Using humor in sales copy?

72 replies
I'm interested in hearing what everyone thinks about using humor in sales copy, and if anyone's ever done any split testing to test this specifically.

I think a little bit can be effective, IMO it can help something seem 'less spammy' or less of a pure advertisement.
#copy #humor #sales
  • Profile picture of the author DianaHeuser
    Hi Newman,

    You find this thread useful. It's a checklist for Sales Copy and it Chris Ramsey states that humour does not work. I am not a copy writer but I found it very interesting.

    Di
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    • Profile picture of the author NancyAnderson
      I have not used humor in sales copy, but I think it would muddy your purpose UNLESS the humor DIRECTLY related to what you are selling. Everything I have read and followed indicates that direct, simply stated information related to your product is the most effective.
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    • Profile picture of the author MLDerk
      Originally Posted by DianaHeuser View Post

      Hi Newman,

      You find this thread useful. It's a checklist for Sales Copy and it Chris Ramsey states that humour does not work. I am not a copy writer but I found it very interesting.

      Di
      Bill Glazer would probably disagree. He often uses some outrageous and sometimes funny methods and words, and he is "outrageously successful." I would think you would need to know your audience. I'm not a copywriter either, but I love seeing some humor in a sales letter, but that is just me!
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    Using humor in copy is very tricky. You must have an
    inside on the target market to know what is really
    humorous and if you fail then just wasted some
    important words.

    Don't use humor to be funny but to be more conversational,
    get attention, or break some tension in a tough subject.

    Writing copy is serious business, but you still want to
    entertain while doing it. Know your audience well and
    you'll know how far to go.

    But when in doubt leave it out.

    -Ray Edwards
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    • Profile picture of the author tpw
      Originally Posted by Raydal View Post

      Using humor in copy is very tricky.

      I've tried humor in copy. I have tried more than once.

      And against copy that did not have humor, the humorless approach has always worked best.

      Almost without fail, using humor in copy has been a total bomb.
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      Publish Coloring Books for Profit (WSOTD 7-30-2015)
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      • Profile picture of the author Caleb Spilchen
        Bill...

        Originally Posted by tpw View Post

        I've tried humor in copy. I have tried more than once.

        And against copy that did not have humor, the humorless approach has always worked best.

        Almost without fail, using humor in copy has been a total bomb.
        I've missed you :-). Bill, only certain humor works well in copy, it all depends on the type of humor that you use... Like in any situation, if you try to make people Laugh, and you try too hard... You will look like a total idiot. That's why you see so many failed acts at comedy clubs..

        The way that people use it successfully, and this is just an opinion of course... Is in a subtle, yet funny way... Take for example, Dan Brock, in the Deadbeat Millionaire, he has a really funny way of handing over the video to a voice over guy... You says "Hey VoiceOver Guy"... Then the guy comes on with the start of a bs pitch "In a world where you can make...", and Dan goes "No, we're being honest here"... Which would give everyone a laugh, but it's more of a subtle thing...

        That's just my opinion, and if I can be off topic for a moment... It's nice to see you Bill, I haven't been around these parts in a while - and this will be my first post in this section, in a month or two... So, it's nice to see you. You are welcome to PM/Skype...

        Back on topic, I hope I added some insight to the situation, I will try to find some sales copy examples that I think will work... There are some ace copywriters in the copywriting forum of course.

        Caleb
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        Caleb Spilchen

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      • Profile picture of the author sal64
        Have to agree with you, mate.

        Very tricky indeed.

        I think just being natural will work better every time.

        I mean, you can add it into a story if you want, but you gotta be real careful how you do it.

        And not everyone will get it, so it poses a risk.

        Things like...

        I was so amazed that you could have cut my legs off at the knees and called me a tripod - won't work.

        Things like...

        Does a one-legged duck swim in a circle?

        Or

        I found myself busier than a one-legged man in a butt kicking competiton - are borderline.

        and...

        Busier that a one-armed brick layer in Baghdad probably won't work either.



        Originally Posted by tpw View Post

        I've tried humor in copy. I have tried more than once.

        And against copy that did not have humor, the humorless approach has always worked best.

        Almost without fail, using humor in copy has been a total bomb.
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    • Profile picture of the author karinhaworth
      Wow, is that right Raydal.

