Humor in advertising helps communicate brand message to consumers



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The best advertising must balance being creatively different and strategically smart. The use of humor in advertising can help stand out from the clutter. 

When ads are smart but not different, they get lost in the clutter. It is natural for marketers to tense up when the creative work ends up being “too different.” In all parts of the business, marketers are trained to look for past proof as a sign something will work. 

However, when it comes to advertising if the ads start too similar to what other brands have already done, then the advertising will be at risk of boring your consumers, so you never stand out enough to capture their attention. 

Push your comfort with creativity and take a chance to ensure your ad breaks through. When ads are different but not smart, they will entertain consumers, but do nothing for your brand. Your advertising must be smart enough to trigger the desired consumer response to match your brand strategy.  

Humor in advertising examples

Let's explore the technique of using humor in advertising

The use of humor in advertising is a great technique for being creatively different enough to stand out, and communicating your key message so that it resonates with consumers and sticks in their mind beyond the ad.

Humor can help articulate the insight or it can be a great way to demonstrate the experience the brand helps address. Humor can also differ over time, across different geographies or demographics. Some of the best humour is when only the target market gets the jokes. Skittles ads are hilarious for teenagers, but anyone above 35 years old just looks at those spots with total confusion. That leaves the teenager knowing the ad is perfectly curated for them.

Amplify the benefit

One way to communicate wtih cosnumers is to use humor in advertising to creatively amplify your brand’s consumer benefit. Bring the idea to life by exaggerating the worst version of the consumer’s enemy, to help set up your brand as the solution that will move consumers to buy. This technique results in some of my favorite ads.  

Berlitz “What are you sinking about?”

To view, click on the ▶️ to play and 🔊 to work the sound. 

Berlitz used a scenario of a German Coast Guard operator who takes on an SOS distress call of a boat that was “sinking.” His response, “What are you thinking about?” is an incredibly fun way to highlight the importance of language training.

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The Snickers "Betty White" ad is a great example of using humor in advertising

To view, click on the ▶️ to play and 🔊 to work the sound. 

A funny ad that amplifies the consumer benefit is the Snickers Super Bowl ad with Betty White playing football with a bunch of college-aged guys. After a bad play by Betty, one of the buddies yells at her that she is “not playing like her normal self.” He then hands Betty a Snickers bar and Betty turns back into the college-aged football player. The ad uses the consumer insight of, “You’re not you when you’re hungry” to set up the consumer benefit of how Snickers satisfies your hunger. This technique is a great combination that would fit many brands.

Entertain consumers

Another technique to gain attention is to make viewers laugh, cry, or dance. People engage media to be entertained. Make your ad part of the entertainment. Be aware of the evolution of the art of creativity to make sure you match the latest type of entertainment. As much as movies, TV, or music evolve, so should your ads. Here are some great examples of using humor in advertising.

Old Spice "Smell like a man"

To view, click on the ▶️ to play and 🔊 to work the sound. 

The Old Spice “Smell like a man” campaign’s quirky, over-the-top humor is so different, it captured immense attention and helped P&G reinvigorate the Old Spice brand. The ad uses a series of quick cuts, putting the actor in crazy circumstances. His dry, over-the-top delivery adds to the humor.

It's a Tide ad

To view, click on the ▶️ to play and 🔊 to work the sound. 

Above is a compilation of the Tide ads they ran in the 2018 Super Bowl. Not just the creative, but the use of media. I never thought I’d list a Tide ad, but the media creativity Tide used really broke through and made us laugh. I started to think everything was a Tide ad.

Resonate with meaningful insights

Using consumer insights to tell a compelling human-interest story is a great technique to closely connect with your target market, then closely link your brand to the insight.

Toyota "Swagger-wagon"

The Toyota “Swagger-Wagon” ad brings parent insights into their rap song, poking fun at parents who still think they are cool. This ad will connect with any parent who remembers what it was like to be cool.

To view, click on the ▶️ to play and 🔊 to work the sound. 

Zazoo Condoms is a very funny ad

To view, click on the ▶️ to play and 🔊 to work the sound. 

I remember when I worked on Child Cereals, and we used to do focus groups with 5 and 6 year olds taste-testing new Lucky Charms and Trix. I used to refer to it as “birth control for brand managers.” Loading a kid up with sugary cereals for 2 hours ends up with kids that seem like this kid.  

This Zazoo condom ad was done as people were just starting to email ads around and it was an early favourite. Now we see the power of YouTube for showcasing funny ads. This ad sure gains Attention, but a little weak on branding specific mainly because there is no separation of the brand from others. My guess is that Zazoo did not see a share bump. 

Make your brand a central part of the story

From my experience, it is not how much branding you use, but preferably how closely connected the reveal of the brand is linked with the climax of your ad.

The Got Milk "Alexander Hamilton" ad always makes me laugh

To view, click on the ▶️ to play and 🔊 to work the sound. 

