[Warning: Editor rambling at its finest] I have been giving the role of humor a ton of thought lately. Many brands attempt to be sticky by having a funny advertisement, most notably a television spot. Has Bud Light done anything without humor in the last 10 years? I think humor is one of the most understood emotional drivers in advertising. Its also one of the most polarizing. When done right it can certainly imprint an idea in someone's head, but it doesn't equal success by any means. Done right, your brand can be sharp and witty as they come. Done wrong and your brand looks like a coalition of idiots. Having spent a bit of time looking at the pizza wars lately, almost every major pie maker users some form of humor in its promotional work. Granted each runs a high-volume of ads that generally quick promotions and there really is little differentiation amongst brands, humor is one of the key elements of these brands hedge their bets to generate awareness and ultimately sales.
Humor is an integral part of advertising in nearly every category. Just look at today's Adcritic Top 20 from deoderant (old spice) to beer(any brand) to electronics (apple)to media (Comcast). We all know how many Superbowl ads try to capitalize on humor. Does this signal something about us as a society or more so about us an industry? Are we avoiding looking at ourselves or the pitfalls of society in a self-insulating escapist manner? Why is humor such a predominate human emotion in marketing?
a few thoughts on this..
1. UNIVERSALITY Everyone enjoys a good laugh, possibly brands are look to entertain there way to sales
2. GOOD TIMES Humor is easier to remember than sadness, no one wants to remember that bad times. Possibly brands are still scared to remind people about what might happen otherwise.
3. PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS Having a good time and a maybe a chuckle is motivational in some low-achievement type of way.
But what about the dark side of humor? Can too much humor make your brand a joke? I look at Geico, which has done an enormous amount of excellent work all using humor. Those caveman spots are a delight. Id really like to know what the consumer thinks of the brand though. Is it possible to project humor on TV and attempt to establish a credible brand online? Im sure there are examples of this working, but doesn't your brand begin to become a joke itself. Bud Light probably won't be taken seriously for the next 10 years, no matter how hard it tries.
Now ive gone off a bit from my original intentions and turned this into a rambling bit, but i think if anything this is a conclusion that humor is one of the most dangerous elements of communication. While it can be the holy grail, even when done best it can never quite achieve everything a brand wants or needs. If anything its a distraction. So many consumers seem to get stuck on the humor and not the message, price point, or any original intent of the communication. Humor is dangerous disruptor that is subject to interpretation, with the joke squarely sitting in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes spots only need a little dash of info and more of a splash of humor, but just like a good joke should be used in moderation. No one wants to be the guy telling that joke from 5 years ago. And no one wants a "funny" brand unless you are a comedy house.