A Guide to Using Humor in Marketing

Some brands fall flat when using humor in marketing. You know that feeling when a joke doesn’t land? The awkward silence, the weird stares? Well, imagine spending your company’s dollars on a joke that just doesn’t hit.

There’s definitely an art to using humor in marketing, and you want to make sure your campaign hits. Below is a guide to making sure you tame the humor dragon before it sets fire to your marketing plan. 

The Importance of Branding

Who are you? What product or service are you trying to get to consumers? Answering these seemingly simple questions will help you hone in on your company’s image.

Narrow down some of the important aspects of your company culture that you want to highlight. Consider what your product brings to the world and why people need it. After you delve into these features, you can nail down what kind of marketing strategy makes sense for your product and company as a whole.

Thinking about your brand can help you decide when’s a good time for a laugh and how to make your jokes stick. 

Brand Voice

If you’re running a funeral home or an organization that works to protect the livelihoods of others, using humor in marketing for your business might be in poor taste. However, if you’re running a shoe company, there are a ton of ways to incorporate humor in your advertisements to bring in new customers.

Discovering your brand voice is key when creating a marketing campaign. You want advertisements that convey some of the great values that your company has to offer, and it doesn’t hurt to pull in relevant topics to attract your target audience.

Check out this recent tweet from Delta Air Lines. The company is poking fun at current events while promoting their business. This is a prime example of how using humor in marketing can marry entertainment with an explanation of how to make a purchase from the company.  

Direct-to-Consumer Branding 

In the social media age, now more than ever, companies have direct access to their consumer base. There are no middlemen all up in the sauce.

Online sales are just as important as in-person profits, so many businesses have found it virtually impossible to survive without throwing resources at gaining an online presence. Humor can aid in that process because it creates a sense of brand consciousness and self-awareness.

Humor is an avenue to communicate to your customers that you care about their experiences when using your product or service. Technology has made it so much easier to gain access to a variety of products all over the world, but this puts all of the power into the hands of the consumer. 

Using Humor in Marketing: How to Do It Right

A sense of lightheartedness can help your company prove your authenticity by targeting the personalities of your specific audience. For April Fool’s Day in 2018, we created a video campaign promoting an app called Peelr, through which users could request help to peel crawfish on the fly.

These videos showcased our connection to New Orleans, while also giving a shout-out to the tech and digital marketing worlds that are so much a part of what we do.

Using humor in marketing is a funky tightrope to embark on. Companies can either find the right balance and reap the benefits of engagement and increased awareness or fall into the depths of irrelevancy and offensiveness.

Here are a few things to consider when formulating a humorous marketing campaign.

Your Target Audience

What do you want humor to provide for your campaign? Whatever the answer is to that question, one thing’s for certain: Your jokes have to be relevant to your anticipated audience.

The key to knowing whether or not a joke will fly or flop lies in your target audience. Truly understanding the ideal customer for your brand is a pivotal step in developing advertisements.

Relevancy helps keep your customers interested and makes your organization memorable. You’re using humor to make a lasting impression on your consumers—to not only educate them about your brand, but also create a feeling of relatability that encourages them to let down their guard.  

Using Humor in Marketing to Increase Likeability

Building a great relationship between your company and your ideal customer is the top goal of using humor in marketing.

When you’re perceived as likeable, customers will want to engage with your brand because they not only want to buy whatever it is you’re selling, but because they enjoy your interaction.

Humor might be the crossroads that many need to reach in order to establish those first inklings of trust with your customers. It gets them in the door. People say “laughter is the best medicine,” and you want your brand associated with making your customers feel good.

Your interactions and presence in the world can curb customer perceptions of your product and make you stand out as a memorable alternative to your competitors.

Take this Online Optimism video about optimizing your brand. While Sam provides useful and detailed information about the services we have to offer, the boozy Dave portrays an eager yet comedic client. Their dynamic conveys the idea that our company values youthfulness, but can get the job done, which makes the brand more appealing to potential clients.  

To Meme or Not to Meme

A meme can definitely set your brand apart. A meme is a flexible format that allows you to reframe a running joke around your brand or perspective using text, images, and videos. These little funny snippets can be shared across all of your social media platforms and gain attention through reposts and engagement.

Memes can be witty or goofy and you need to turn up the humor for them to take off. They should be relatable,  recognizable, and easy to understand, so they garner quick, but lasting reactions.

Take into consideration your audience, the nature of your brand, and the tone of your brand’s voice when deciding whether or not meme-ing suits your organization. Keep your ears open to pop culture and current events. You want your meme to be not only hilarious, but up to date and relevant to your goals. 


Humor is so nuanced that it can be tricky when coming up with advertising. You want your message to make people feel good, not bad. The consequences of an insensitive joke could have pitfalls for your company.

Take this post from the Online Optimism Instagram account into consideration. It toes the line of pokes fun of the current times, but it doesn’t mix lightheartedness with the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic.

Common sense plays a factor in judging appropriateness and you always want to aim to spread good vibes, not bad feelings when telling a joke. The worst case scenario: You ruin company morale and face judgment via public opinion.

There will always be a place for fun and cute videos, especially when beefing up your social media accounts, but don’t reach. While humor can make any dull product exciting, it can also make your business cringe-worthy if not employed correctly. Practice caution when using humor in marketing, but have fun.

Learn How the Pros Are Using Humor in Marketing

If you’re uncertain about which direction to take your company in, let the professionals at Online Optimism help you out. Our highly trained Optimists are geared up to bring visibility and relatability to your brand. Contact us today to find out how we can make your business a bit more optimistic.