“Got milk?” launched a hilarious and engaging storytelling ad with an elaborate tale of an Alexander Hamilton expert. He finds himself on a radio show, ready to answer an easy trivia question about Alexander Hamilton. However, after taking a big bite of his peanut butter sandwich, as he is about to answer, he realizes he is out of milk. With an elaborate story, the reveal of the brand comes at the climax of the story. The “Got milk?” campaign lasted over 20 years.

Create share-able content

Over the last decade, everything has become about creating content that is so engaging consumers want to share it on social media. The key is to use high impact storytelling ads that are highly entertaining, deeply emotional, or inspiring enough to engage and captivate consumers.  

Dollar Shave is a great example of using humor in advertising

To view, click on the ▶️ to play and 🔊 to work the sound. 

One of the best viral ads is for Dollar Shave. The brand created a hilarious, edgy, low-budget YouTube-driven video, which has generated millions of hits. The tagline for the ad is “Our blades are f**king great,” which will undoubtedly alienate many people. However, it will inevitably make the younger male audience quickly love them. The ad tells a quirky story of why the brand doesn’t waste money like Gillette does, setting up the idea its razors are much cheaper than Gillette’s. The ad helped launch the brand, which Unilever bought five years later for $1 billion. 

Dude Wipes

Dude Wipes started its journey with a simple premise: personal hygiene wipes for men. Its branding, full of casual humor and directness, sought to challenge traditional notions of masculinity. By addressing a genuine need (personal cleanliness) with humor and relatability, Dude Wipes stood out in the personal care market. Below is one of the Dude Wipes launch ad, which borrows a bit from Dollar Shave Club, but takes it to a new extreme. No way P&G could make this ad. 

To illustrate, click on the diagram to zoom in. 

I wish everyone would stop writing ugly creative briefs. Most importantly, the creative brief is a crucial way for brand leaders to control the strategy. On the other hand, make sure you give freedom on execution to the experts who execute. Too many marketers have this backward, preferring to give freedom on strategy with various possible strategic options layered within the creative brief. Then, they attempt to try to control the creative outcome by writing a long list of tangled mandatories. We will use our creative brief template and a creative brief example to show you how to write every line of the brief.


Liquid Death's Marketing Execution

How they leverage humor and social media

In today’s digital age, marketing has evolved beyond mere product placement and traditional advertisements. Brands are expected to interact, engage, and resonate with their audiences in unique ways. Liquid Death’s marketing execution stands as a masterclass in leveraging humor, edginess, and social media platforms to create a buzz and establish brand loyalty.

The Social Media Landscape

Liquid Death primarily targeted millennials and Gen Z, two demographics known for their significant presence on social media platforms. To reach them, it was imperative that the brand executed a strong and coherent social media strategy.

Instagram: The Visual Storytelling Tool

Liquid Death’s Instagram page features a mix of humorous posts, mock advertisements, and fan-generated content. Their aesthetic leans heavily into the heavy metal theme, complete with illustrations of demons, zombies, and of course, skulls.

Interactive Content: 

Liquid Death often creates polls, quizzes, and questions in their Instagram stories, ensuring they maintain a two-way conversation with their audience.

UGC (User Generated Content): 

By reposting fan art, tattoos of their logo, or other Liquid Death inspired creations, the brand builds community and encourages further fan interaction.

User Generated Content that was reposted onto the Liquid Death Instagram page

To view the User Generated Content on the Liquid Death IG page click on the arrow.

TikTok: The Viral Video Playground

On TikTok, short, engaging, and humorous content reigns supreme, and Liquid Death recognized this early on. This creative is so out-there that none of the big corporations could take such a risk. These are classic marketing execution for a disruptor brand that we might see with a local craft beer.

Mock Advertisements: 

These short, funny snippets parody traditional commercials, often with exaggerated narratives that end with someone quenching their thirst with Liquid Death. These videos mock the expected, creating humorous and unexpected conclusions that resonate with TikTok’s younger demographic.

Challenges and Collaborations: 

Liquid Death has engaged with popular TikTok influencers and encouraged challenges, ensuring their brand is promoted organically and widely across the platform.

Liquid Death video on TikTok

In response to a comment from a consumer that they would rather lick sweat off a guy’s back, Liquid Death did this over-the-top video blind taste test as a response. 

YouTube: The Home for Extended Content

While platforms like TikTok are meant for shorter content, YouTube provides a space for Liquid Death to delve deeper:


Liquid Death has produced longer mockumentary-style videos. These faux-documentaries humorously delve into the “origins” of Liquid Death or the processes behind the brand, all the while keeping their tongue-in-cheek humor intact.


Offering a glimpse into the making of their campaigns or product processes, these videos further engage fans by making them feel a part of the brand’s journey.

Engaging with Criticism:

One key differentiator in Liquid Death’s strategy was its willingness to engage with both fans and critics alike. They’ve used negative comments from their ads and turned them into hilarious content, further endearing them to their audience and showing their resilience and humor.

To view the bizarre Liquid Death mockumentary ad, click on the arrow.

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