Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “A difference of taste in jokes is a great strain on the affections.” While a bad joke with friends and family can be forgotten, with potential customers you might have just one chance to win them over. Because senses of humor vary, using humor cautiously is in your best interest. That said, good comedy can evoke emotions that connect people to your purpose.
A Little Goes a Long Way
When writing funny copy, a little humor goes a long way. You know that person in your circle of friends who overuses bad puns, as though by telling every joke, eventually he or she will get a laugh? A little bit goes a long way, especially in marketing copy. Not only do you not want to overload your writing with humor and detract from the credibility of your content, subtle humor often reads better, showing your sophisticated skills.
One way to simplify your humor for a bigger impact is by choosing a consistent style. Consider the Allstate “Mayhem” commercials. The ads each feature actor Dean Winters as different embodiments of “mayhem”–a teen driver, heavy winter snow, termites, and so on.
The phrasing in the commercials features eloquent and funny descriptions of the disasters about to befall drivers or homeowners, but the humor lies most in the deadpan delivery. Further, the consistency of the different ads emphasizes the humor and creates strong branding for the company. In your copy, you can employ these same strategies by devising a unified comedic tone or running gag to use along with your stylesheet.
Consider Negative Reactions
If you consider your customer demographics, hopefully you can avoid a joke that offends unanticipated readers, but you should still consider how your writing might be read as distasteful rather than funny. For example, last year KIA ran a print ad that intended to depict the two sides of their new cars. The ad featured a cartoon strip of a teacher talking to a student and seeing her on one side as a little girl and on the other as a sexualized teenager. The company faced a big backlash because a large number of people thought the ad was inappropriate at best. In this case, failing to consider the implications of the joke forced KIA to deal with an offended public. Especially when joking about gender, race, politics, or religion, think through how others might read your humor, or avoid these jokes altogether.
Keep it Positive
All told, using comedy that is on the light side is most likely to make your readers and potential customers smile. By using jokes that refrain from making fun of a particular person or group of people, you depict your company as friendly and trustworthy rather than gossipy or mean. Upbeat jokes also work well with call-to-action marketing copy, so you can draw the reader in with humor and use active writing to bring in a sale.
Finally, remember to read your humorous copy aloud. Your writing should capture the tone and timing of the joke as though you were telling it to your reader in person.