Consumers remember humorous advertising and are more likely to purchase products featured in funny commercials. Learn the complicated art of leveraging comedy as a marketing tool.
Dr. Mitch Earleywine, associate professor of psychology at SUNY Albany, opened up the Tuesday keynote at the iMedia Agency Summit with a huge number: $43 million -- the amount Ad Age estimated was spent on humorous advertisements in 2005. Humor affects everything from our health to our relationships. More importantly for marketers' purposes, it plays a big hand in persuasion.
Earleywine said he uses LAMP (liking, attention, memory, purchase) as a mnemonic device to illustrate the influence of funny marketing. Humorous advertising can improve the amount an audience likes a brand, consumer attention span, recall of the brand and the product, and intent to purchase. Successful advertising humor depends on five elements: type, relevance, style, audience, and product.
Earleywine explained that, for purposes of this discussion, there are two types of humor -- incongruity resolution and nonsense. People who appreciate the former are neurotic, religious (monotheistic), and authoritarian (meaning that they have faith in our elected leaders). Further, incongruity resolution -- "On the other hand... I have different fingers" -- is best employed on advertisements for larger, high-risk items like insurance, large tools (such as lawnmowers), jewelry, and sports cars. Nonsense humor appeals to a different, more outgoing crowd. These people are more likely to be sensation-seeking extroverts. This type of humor works best for low-risk items like gasoline, cleaning products, beer, and coffee.
Relevance is a vital step to getting the most success out of humorous advertising. If a commercial is hilariously funny but the humor doesn't relate to the product or the brand at all, people will remember the commercial itself, but not what it was for. Earleywine gave these two commercials as excellent examples of the importance of relevance.
There's no way you'll forget that the above commercial is about drama.
Meanwhile, this commercial, while hilarious, leaves you scratching your head as to what the product being advertised actually is.
Style is an element that varies widely between countries and demographics. Usually marketers don't want to offend people with their ads, and style is the best place to reduce offensiveness. Is the tone positive or negative? Self-enhancing or self-defeating? Affiliative or aggressive? All are essential elements for brands to consider. The best option for marketers is to aim for as affiliative a tone as possible -- you want to bring people together rather than ostracize. Earleywine provided this billboard from Hacienda Mexican Restaurants as an example of what not to do.
Audience and product
Audience goes back to knowing who your consumer is. Once you have that knowledge, you use the applicable type of humor accordingly. Similarly, look to the type of humor that will best enhance your product. If you're selling coffee, you'll have more success with nonsense. Promoting a new jewelry line? Better to go with incongruity resolution.
There's no doubt about it: Humor works. Getting it to work for your brand can be trickier. Exploiting this resource is all about striking the balance between the five elements Earleywine discussed. In the marketing world, unless you're Gas-X, a plain old fart joke just won't cut it.
Lucia Davis is associate editor at iMedia Connection.
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