Frightened or Funny?

Blog cartoons, funny cartoons, business cartoons, New Yorker cartoons, Terry LaBan, Breakthrough VisualsContent marketers know that effective content elicits an emotional response. But you don’t have to spend much time surfing the internet to realize those emotions lean heavily on old standbys like fear, anxiety and schadenfreude. I’ll cop to being as intrigued as anybody about the aging looks of 80s kid TV stars. Still, there are other, equally effective ways to engage audiences. You could, for instance, make them laugh.

Recently I attended the Funny Biz conference in San Francisco, which is devoted entirely to using humor in marketing. The 2-day event that featured a wide range of speakers, including businesses owners, marketers and content producers. If they had anything in common, other than that they were all really entertaining, it was a profound respect for humor as a tool to engage audiences. Lots of speakers told stories of businesses whose sales had flatlined—including ones, like real estate or insurance, that wouldn’t seem to be particularly funny– being rescued by clever content marketing that featured combinations of traditional ads and the innovative uses of social media. Here’s a few takeaways:

  • 88% of millennials think of humor as their primary source of self-expression.
  • Amusement—along with awe and anger-is one of the top three emotions that get people to share.
  • Because humor relies on amplifying stimulus and amplified stimulus is easier to remember, humor greatly increases content’s memorability.
  • The positive emotions humor evokes—connection, warmth, inclusion—are just as, if not more, effective at engaging audiences as more negative ones.

60% of TV ads have humorous content, but online, where budgets and businesses are often much smaller, getting companies to incorporate humor into their blogs and promotions can be tough. Sure, it’s probably easier to scare people than it is to make them laugh. But as someone who’s helped many businesses and organizations effectively add humorous visuals to their content mix, I know that not only is it worth doing, but that the process can be as fun as the result. The fact is, if everyone’s doing it, it’s already boring. Just-the -facts blog posts and 5-reasons-you-might-die-soon links will always have their place, but there’s no question that humor can and should play a much greater role in content marketing than it does now. Fear is fine, but if you want to really stand out, try funny.