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You Were Supposed to Laugh at That: Using Humor in Content Marketing

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Humor can be a powerful way to help your content stand out from the crowd.

We’ll get to the benefits of using humor in your content marketing in a minute. But just in case you need a reason to consider laughing, the Mayo Clinic says it’s good for your health. Laughing because of something you’ve read or watched stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles. Meanwhile, you brain releases endorphins and neuropeptides that ease pain and strengthen your immune system.

It’s fair to say that making your prospects and customers laugh shows you care for their well-being, along with helping them make a deeper connection with your brand. Humor can amplify the power of inbound content marketing. Here are some tips on how to make it work for you.

Know your audience

A smile is universally interpreted the same way. Nowhere on this earth does it mean something other than an expression of happiness. Humor, however, doesn’t have that same broad interpretation.

Audience measurement experts Nielsen discovered that there are noticeable differences in how humorous advertising messages resonate with audiences. It’s the most appealing message type in North America and Europe, generating positive feedback from 50% or more of respondents. It’s not so impactful in the rest of the world, though.

Is humor right for your business?

Yes, says WordStream founder and CEO Larry Kim. He observes that bigger companies have historically shied away from humor because of a worry that it communicates a lack of professionalism. Today, however, consumers want authenticity and approachability. Humor and candor go hand in hand.

Kim warns that companies should be careful with any attempt to be humorous in pursuit of an image of authenticity. Humor, after all, has a tendency to offend people. The Squatty Potty unicorn’s rainbow swirl poop is one example that was not universally appreciated. Kim calls this risky humor contrarian content marketing. You need to ask the question: Does controversy work with your brand?

Where does humor work best with content marketing?

Where do you think is the least likely place to try humorous content marketing – B2B, right? Is this because the CFOs who have to understand the business case to write a check for a capital expense don’t have a sense of humor?

It could be argued that a B2B audience is highly receptive to humorous content. It’s human nature to enjoy being the insider. Humor is an inherent social-bonding mechanism. You’ll make the point when your Condescending Wonka meme reflects the pain point your product or service fixes for a prospect.

Finding your funny

One thing’s for sure: You absolutely must know your audience before attempting to inject humor into your content marketing. The most important reason for this is to have high confidence about the correct strange things to insert to create your humor.

According to the Benign Violation Theory of humor (we’re not making this up to be humorous), a concept becomes strange when it’s wrong or absurd, yet safe at the same time. Humor in content marketing succeeds when it violates our sense of what’s right or appropriate yet is still safe. Does everybody in your content get out OK?

The fine line between humor and offensiveness

The poet John Lydgate gave us the gem, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” The unfortunate reality about using humor in your content marketing is that it’s bound to offend somebody.

How do you keep from crossing the line between what’s offensive and what’s a chuckle? The most effective way is by aiming to be honest and relatable. Can you reflect what’s in the minds of your prospects in a way that’s self-deprecating rather than external and accusatory?

Laughs can build relationships

Humor grabs attention, and it’s linked to higher recall. It’s why it’s usually a good idea to keep your use of humor in content marketing focused at the top of your sales funnel. Prospects are looking for ways to validate their problems, and a novel approach of using humor can establish an early relationship. Everybody else is leading with their solutions. How can you create a bond by finding a way to help a prospect chuckle about the problem?

By the time people get to the middle of the sales funnel, you’re past the attraction stage. Using humor in content here works best when it amplifies the value of the product or service. And while a good joke needs a punchline to bring it to an end, humor in content targeted for the people at the bottom of the sales funnel should work as a way to validate that the product or solution is the right fit. Think about it: Asking for the sale is hardly a joking matter, but you can still be jovial with your call to action.

Humor helps us learn. Content for inbound marketing is a powerful educational tool. Combining the tool helps brands become memorable. Know your audience and apply humor when it amplifies your relevance. Humor can humanize your brand.

We can help you inject the right amount of humor into your inbound marketing. Learn more.

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