Humor in advertising helps communicate brand messages to consumers

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. 

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.

 

Advertising Decisions

The Creative Brief defines the box.

At Beloved Brands, we believe the best creative people are in-the-box problem solvers, not out-of-the box inventors. This builds on our Strategic ThinkBox we used in our planning process. The box below demonstrates how we need creative work that is focused on the target, fits with the brand, delivers the message, and executes the strategy. 

As marketers, we kick off the advertising process using a Creative Brief to define the box the creative advertising must play in. The execution align with the brand positioning work and deliver the brand strategy statements you wrote in your marketing planMoreover, we show examples of the good and bad of the Creative Brief. And, we introduce our Mini Brief for smaller projects and the Media Brief as part of media decisions. We have a Creative Brief template you can use. 

As marketers, we kick off the advertising process using a Creative Brief to define the box the creative advertising must play in. The execution align with the brand positioning work and deliver the brand strategy statements you wrote in your marketing planMoreover, we show examples of the good and bad of the Creative Brief. And, we introduce our Mini Brief for smaller projects and the Media Brief as part of media decisions. We have a Creative Brief template you can use. 

Use our Creative Checklist to determine if the creative work is in the box.

Then, we introduce a Creative Checklist that is designed to help you make advertising decisions. When you see the creative marketing execution come back from your experts, use our creative checklist to make decisions. Next, use your feedback to your marketing experts to steer the ideas back in-the-box. Importantly, the Creative Checklist highlights the gaps you see. Your role is to provide your problems with the work, while avoiding providing a solution. Let your creative marketing execution experts use their in-the-box creativity to figure out new solutions that will fit the box. 

To illustrate, click to review how our Creative Checklist helps decide if the creative advertising fits the box..

Use our ABC's of Advertising: Attention, brand link, communication stickiness

Here are four questions to ask:

  • First, is it the creative idea that earns the consumer’s attention for the ad?
  • Then, is the creative idea helping to drive maximum brand link?
  • Next, is the creative idea setting up the communication of the main consumer benefit?
  • And, is the creative idea memorable enough to stick in the consumer’s mind and move them to purchase?

To illustrate, click on the ABC’s of advertising to see details.

Get comfortable with various advertising techniques.

Learn how to be better at advertising. Explore other advertising ideas such as emotional advertisinghumorous ads, feel-good ads, and ads that bring consumer insights to lifeMoreover, read how to conduct your own marketing research, social media plans, or using influencers.  

Video on how to use in-the-box creativity

Have a look at our video on how to use in-the-box creativity to ensure our marketing execution stays on strategy. We introduce how our Creative Brief defines the box the work must play in. And, our Creative Checklist to allow you to decide if the marketing execution delivers. To read more, click on this link: How to use in-the-box creativity. 

To view, use the ▶️ controls to play our brand strategy video. 

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