Just Make ‘Em Laugh

Exhaustive studies by people wearing white coats and smart glasses have determined that laughter is good for you. It’s really good, actually. Far outweighing diet soda or Skechers Shape-ups. The endorphin rush, the flushed cheeks, the bellyache—humor is the gift that keeps on giving, the sensory thwack that no drink or drug can ever fully satisfy.

But enough poetry, for this is a practical guide to the integration of humor in brand identity and its importance to innovation, ROI, paradigm shifts, and other industry jargon.

Humor isn’t easy. Ask any comedian who’s bombed in front of a boozy New York crowd. But that’s why it’s the best practice. Its subjectivity makes it the hardest to nail. Sentimentality in advertising is effortless. That recipe is as follows: one part sweeping exterior shots filtered like an Instagram sunset with serious-faced actors gazing off to somewhere, a stern voice-over, a dog, and ambient indie melodies.

Humor keeps the brand honest and shows the audience the tongue is firmly placed in the cheek. Look at the genius of Bundaberg Rum’s golf course interlopers or any of the bizarre Old Spice spots. They get the conversation started and once it starts, there’s no stopping it.

To get started, here are some quick tips for wild success:

1.)   Know your audience—understand to whom you are speaking so intrinsically you could write their memoirs.

2.)   Have a sense of creative direction—this helps the inventive and organizational powers of a dynamic agency (the good folks at, say, Karbo Communications) to take you where you want to go.

3.)   Strategic flexibility—know what you’re trying to accomplish, but feel comfortable to go down a tangential road.

Simply put, the funniest things are rooted in truths. Old Spice is funny because it plays off this concept of beer-drinking, tree-throwing, damsel-rescuing dudeness that the brand has created and now embodies. They found their core tenant and invented their own language. It gets people talking and clicking and sharing.  Less frequently does your friend say: “Dude, watch this video. It’s like the movie Philadelphia, just, you know, an ad for glue.”

So do it right. Don’t skimp or rush or shortchange your writers or settle for lukewarm content. If so, you’ll end up with lame jokes from a Britishy reptile that can’t even distract a six year-old.

Alex May, Writer