Using humour in social media


Social Media

People from all backgrounds enjoy humour and, as the great Charles Dickens once said:

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”

Studies have proven that humorous advertisements can improve brand recognition and that customers are more likely to respond positively to marketing messages if they are approached with humorous advertising content. Amusing messages can go viral on social media channels which can serve to vastly increase the potential audience and, subsequently, prospective customers. If you are considering using humour in your social media strategies, there are some tips and tactics that can be helpful to consider…

Why humour?

It is quite evident that the application of humour in advertising is an effective strategy for getting in touch with your current and potential customers as well as adding a “fun” dimension to your brand. As social media is one of the most effective ways to advertise and communicate with a vast audience it makes sense to apply a humorous approach to this aspect of your strategy as well. Applying humour to your social media strategy can easily grab customers attention. If you approach your customers emotionally, they are more likely to engage with your brand, products or services in the future. The reason behind this is that humour is one of the best ways of increasing memory recall. In the same way that people tend to remember periods of heightened emotion (sadness, happiness) instead of boredom, customers are much more likely to remember an amusing advert than one of a dull nature. If you have a uniquely humorous way of communicating with your customers, your brand will definitely stand out from your competitors. It is important to keep in mind that there is a plethora of companies competing with you and your strategy and so the key point here is to devise your own unique way of communicating with your audience.

Being humorous can be risky

You cannot expect all your customers to appreciate your company’s “sense of humour” in the desired manner. With this in mind it is very important to make sure that your company’s humour fits in with your brand, marketing context and the target audience. As an example there are a number of industries, such as healthcare and financial services, where using humour in your social media strategy would not be the right choice.

One humorous mistake made by Pepsi when launching their brand into China was the miss-translation of the slogan ‘Pepsi brings you back to life’. This highlights the necessity of proper research as when the slogan is translated literally it becomes ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back to life’. This problem could have easily been avoided had Pepsi’s marketing chiefs implemented the inclusion of a native Chinese speaker in their troubleshooting focus groups.


Diligent market research, focus groups and social experimentation is vital to discovering a relevant and sensible tone or corporate voice. This is especially important because humour is a highly subjective concept – one person’s joke could be another persons insult. If your target market consists of customers from a widely diverse demographic, care has to be taken to make sure that the messages are apt for all the segments. The golden rule here is: if in doubt make adjustments and err on the side of caution. It is much more fruitful to be ignored rather than ridiculed or highlighted as a source of ‘offence’ – especially due to the incredible potential for duplication on social media channels.

The emphasis on humour shouldn’t be avoided if you have serious brand identity. Using humour within a social media strategy can provide a serious brand with a testing ground for engagement. Organisations operating in tough climates can often scale back ambitions ad budgets, which can result in less exposure, creativity and the overall reach of a campaign. A consumer does not care about how much money is spent on making them laugh. If a message is put across to an audience in a way that makes them feel positive about a brand then the end result will be an increased sense of compassion and loyalty – the direct effect of which should be an increase in purchase and referral intention.

We’d like to hear your thoughts on this topic – maybe leave us comments with the details of your favourite humorous ad campaigns (and any you think were mass blunders if you wish!)


Figure 1:


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