Should I use humor in my copy?

by Junaid khawaja 22 replies
Few days back, I undersold myself to a local print advertising company (I really wanted to taste how print advertising is different from the web copy).

Currently, I am working on a Stethoscope ad. The project manager wants me to get witty and humorous with it.

And guess what? They have asked me to compare it with an Elephant trunk! (Sigh, I am finding some similarities right now).

But, I have learned that humor can KILL a brand.

Firstly, because it is all relative. For some, the joke might be funny, for others, it may fall flat.

Secondly, it can derail your reader from the actual message or solution or problem presented.

Lastly, it may sound unprofessional and a little too informal. (In the stethoscope ad, this is really a problem; my target audience is Doctors.)

What’s your take on this? Do you think going with a humorous copy is risky?

Would love to know your opinion on this!

Thanks
Junaid
#copywriting #copy #humor
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  • Ah the humor debate (it's been raged about a few times).

    I like humor in ads (Kern, Halbert, Kennedy and many others use it).

    It is very subjective and you need to be careful not to offend.

    Definitely no racist, sexist or religious jokes.

    Situational and slightly self deprecating humor works the best.

    Many will disagree and say, "Stop It! Not In Copy! No Joking! Ever!" (I agree if the "subject" is deadly serious).

    For everything else I just feel humor can add a bit of fun, a touch of personality and a dash of entertainment.

    Don't overdo it. We're not comedians but we can certainly make people feel a little happier (difficult to achieve if all we do is an endlessly formal sell, sell, sell pitch - lighten it up a bit).

    And do remember people who are smiling are more likely to end up buying.


    Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author Junaid khawaja
      Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post


      Don't overdo it. We're not comedians but we can certainly make people feel a little happier (difficult to achieve if all we do is an endlessly formal sell, sell, sell pitch - lighten it up a bit).

      And do remember people who are smiling are more likely to end up buying.


      Steve
      Hi Steve, thanks for your brilliant insight.

      Don't overdo it.

      Couldn't agree more. Overdoing can be disastrous. Personally, I will prefer to keep humor out of the main copy. And try to integrate it inside a call to action (or around it somewhere).

      A gentle smile, just before your ad ends, can turn out to be a last decisive push.

      Thanks again for your pearls!
      -J
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  • Profile picture of the author trobo
    I think humor can work, but it depends on the product and audience. If your audience is blue-collar or "everyday" folks, then I think they can have appreciation for humor.

    If your audience is professionals, then I would certainly be more hesitant to use humor in my copy.
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    • Profile picture of the author Junaid khawaja
      Originally Posted by trobo View Post

      I think humor can work, but it depends on the product and audience. If your audience is blue-collar or "everyday" folks, then I think they can have appreciation for humor.

      If your audience is professionals, then I would certainly be more hesitant to use humor in my copy.
      Hi trobo, that's a nice strategy.

      Walk a mile in the shoes of your prospect and see their appreciation of humor.

      In my case, the target audience is Doctors and physicians and medical students too. Well, they are professionals (excluding the students -- they will surely appreciate the humor).

      Anyways, thanks for your great insight!
      -J
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  • Hellor Junaid,

    Originally Posted by Junaid khawaja View Post

    Few days back, I undersold myself to a local print advertising company (I really wanted to taste how print advertising is different from the web copy).

    Currently, I am working on a Stethoscope ad. The project manager wants me to get witty and humorous with it.

    And guess what? They have asked me to compare it with an Elephant trunk! (Sigh, I am finding some similarities right now).

    But, I have learned that humor can KILL a brand.

    Firstly, because it is all relative. For some, the joke might be funny, for others, it may fall flat.

    Secondly, it can derail your reader from the actual message or solution or problem presented.

    Lastly, it may sound unprofessional and a little too informal. (In the stethoscope ad, this is really a problem; my target audience is Doctors.)

    What’s your take on this? Do you think going with a humorous copy is risky?

    Would love to know your opinion on this!