      The world is always ready for Humor, but so many folks are Not...too true
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  • Profile picture of the author Bruce NewMedia
    Usually writers who attempt humor in sales copy mess it up...because it's very hard to do.

    I've seen it end up being cute, or even insulting! I've written funny corporate speeches, comedy routines, and humor articles, but I stay away from all but the tiniest humor in sales copy.

    In many respects, it brings into the mix, the wrong emotion.
    _____
    Bruce
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  • Profile picture of the author MatthewNeer
    Works pretty damn well for Mr Frank Kern eh??

    He curses up a storm and people love that sh*t!

    There is obviously a balance, and I think you find it when you become an excellent story teller. When you get someone submerged in your story/sales message, you can tell a corny dumb joke and it will be funny.

    On the other hand, I remember when Charlie Sheen got caught up smokin crack rocks and he said WINNING in his little interview with Katie.

    Shortly after that, I was on a webinar where some dude was like "Oh you guys like Charlie Sheen... WINNNNNNNNNING..." and it was about the most obnoxious thing I had ever heard and cause me to leave the webinar.

    So yea, gotta do it with taste homie!

    *for your amusement*

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    • Profile picture of the author Raydal
      Originally Posted by MatthewNeer View Post

      Works pretty damn well for Mr Frank Kern eh??

      He curses up a storm and people love that sh*t!

      There is obviously a balance, and I think you find it when you become an excellent story teller. When you get someone submerged in your story/sales message, you can tell a corny dumb joke and it will be funny.
      I wouldn't call Frank Kern's style of marketing using humor. He has
      personality, yes, but I don't laugh when I read his emails or
      sales letters--maybe I'm the exception.

      For sure, he is entertaining but not necessarily humorous. Gary Halbert
      was the same with the strong language and all--but it all to get
      attention (marketing personality) and not to get laughs.

      -Ray Edwards
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  • Profile picture of the author vtotheyouknow
    I've tried a little bit of quirky humor in my copy (see sig) and it's served me well. It's not outright funny, it's just something to catch the eye and differentiate yourself, especially if similar product/services exist.

    Now granted, since I haven't split tested, I could be talking out of my bummy bum, but that's my two cents with the info that I do have!
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    • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
      Banned
      Different, here.

      I've only ever written sales copy with some humour in it.

      "I know no other".

      On the two occasions that clients were concerned enough about it to split-test their sales pages with and without the jokey comments, the conversion rate was significantly better with the humour than without it. (One was actually for such a low-priced product that it hardly seemed worth testing, to me).

      My experience is limited and doesn't really prove anything, either way. But I'm not writing humourless sales copy, if I can avoid it. And that applies whether I'm writing with English or American spelling.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rocket Media
    I'm only funny in person. It's too hard to be funny online lol. Swearing comes off as obnoxious and there is no sense of dry vs. obvious humor.

    In person when selling though dry humor and being downright hilarious can actually form you an instant relationship with the prospect.
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    • Profile picture of the author myob
      Humor is a very powerful marketing tool when used with aplomb. But most marketers don't have a plomb.
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  • Profile picture of the author BarryADensa
    If your house list loves you, understands you, and 99% of them appreciate your humor -- and told you so -- then crack 'em up.

    But, if your house list subscribed to your emails or buys your products because of what you're offering, and because of its inherent value, why risk distracting them from your marketing goal -- which is to sell them -- not entertain them.

    On the other hand, always display your personality -- but don't confuse personality with humor, as Raydal pointed out. You don't want to sound like every other no-personality marketer. So by all means differentiate yourself (not to mention your product). Give your promotions and yourself a distinctive voice.

    But, if you're marketing to a cold list, who doesn't know you, who doesn't trust you, and who will always be quicker to say no than yes, humor, or what you think is humor, will get you trouble, i.e., collapse your sales funnel.

    Besides, does everyone laugh at all your jokes -- all the time? So why gamble that your humor will not brand you as a jerk, or worse, an insulting and offensive jerk?

    Marketing is nothing more than calculated risk taking -- why add more risk than is necessary to an already risky proposition.

    Their is no payoff to humor in marketing.

