In a world filled with automation, elements of humanity are becoming harder to find. With the increasing use of chatbots and automated emails, it’s become more difficult to separate interpersonal communication from robotic messaging scripts. Occasionally, brands, companies and even politicians have the opportunity to present themselves as human through the use of humor in marketing.

Done correctly, a funny tweet or campaign can help you make meaningful connections with your consumers. Humor can make even the most unlikeable of people connect with the general public or help you solve a crisis, but only if done correctly (Anyone remember KFC’s “FCK” campaign?).

Companies are continuing to step out of their comfort zone on April Fool’s Day to share a joke with their customers, increase camaraderie and try to grow their audience. Marketers compete to get on the best of April Fools’” lists and get as much free press as they can.

While humor works on April Fools’ Day, it doesn’t need to be avoided the other 364 days in the year. If you don’t want a staid online reputation, you can and should incorporate a personality in your online communications.

When planning to use humor in marketing, you need to be cautious. Thanks to social media, mistakes are broadcast even faster than successes, and they can severely damage your brand’s long-term reputation. Here are some important tips for using humor in marketing to effectively showcase your brand’s personality:

  1. Stay lighthearted: There’s no need to be mean and look like a bully. A little self-deprecating humor is not a bad move, but you don’t want people to think you’re tone deaf or you’ve crossed a line.
  2. Be topical: Comedy is all about timing. A joke about something that happened several months ago isn’t humorous. Satire shows like “The Daily Show,” “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” “Saturday Night Live” or even “South Park” are able to capitalize on current events and then move on to the next topic to stay relevant.
  3. Embrace the target: You should have a plan for execution since you only have one shot to get the joke right, but at the same time, don’t overthink things and let a good opportunity pass you by. Remember waiting for Red Lobster to respond to Beyoncé after she released “Formation?” Because I do.
  4. Don’t impact the user experience: Regardless of how funny the idea is, the joke should enhance the user experience, not cause any inconveniences or worse, disrupt your purchasing process.
  5. Don’t be afraid: While it can seem risky, don’t bee too afraid or risk averse to try something new. Know that not every post or campaign is going to viral, but they will start to develop your brand’s online voice.

Most importantly though, don’t say or do stupid stuff. Make sure you have processes in place to vet your content and catch any red flags prior to it going public. And if that doesn’t work, make sure you have a crisis plan to deal with the aftermath or a good crisis communications firm on speed dial to help you through it.


This article was updated by Courtney Clemmons. Courtney is a trained marketing communications professional with extensive experience strategizing and executing impactful stakeholder communications.