It seems counter intuitive to many people. Wouldn’t using humor make light of a serious subject, thus decreasing the effectiveness of the message? Actually, no. Using humor correctly can increase the effectiveness of a serious communication message.
One of the most difficult aspects of planning a communication campaign is figuring out how to make your message resonate with your audience and studies have shown that audiences are more open to a humorous message.
For example, take campaigns that specialize in encouraging the public to change their behavior. In these campaigns, humor can be used to prevent it coming across as too authoritative. If there is one thing that will close audiences off to your message, it is feeling that they are being scolded. Humor lowers our defenses, making us more susceptible to the message.
But why does humor work like this?Think of a word very similar to humor – human. Humor showcases humanity. When audience members can see the human side through the message, they let their guard down and become more receptive. They lower their defenses. Funny communication messages will also be shared more frequently than more serious messages. This is something to consider if you’re using a campaign that will rely heavily on word of mouth sharing among target audience members. When something makes us laugh, we are more likely to want to share it with our friends and family.
Funny communication messages are also more memorable. One week after the Super Bowl premiered, an advertising professor at a local university asked his students which ads they remembered. Every single ad the students remembered was one they had found humorous. Even after seeing thousands of advertising messages during the previous week, they recalled almost all the details of the hilarious Super Bowl ads.
So should you implement humor in your communication strategy?It depends on two variables: your target audience and your message. Some target audiences will be much more favorable to a humorous message than others. Differences in age, culture and region can all affect how responsive someone is to a funny message.
The second thing to take into consideration is your message. Controversial messages are ill-suited to humor, lest it look like mocking. Before releasing any humorous message, consult with a focus group of target audience members to ensure it cannot be interpreted as offensive. Frequently, companies release messages that did not seem offensive to them, but because of cultural differences, come off as offensive to their target audience. Having a focus group prevents this.
So while humor may not be right for every communication message, it can increase the effectiveness of some messages across certain target audiences.