Humor is like common sense, it doesn’t grow in everybody’s garden.
Some people have a good sense of humor while others don’t. And some have a dark sense of humor that will make you choke. Humor is highly subjective, yet it appeals to our want to have fun, laugh, and be happy, which is why it’s such an awesome tool to leverage in web copy—if it’s leveraged the right way.
Our Want for Laughs
People love to laugh. Every year just about every last one of us tune into the Super Bowl, whether we’re avid football fans or not. For the friends and spouses who don’t much care for football, the commercials are what they live for. Year and year the Super Bowl broadcast has provided a spotlight for amazing commercials sprinkled with just the right amount of humor. There’s no mistaking our want, and need, for comedy.
Adding Humor to Web Copy
Inserting humor into a televised ad is far easier than infusing our web copy. Let’s face it; getting humor across in writing is tough. Writing is all about tone, and since body language isn’t present, one slip in tone or word choice can result in the exact opposite: an insult.
According to a recently published article by Jillian Richardson via Contently, although making humorous content is a great idea, “it takes a lot of hard work to earn actual laughs.” For example, Kmart tried their hand at being funny by placing GIFs in real life in one of their latest commercials. The idea isn’t bad. I mean, they are trying to be trendy. But the execution isn’t stellar. In fact, most viewers find the commercial annoying. (Thank goodness for the mute button on the remote!)
In contrast to Kmart’s attempt at humor, let’s look at an abstract means of awareness brought to us by The Australian Metro. The transportation organization has landed over 82 million YouTube views for what is, in its most basic form, a public safety video designed to make people more aware of the dangers of trains. In this pithy video, you will see a rather ingenious mixture of adorable characters, catchy lyrics, and a dark sense of humor. At the end of the day, people don’t want to share another “Look Both Ways before Crossing the Tracks” article. They want to get this tune, “Dumb Ways to Die,” stuck in everyone’s head!
How to Bring Visual Humor into Context
There is no denying that humor is a powerful marketing tool. But how can you take it off the screen and bring it into context in your web copy? Here are six tips to help you make your readers giggle, chuckle, and laugh out loud:
- Know your audience. As is the case with all marketing copy, the greatest success comes from knowing what makes your audience tick. Humor works best when it hinges on something everyone can relate to.
- Stay true to your brand. Whether it’s a silly video or a funny tweet, be true to your brand by staying consistent and relevant. If you veer too far from the image you project, even the most hilarious comment will fail.
- Be obvious. When you write the punch line, it needs to be instantly obvious. If your reader has to reread to get the joke, it’s not going to have the desired impact.
- Do not offend. If you know your audience well, then chances are you’ll be capable of steering clear of anything offensive. After writing a humorous piece, always evaluate it from someone else’s perspective. Be sensitive to race, gender, and culture.
- Test market. You know how marketers preach about test marketing a campaign idea before going full bore? The same thing applies to humor. Seek opinions. Find a few trusted staff or audience members, and ask their opinion about a humorous piece before you publish.
- Hire a funny person. Funny is hard. Sometimes the best solution is to hire a pro, a writer who has experience weaving humor into content and knows how to create humor in your niche. Funny is a tough act. If it weren’t, we’d all be stand-up comics. Since we’re not, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
Funny Anecdotes and Stories
One of the most effective ways to infuse your content with humor is to use funny anecdotes and stories. This is one of the best kinds of humor because it’s something people relate to and it’s conducive to writing. It also establishes an emotional connection, something that makes content irresistible. But once you’ve begun to wield the power of humor, the trick is to wield it responsibly:
- Be strategic. Do not scatter punch lines willy-nilly throughout your content. Instead, use humor with strategy, whether it’s to hook the reader at the beginning or drive home the point at the end.
- Use it frugally. Humor is like candy; it tastes great, but too much will make you sick. As you infuse some sweet laughs into your content, use this new confection frugally. Limit the humor to selective references. The purpose of humor in content is to make a point in a creative way, not come across as an entertainer.
- Keep it focused. Be sure the humorous parts of your content are on topic. You don’t want them to detract or distract from the main point.
- Queue the laughter. It sounds like a sitcom filmed in front of a live studio audience, but there’s nothing wrong with letting your readers know it’s okay to laugh. Find subtle ways to let them know that you are laughing and it’s fine for them to join in.
As business owners, marketers, and writers, it’s up to us to use the tools at our disposal to hook and keep our readers. Humor is a fantastic way to touch and connect with your audience. As the old saying goes, “If you can’t get your audience to open their mouths to laugh, you can’t get them to open their hearts to learn.” And that makes for truly effective web copy.