Make ’em Laugh…No, Don’t
- August 5, 2013
Whether you’re a wheezer, a snorter, a cackler, a hisser, a screamer or a silent shaker, we all love to laugh. We find funny people highly likeable and magnetic. Then, by natural extension, ads that tickle our funny bones should enhance our favoritism toward a brand and lead to purchase…right? Ahhhh, the age-old question: do funny ads work?
Humor is layered and complex. But from a marketing standpoint, companies opt for funny ads because they want to provoke happy feelings and reap positive brand associations. LRW Research Director and Pragmatic Brain Science Institute scientist Collette Eccleston, PhD says, “Funny ads work as a first step toward buyer engagement. They grab audience’s attention and are memorable when done well; however, it’s negative feelings not positive ones that typically mobilize consumers to act.”
If we define successful ads as those that result in purchase behavior, then the most successful ads are those that highlight a problem or need, generate an emotional response, and then solve the issue with their product or service. Advertisers must walk a fine line to, as Eccleston said, elicit a negative emotion—just enough for the customer to identify with—and then quickly provide relief from that pain, such that the consumer associates the product with the solution, not the problem. We didn’t say it’d be easy. It’s creative alchemy.
Muddy messaging and weak calls to action foul up funny ads. If an ad merely aims to call attention to the brand and endear itself to consumers, then a humorous spot could achieve that objective. But if a brand hopes to trigger purchase, comedic ads could fail them unless part of a larger campaign.
The purchase prescription: a drop of negative emotion followed by relief. Is your ad hitting the mark? Answer these questions to find out:
- Define the ad’s goal. Do you wish to brand build? Or activate an immediate response?
- Conduct preliminary ad tests, measuring immediate, non-conscious reactions, including affect and then conscious, emotional reactions over time.
- Actionability: given this newly acquired data, recall your goal. Does this ad meet the purchase prescription that will accomplish your objective?
Humor is in. And while we all like funny, we want results too. Keep these guideposts in mind and you’ll gain the emotional advantage. Then, who’ll be laughing?