    Tell the jokes to your friends, and provide value to your clients.
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    Barry A Densa - Freelance Marketing & Sales Copywriter - WritingWithPersonality.com

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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
    My most successful Warrior Forum signature line relied on humor, and people went nuts for it. It was a straight up success and the offer was rock solid. It wasn't too hard to figure out that humor can be used effectively, though it is very tricky to pull off.

    All the best,
    Michael
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    "Ich bin en fuego!"
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  • Profile picture of the author ZachWaldman
    First off, I think it's a mistake to equate humor with bad words. If all it took to be funny was to use controversial language, anybody could do it.

    As a professional stand-up comedian, I can tell you why many people don't have luck with humor, whether it's in sales copy or anywhere else.

    It's because everybody thinks they're funny, but most of them aren't.

    Comedy is one of those things that people see and think, "I can do that, I make my family laugh."

    They don't realize how many years it takes and how much work goes into being a humorist.

    There's also a difference between jokes and comedy. I'm a comedian, but if you ask me to tell you a joke, I won't be telling you anything that's in my act. The old saying is, "A comic says funny things; a comedian says things funny."

    As a result, the best advice when making videos or writing sales letters is to be yourself. This is what artists call finding your voice.

    When you're being yourself, you may or may not be funny, and you may not have much choice in the matter.

    For example, Gene Wilder was a serious actor but regardless of the material he performed, people laughed. It drove him bonkers. He complained to Mel Brooks that he was doing a serious piece, but couldn't get people to stop giggling. Some people are just funny and that's the way it is.

    Even for people that are naturally funny, it takes years before they're killing on stage consistently.

    You won't hear this anywhere else, but I've shared this next piece of advice with students and entertainers asking me for help, and I'm very proud to have come up with it. Here it is:

    "There is nothing easier in this world to be, than yourself. But, there's nothing harder than believing that being yourself is compelling to an audience."

    Once you are completely honest with people, you will have a voice with which to create sales copy, videos, or anything else, that reflects who you really are, and that person may or may not be funny.

    Chances are, that person is probably funny sometimes, but not always. Guess what? Watch a great comedian and you'll see a dynamic performance that isn't always making you laugh. Sometimes, what you're enjoying is the anger, sentimentality, or another trait that makes a show compelling even when you aren't giggling.

    Strive to be honest with yourself and then share that honesty with your target market. You'll find creating products becomes very easy because you'll understand that even if a product has already been done that teaches SEO, your voice and way of approaching the subject is unique to you and some people are going to gravitate to your style.

    On the other hand, if you try to write in the voice of your favorite guru or make videos and try to present yourself like Billy Mayes (but alive), people will see you for what you are, a cheap knockoff that's disingenuous.

    In closing, whether you're funny or not in your sales copy doesn't matter. What matters is whether or not you're honest and communicating with your own voice like only you can. If you do that, sometimes you might be funny, other times, you might be frustrated, but don't try to be anything.
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    • Profile picture of the author eb219
      Well, I just wrote salescopy for "How to milk a cash cow" and it's one long salespage with no writing ... all you do is keep scrolling though pictures of farmers milking cows, all the way to the bottom with one big button shaped like an utter that says 'milk here'.

      No, I don't use humour at all
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      • Profile picture of the author myob
        "Huh?"

        - Paris Hilton
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      • Profile picture of the author tpw
        Originally Posted by eb219 View Post

        Well, I just wrote salescopy for "How to milk a cash cow" and it's one long salespage with no writing ... all you do is keep scrolling though pictures of farmers milking cows, all the way to the bottom with one big button shaped like an utter that says 'milk here'.

        No, I don't use humour at all

        See, that doesn't sound funny to me. Cute maybe, but not funny.

        But the more important question is, "Does it convert?"



        Originally Posted by ZachWaldman View Post

        In closing, whether you're funny or not in your sales copy doesn't matter. What matters is whether or not you're honest and communicating with your own voice like only you can. If you do that, sometimes you might be funny, other times, you might be frustrated, but don't try to be anything.

        Nice to hear from a pro. Thank you for your insight.
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        Bill Platt, Oklahoma USA, PlattPublishing.com
        Publish Coloring Books for Profit (WSOTD 7-30-2015)
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      • Profile picture of the author cniemann
        Originally Posted by eb219 View Post

        Well, I just wrote salescopy for "How to milk a cash cow" and it's one long salespage with no writing ... all you do is keep scrolling though pictures of farmers milking cows, all the way to the bottom with one big button shaped like an utter that says 'milk here'.

