engineering standard-issue content, you can come closer to clearing the high bar of audience expectations. And like we said before, knowing your audience is the best way to get them on your side; not just knowing what they find funny, but knowing what they find unfunny as well. You cannot truly distinguish yourself from the pack without knowing what that pack is in it the first place.
Don’t Think Funny
In an article for the Native Advertising Institute, author and marketing expert Kathy Klotz-Guest makes the case that “Humor is human.” Comedy disrupts the linearity of modern life and lowers our inhibitions for making connections. In other words, it guides us towards all of the things that makes life worth living.
When your brand attempts to create comedic video content, don’t just focus on the jokes. Try and keep your eyes on what that laughter is supposed to accomplish, from selling your product to generating a sense of community. Comedy uplifts audiences and highlights harsh realities in a productive, encouraging way. Honor that spirit by keeping things simple, empathizing with your customers, and exploring the unexpected – and watch your brand flourish as a result.