    Thanks
    Junaid
    I can't help it. But I don't believe your target audience is doctors.

    Yes they are the end user, who will buy, but to keep the brand intact while bringing humor into it, I'd say your target market is children and the interaction with the doctor.

    Package arrives and doctor seen opening it and inspecting his new ABC Stethoscope. Drapes it around his neck and heads over to the first patient. A timid, scared, first time doctor-child encounter.

    As the doctor walks in, child imagines they see the doctor holding an elephant's truck.

    Child say's, "Mommie, he has an elephant trunk"

    The doctor smiles, grabs the Stethoscope and pretends he is a goofy, noisy, toot snorting elephant, which makes the child laugh, which calms them down.

    The doctor then puts the Stethoscope around the child's neck and tells him to be a noisy, toot snorting elephant.

    The child snorts, then toots, then smiles and the doctor laughs and laughs.

    After the check up the doctor realizes he didn't buy a new ABC Stethoscope. He just invested in a child approved elephant trunk.

    Doctor Used, Child Approved

    Chincilla
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    • Profile picture of the author Junaid khawaja
      Originally Posted by ThePromotionalGuy View Post

      Hellor Junaid,



      I can't help it. But I don't believe your target audience is doctors.

      Yes they are the end user, who will buy, but to keep the brand intact while bringing humor into it, I'd say your target market is children and the interaction with the doctor.

      Package arrives and doctor seen opening it and inspecting his new ABC Stethoscope. Drapes it around his neck and heads over to the first patient. A timid, scared, first time doctor-child encounter.

      As the doctor walks in, child imagines they see the doctor holding an elephant's truck.

      Child say's, "Mommie, he has an elephant trunk"

      The doctor smiles, grabs the Stethoscope and pretends he is a goofy, noisy, toot snorting elephant, which makes the child laugh, which calms them down.

      The doctor then puts the Stethoscope around the child's neck and tells him to be a noisy, toot snorting elephant.

      The child snorts, then toots, then smiles and the doctor laughs and laughs.

      After the check up the doctor realizes he didn't buy a new ABC Stethoscope. He just invested in a child approved elephant trunk.

      Doctor Used, Child Approved

      Chincilla
      Damn man. You just nailed it!

      For a stethoscope brand looking for some humor, there couldn't be any better concept than this one. 

      Thank you so much for solving the 'steth-trunk' mystery for me!

      -J
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  • Profile picture of the author seobro
    I have found that humor works great for me. Often you need to understand how to create a joke that will assist your conversion. For example, Subaru has on you tube a commercial - the boy who breaks everything. It was very funny and when viral until a few liberals said it was making fun of gingers. That would be people with red hair, but I did not find it offensive in any way. Humor can help you or hurt you. Mostly, it will increase your conversion. Still, it can create controversy in your area. Best to be careful about what your joke is on.
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    • Profile picture of the author Junaid khawaja
      Originally Posted by seobro View Post

      I have found that humor works great for me. Often you need to understand how to create a joke that will assist your conversion. For example, Subaru has on you tube a commercial - the boy who breaks everything. It was very funny and when viral until a few liberals said it was making fun of gingers. That would be people with red hair, but I did not find it offensive in any way. Humor can help you or hurt you. Mostly, it will increase your conversion. Still, it can create controversy in your area. Best to be careful about what your joke is on.
      Good point. As steve already mentioned, racist or sexist jokes can break your brand once and for all. It may get viral, but there is a difference between respect and fame.

      There is also a debate on whether 'going viral' always means increased conversion. For example, we all remember the famous Taco bell ad that featured a dog (Asking for a taco).

      Well, the humor was great.

      But guess what? The ad resulted in 6% reduction in sales!