        No, I don't use humour at all

        For me, something like this would stick in my mind better than just another website with sales copy. If you are not important enough for the customer to bother remember you they will probably not buy from you.

        It also depends on your market, something like this would probably be a much better hit if your target market is farmers than if your target market was jewelry salespeople.
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    • Profile picture of the author MLDerk
      Originally Posted by ZachWaldman View Post

      First off, I think it's a mistake to equate humor with bad words. If all it took to be funny was to use controversial language, anybody could do it.

      As a professional stand-up comedian, I can tell you why many people don't have luck with humor, whether it's in sales copy or anywhere else.

      It's because everybody thinks they're funny, but most of them aren't.

      Comedy is one of those things that people see and think, "I can do that, I make my family laugh."

      They don't realize how many years it takes and how much work goes into being a humorist.

      There's also a difference between jokes and comedy. I'm a comedian, but if you ask me to tell you a joke, I won't be telling you anything that's in my act. The old saying is, "A comic says funny things; a comedian says things funny."

      As a result, the best advice when making videos or writing sales letters is to be yourself. This is what artists call finding your voice.

      When you're being yourself, you may or may not be funny, and you may not have much choice in the matter.

      For example, Gene Wilder was a serious actor but regardless of the material he performed, people laughed. It drove him bonkers. He complained to Mel Brooks that he was doing a serious piece, but couldn't get people to stop giggling. Some people are just funny and that's the way it is.

      Even for people that are naturally funny, it takes years before they're killing on stage consistently.

      You won't hear this anywhere else, but I've shared this next piece of advice with students and entertainers asking me for help, and I'm very proud to have come up with it. Here it is:

      "There is nothing easier in this world to be, than yourself. But, there's nothing harder than believing that being yourself is compelling to an audience."

      Once you are completely honest with people, you will have a voice with which to create sales copy, videos, or anything else, that reflects who you really are, and that person may or may not be funny.

      Chances are, that person is probably funny sometimes, but not always. Guess what? Watch a great comedian and you'll see a dynamic performance that isn't always making you laugh. Sometimes, what you're enjoying is the anger, sentimentality, or another trait that makes a show compelling even when you aren't giggling.

      Strive to be honest with yourself and then share that honesty with your target market. You'll find creating products becomes very easy because you'll understand that even if a product has already been done that teaches SEO, your voice and way of approaching the subject is unique to you and some people are going to gravitate to your style.

      On the other hand, if you try to write in the voice of your favorite guru or make videos and try to present yourself like Billy Mayes (but alive), people will see you for what you are, a cheap knockoff that's disingenuous.

      In closing, whether you're funny or not in your sales copy doesn't matter. What matters is whether or not you're honest and communicating with your own voice like only you can. If you do that, sometimes you might be funny, other times, you might be frustrated, but don't try to be anything.
      Erma Bombeck didn't exactly write copy, but she excelled in writing humor. However, I understand that when she was "being herself" in person, she couldn't be funny. "Being yourself" apparently is not the same in all contexts!
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  • Profile picture of the author philipf
    humor.....
    you've got to be really funny to pull it off.
    you should know what tickles you target market.
    you might strike a wrong nerve if you use humor,
    some might not take you seriously
    you've got to weigh it if you really are going to use humor
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  • Profile picture of the author harrietfredge
    hi newman!

    Your salescopy is one of the most important parts of your website because you don't have the opportunity to meet with your visitors face to face and sell your products. Basically, your salescopy has to act like a good salesperson and convince people to do business with you.

    (?)
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    • Profile picture of the author Jacob Hargreave
      Just a few words of advice. In my personal experiences and seeing others who have attempted.

      When it comes to humor,lightheartedness, etc people tend to not take you very seriously. In addition I find that when meeting someone knew who tries to be humorous is usually trying to cover up. Whether or not it's a feeling of nervousness,etc. Once that is done it is very difficult to be seen any other way. From a business stand point you should try to remain as professional as possible without looking/sounding like a pretender.

      I don't think I have personally seen any humor like pitches really work. I am starting to see a small trend in skit type introductions for instance the "Income Times Ten" product where Mr.Lewis pushes the actor off cam and demands his mic.

