When Not To Use Humor In Your Marketing
As a companion piece to Mark Hill’s recent contribution to the Lead Generation Insights blog, Using Humor To Generate Leads, this article takes a look at when humor can hurt your lead generation efforts. As Mark showed, humor is a powerful weapon — but as such, it’s quite important to not let it blow up in your face.
- Poking fun at customers is always a bad approach. Insult comedy may fill a Las Vegas lounge, but it won’t fill your sales lead pipeline. Prospects seek your company online because they have a problem that needs fixing, and are in no mood to be mocked.
- Poking fun at your company also backfires badly. The intent with making your company the punch line is to humanize it or introduce a touch of humility into the brand image. The problem is, making yourself the punch line takes the punch out of your credibility. Prospects are looking for competent, reliable companies to solve their problems; any humor that works against your competence and reliability also works against your lead generation.
- Jokes about politics and social issues are bound to rub prospects the wrong way. This one should go without saying, but I’m saying it because so many companies ignore this basic business rule, particularly in social media marketing communication. Being conversational on social media is certainly a plus for your company, but don’t wander off topic, especially in ways that make some perceive you as buffoonish or worse.
- If comedy interferes with clarity, go for clarity! For instance, some companies can’t resist the temptation to get cute with how they label calls to action or top-line website navigation labels. However, if an online prospect can’t figure out what will happen if the call to action button is clicked, or what content lies behind an inscrutable navigation label — odds are you will lose that prospect.
- Being too creative isn’t always the best option. Sometimes the impulse to be creatively comic is irresistible, but it’s risky! First, when you’re really innovative, there’s a chance you may fail — and a bad joke is certainly worse than no joke. Second, even if your groundbreaking joke is funny, it could go over the prospect’s head, causing him/her to conclude (perhaps unjustly) that you are not funny, but just weird. More often than not, being a bit unoriginal is a better approach, as the wild success of memes such as this demonstrate over and over:
- In comedy, timing is everything. Even a great joke will backfire if it’s shared at the wrong time. Some examples of bad comic timing in business:
o In a slide presentation on the first sales call
o In response to an initial contact (e.g., an automated response to a website form submission)
o In a website page discussing a serious product such as a home alarm system
o In a white paper detailing an important industry trend
Of course, there are always exceptions, but it takes great skill to know when breaking the rules will work to your advantage — so be careful.
Over to You
Has humor ever backfired in your marketing?
What steps do you take to “quality control” your humorous marketing content?