      Thanks
      -J
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    • Profile picture of the author Pat H
      I think humor can definitely be effective. Continuing on with your Subaru example, their ads with dogs as drivers and passengers were very popular with dog lovers. As has already been said, it depends on the audience being targeted and doing it effectively.
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  • Profile picture of the author gingerninjas
    I think it comes down to your audience. In this case, it sounds like you are targeting a medical niche and the people who are more than likely going to view the ad are medical professionals, medical managers (who do the orders) and probably medical admin support staff who manage ordering etc. All of these people have a sense of humour, and so long as the humour is subtle I think it is a great way to go that will differentiate you from possibly some other stale ads out there in the marketplace. The ad needs to jump out and so long as it is not crude then I think it's great way to promote an otherwise fairly straightforward and unsexy medical tool.
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    • Profile picture of the author Junaid khawaja
      Originally Posted by gingerninjas View Post

      unsexy medical tool.


      Unsexy medical tool.

      Ah, that struck me.

      You are right. A light subtle humor that my target audience can RELATE is the best option here.
      Maybe, I should create two print ads (one with the humor, the other with the usual sell thing) and A/B test it with at least 10 doctors. I think that's the best way to guess my audience's appreciation for humor.

      Thanks for your great insight (as always).

      Thanks
      -J
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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
    Originally Posted by Junaid khawaja View Post

    Should I use humor in my copy?
    Originally Posted by Junaid khawaja View Post

    my target audience is Doctors.


    Odds are a doctor isn't looking for jokes.
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  • Profile picture of the author boblyle
    Remember the old saying that "Laughter is the shortest distance between 2 friends"..I think this holds true between the supplier/product and the audience/consumer.
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  • Profile picture of the author moneymagneto
    It's subjective as Steve says. If it's an AD for Pop Tarts maybe, but medical equipment is not something you want to joke about.
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  • Profile picture of the author Tawn Hanson
    As a professional who uses a stethoscope, I believe that there is a place for humor in ads. As stated here by others though, definitely stay away from volatile subjects, and even certain content jokingly comparing the stethoscope to an elephant's trunk, depending on content, could be taken under advisement by animal rights groups is they are offended.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bill Jeffels
    The general rule for using humor in copy is not to do it. It's risky and more times than most turns into a dismal failure.

    Has it ever worked in the past? Yes. But, the risk really doesn't outway the payoff. Take a look at past winning Halbert newspaper ads for example.

    To the best of my recollection he never had a winning ad using humor.

    Well anyway, can it be done? Yes. Should it be done. No.

    Bill


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  • Profile picture of the author Ben Ogren
    I typically try to avoid humor in copy simply because I find it distracts the reader and puts their mind in a different place.

    When I write copy, I write it to sell the living daylights out of whatever product I'm selling.

    Now I'm not saying it should be avoided like the plague but I typically try to avoid it in most circumstances.
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  • Profile picture of the author George Schwab
    sad people are always offended, no humor for them
    they cannot swallow fun stuff, makes them more sick

    however, happy people love humor
    and the cranky folks, they like sarcasm, but they
    do not buy anything in that mood.

    So, no, no humor in general. Unless you're
    in a market where only happy people buy stuff.
    Then its a must, or they switch channels.
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  • Profile picture of the author mars244
    If you're a funny person then yes... if you're not then just write in your own voice. If you try to be funny... trust me it won't be.

    JH
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  • Profile picture of the author CabaMate
    Originally Posted by Junaid khawaja View Post


    Currently, I am working on a Stethoscope ad. The project manager wants me to get witty and humorous with it.
    If it suits the service or product that seems fine.

    I think it just shouldn't be in poor taste as that can be offensive and offputting to people.

    Stethoscopes aren't that interesting, so adding humor could be a great way to get peoples attention and make the ad stand out from the crowd.

    I think you should also test it to the target market, will it be people ordering the materials like nurses and office managers or is it the medical professionals themselves.
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  • Profile picture of the author jessegilbert
    If it talks about something that is real and funny that the read is intelligent enough to grasp yes, then maybe. But otherwise I'm not sure.

    Maybe humor in emails to people on your list - but on a cold click web page I'm not sure.
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  • Profile picture of the author heaththompson
    write with humour? Yes, no, yes, no? Yes, get on with it.
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