      It's a very delicate tactic that not many can really pull off and it's mostly to drop the guard of the viewer by a small degree. My personal opinion is to simply remain professional and stay in appropriate character.
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      • Profile picture of the author Kay King
        Humor in copy is similar to using auto run music or videos on a website. You don't know what frame of mind your visitor is in. You don't know if he's at work or if the baby's asleep nearby or volume his speakers are tuned to or what his taste in music is.

        You can use a light tone in copy rather than being stick-serious but it's easy to step over the line. What you think is hilarious (or even mildly humorous) might be cocky or rude in the reader's opinion. Using humor on a sales page is risky because you can't see the person's reaction and can't adjust the approach accordingly. And - you don't know what the person's sense of humor is...or isn't.

        Writing copy is a little like coming up with a drama skit. You get immersed in the process and sometimes what you end up with is too much theater for someone not previously exposed to the topic.

        kay
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  • Profile picture of the author BenKJunya
    Humor operates on a poignant level, driving home your message in a far more impressive way than words alone. Humor makes sensitive topics more approachable while summarizing and strengthening points that would otherwise be lost. Well placed humorous remarks get the consumers to unwind and let their guard down. Do not overdo it but you can always be yourself and show the prospect that you are a real person. If you have a natural talent for humor, then you should go for it and keep it relatively simple. In case you are feeling uncertain avoid it!
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  • Profile picture of the author Sabiha
    If you are a humorous person by nature, I mean if it happens to be a part of your personality, then it comes easily and naturally even in your sales copy and people love it because that's what they expect from you...

    For example, I'm on the list of Andy Jenkins and whether it's his emails, newsletters or videos there is always a touch of humour - heck even his disclaimers are humorous.

    But that does not mean that every Tom, Dick and Harry should start copying him. Because then it will not come through as natural and will look like a fake, put on image, which can do more harm than good to the seller. Because in the end we want to deal with honest, truthful people and not some make believe personality.
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  • Profile picture of the author cyong
    What i found out is using humor in sales copy is particular good in conversion if your traffic is coming from facebook. Those ppl from FB just normally looking for fun and relax..
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  • Profile picture of the author sal64
    Come to think of it...

    I find most of the claims on sales letters extremely humorous.

    Or should that be laughable?
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    • Profile picture of the author PatriciaJ
      Originally Posted by sal64 View Post

      Come to think of it...

      I find most of the claims on sales letters extremely humorous.

      Or should that be laughable?
      Now that made me laugh.

      I probably would buy from copy that makes me smile, because I get bored reading most sales pages. So if it's a product that I'm interested in I would be more likely to read through if I'm being entertained. But humour should be natural, part of the personality of the seller, not forced.

      Cursing up a storm - I wouldn't call that humourous
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    • Profile picture of the author Alan Ashwood
      Big BIG risk trying humour in sales copy. It's something I've mulled over many times.
      I like to think I've got a good sense of humour, but there are dabgers of your customer thinking this can't be a serious proposition if it's at all 'jokey'. After all, you're asking them to part with their money.

      Humour can, however, be a great tool in other marketing areas, where you're not directly selling. A good blog post that makes people smile, or even laugh, can go a long way to getting them on your side, and see the human side of your nature. It must be used with great care though, as it could offend, driving clients away.
      Even your email messages could be fun. Again, if you're not selling, by bringing a bit of levity into someone's day, could encourage them to open your messages. But don't try to mix the two - sales and humour.
      I am currently putting the finishing touches to an ebook, and just for the hell of it, I'm giving it a funny/cryptic/stupid title.
      Why?
      To help it stand out, and get people to take it out of curiosity. It will also help me establish a style that future publications can follow. Of course, it could fall flat on it's face, but nothing ventured ....

      But I'm not selling it - it's free!

      Cheers

      Alan

      PS. Message to Alexa.
      I didn't know you could write in English as well as American?
      You never fail to impress :p
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      Now where did I put that pencil?

