Let's get serious about being funny

The science behind smiles

Humor enhances memory – it’s a psychological fact. People tend to better retain information presented through a humorous lens because of two main factors. (1) We find humorous information inherently interesting, so we pay more attention to it. (2) Our brain prioritizes humorous information when storing it in our memory. When someone finds something funny, they are interested, energized, feel positive emotions and commit it to memory. A marketer’s dream, right?

No fun zone: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Consumer brands use humor all.the.time. Check out Wendy’s sassy Twitter account, Ryan Reynolds's videos for Aviation Gin, Air Canada's Travel Like a Canadian campaign – the list goes on. But for whatever reason, B2B brands tend to shy away from humor, instead leaning on straightforward facts and features to communicate advantages. We get why – B2B brands want to be perceived as professional and taken seriously, and are extremely risk averse (just ask legal departments).

But guess what? CEOs watch stand-up comedy on the weekends. Procurement managers tell great jokes at dinner parties. And engineers play pranks on their families. Give the people what they want: a little chuckle to break up their day at the office. 

Superlative for class clown goes to …

Although it’s less common to see humor-based marketing in B2B, it does happen – and can be done really well. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites to inspire our industry, our clients and even our own agency to consider the lighter side.

  • Big Ass Fans has developed a brand that is built for this playful approach. Not only did they choose a funny name, their logo is the backside of a donkey. They know it’s controversial, and actually publicized people’s negative reactions to the name - posting hate mail on Instagram and plastering negative feedback on trade show booths.
  • MailChimp created their “Did you mean” campaign to reach individualistic, creative small business owners by poking fun at their own name. Inspired by the mispronunciation of the company’s name during its sponsorship of the podcast Serial, back in 2014, they concepted and promoted nine different company names that rhyme with MailChimp, including FailChips, MailShrimps, KaleLimp, etc.
  • TD Bank launched their “Unexpectedly human” campaign in 2019, showing people in very human scenarios – getting caught having a solo dance party and not remembering online passwords. The videos are fun and approachable – two words I’d rarely use when describing my bank.
  • AvidXchange’s 2019 “Liberate Your AP” video shows what every accounts payable department wants to probably do - beat the shit out of their file cabinets. The campaign spans media channels, including ads and landing pages, with clever messaging around the frustrations of a historically manual processes. See ya later paper cuts. 

So go forth! Make someone laugh at their desk today – they might even remember it later.