      Time for a cuppa.
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      • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
        Banned
        Originally Posted by Alan Ashwood View Post

        PS. Message to Alexa.
        I didn't know you could write in English as well as American?
        Not quite as well. Only "nearly as well". But people don't always notice ...
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  • Profile picture of the author ryanoryan
    I find humour is too subjective to use effectively. What one person finds very funny, another could find offensive.
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  • Profile picture of the author Nathan2525
    Originally Posted by Newman8r View Post

    I'm interested in hearing what everyone thinks about using humor in sales copy, and if anyone's ever done any split testing to test this specifically.

    I think a little bit can be effective, IMO it can help something seem 'less spammy' or less of a pure advertisement.
    If your crowd already know you then it's good to be consistent. The humor probably make or break the sale.

    Knowing your ideal customer inside out and the actual product is way more important.

    Split test it, It's all BS till you test!
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  • Profile picture of the author Suze Thomas
    Probably useful to make a distinction between using humor to a list that buys into your personality and using humor on a sales page, composed mostly of visitors who don't know you.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mr. Subtle
    Can humor work in sales copy?

    Yes.

    Can YOU make humor work in sales copy?

    Probably not.

    Here are two examples of successful ads for North Carolina Travel and Tourism promoting white water rafting:

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  • Profile picture of the author The Copy Nazi
    Banned
    Works for Subtle.
    Location: not too far from Intercourse, Blue Ball and Paradise, PA
    I still get a kick out of reading that.

    Does humor work in sales copy? My "Grilled Chicken Ass" WSO copy is still pulling its tits off - even though the offer is long closed.
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  • Profile picture of the author Cam Connor
    Short answer... There's good copy and bad copy. Either one can be funny or not funny, but it doesn't matter...

    Adding humor to your copy won't help, but if it's funny, it typically won't hurt either. That's the long and short of it.
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  • Profile picture of the author gpsonline
    Relatively new to this caper but emotion is what sells and if you can move people with humour then why not? Grey suits all look the same.
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  • Profile picture of the author KimboJim
    It really matters on the product being sold. If you are writing sales copy aimed for college students, then a dry and drab, business-minded sales copy may not do the job. However, if you are writing the copy to businesses, I would say a very small amount of humor may help, but it can also damn the product.

    It all matters on who the customer is and what the product is.
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  • Profile picture of the author BartsTreasures
    In the case where the copywriting is "telling a story" relational humor can work. HOWEVER....most attempts will NOT work. So my humble advice is, no, don't use humor...it's much too difficult to 'get right' with too low a payoff.
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  • Profile picture of the author YasirYar
    It is hard to add humor to a sales copy. However, if you are successful in adding humor to the copy, then it can be really good. You need to understand the audience first and then think from their point of view; think what is funny for the targeted audience.
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  • Profile picture of the author ChrisKahler
    I like humor as long as it is subtle. Going out of your way to crack a joke is not really helping any, but if you are writing conversationally and a sly remark comes out that's a little humorous, that's A-OK.
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  • Profile picture of the author sdk1970
    If it's done in traditional advertisement, no reason it can't be done with Internet landing pages. It totally hinges on what is being sold and if it's appropriate.
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  • Profile picture of the author BarryADensa
    First answer this: how will humor add to the value of your offer? How will humor convince or persuade your audience to buy, inquire or subscribe? Will your conversions suffer if no humor is present?

    Humor for humor's sake is vanity, not salesmanship.

    And what is the purpose of the humor? Does it have a purpose? How does it increase your penetration or overcome objections?

    So settle the question once and for all. Test!

    Test one version without humor, and test another with.

    Sales is the only thing that matters, not laughs.

    --Barry
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    • Profile picture of the author Doceye
      Very interesting collection of opinions re: this topic.

      I'm motivated to respond because I wrote comedy professionally (one-liners/sketches) for television for over ten years. And I did pretty well with it; I narrowly missed getting a gig with Leno when he got the Tonight Show back in the early 90s.

      And yes, he was a helluva lot funnier back then.

      Bragging aside ... the analogy I like is this: Everyone here can probably drive a car, right? But how many of us can drive a Formula 1 car at its limit?

      The group just got way smaller.

      Everyone thinks they're sexy. Everyone thinks they're smart. And if my experience is any indication, everyone thinks they're funny.

      But they're not.

      In the end, if you can wield the humor sword to move the selling argument to credit card numbers being offered up, then it's just another effective tool in your arsenal.

      That is, if you can actually trace/track humor being the reason the prospect bought. Which is like trying to figure out why your boy/girlfriend slept with you the first time. You can ask them, but you're not going to get a straight answer.

      Conversely, it's truly amazing to me how people will forgive positively ridiculous product claims and outright crappy writing, loooong before they'll forgive clumsy attempts at humor.

      Maybe people just don't like to laugh/chuckle/chortle when slipping strangers their plastic. I mean, does anyone laugh at their physician while he's performing their rectal exam?

      Parting with your money is serious business.

      Humor is like anything else: everyone can do it to some degree. But it's a much smaller percentage of folks who can wield it to any great effect.

      Especially within a sales argument.
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      • Profile picture of the author hardraysnight
        This is why there are so many poor marketers

        They take everything too seriously and do not know how to laugh or enjoy themselves
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  • Profile picture of the author PhiladelphiaSeo
    People are very serious when it comes to spending their hard earned money. I would be more inclined to use humor if I were writing to my list of people who know me and I've build some sort of relationship with. I would never add humor to a sales letter I'm mailing to a cold list. If you must use humor I would use Self-effacing humor only.
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  • Profile picture of the author Daniel Scott
    It's a shame Kev or Vin isn't chiming in here, because if there's anyone who knows about humor in sales copy, it's those guys.

    Maybe we can cover it more thoroughly in a future Clambake or something.

    For now though... here's my thoughts in Cliff Notes format...

    Humor is part of entertainment. And your sales message definitely needs to be entertaining.

    Of course, what entertaining IS will vary from market to market (and even customer to customer).

    Someone mentioned the Deadbeat Super Affiliate thing... unless I am very much mistaken Kevin Rogers wrote the script for that. Obviously it did really well, and it was definitely entertaining.

    Having said that, Kev's a former comic (and a hilarious dude in general) so he probably has a skill set some people don't.

    As a professional copywriter... I've used humor in some of my sales pages to great effect (though I've never split tested with/without).

    But the thing about writing copy is nuance plays a big role. The difference between an "okay" letter and a killer letter is how clearly and cohesively the writer can put things together.

    As an example, let's take the weight loss niche. You can't say "Hey fatty! Join our gym and lose some weight!" It obviously wouldn't work very well.

    Yet that's what people do every day in their sales copy. They try and beat their target market over the head with their points with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

    It's the equivalent of walking up to a total stranger and asking for sex. You might get lucky every now and then, but it's obviously not a winning strategy.

    IMHO, this is what a lot of people do with entertainment... especially humor. And that's when it falls flat. For it to work, you almost need for people NOT to notice it.

    So here's my advice...

    If you've got the copy chops to work something funny in smoothly (like Kev's example above), then great... go for it.

    But if you're even the tiniest bit uncertain whether or not something "works"... scrap it and run with something a little bit simpler.

    -Daniel
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    • Profile picture of the author Mr. Subtle
      Originally Posted by Daniel Scott View Post

      As an example, let's take the weight loss niche. You can't say "Hey fatty! Join our gym and lose some weight!" It obviously wouldn't work very well.
      Yep, it would not because it's not funny. Now this weight loss commercial is funny:

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  • Profile picture of the author Matt Daniel
    Originally Posted by Newman8r View Post

    I'm interested in hearing what everyone thinks about using humor in sales copy, and if anyone's ever done any split testing to test this specifically.

    I think a little bit can be effective, IMO it can help something seem 'less spammy' or less of a pure advertisement.
    I think that humor in a sales copy helps develop a personal level of trust with your potential buyer, therefore they are more likely to buy your product.
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  • Profile picture of the author Pusateri
    Only fart humor works on sales pages. Farts move product.

    For squeeze pages, nothing beats a knock-knock joke.

    Knock-knock.

    Who's there?

    Sharon.

    Sharon who?

    Not Sharon who...Sharin' what! I will share all my secrets of using fart humor to make your sales pages convert like Torquemada!
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  • Profile picture of the author Johnny12345
    In my view, using humor in sales copy is a bit like asking a 6-year-old kid to perform open heart surgery on you.

    Now... it might work out great. But I'm betting against it.

    Humor is dangerous.

    If you tell someone you'll show them how to make $1,000, your offer will be understood. They may or may not buy -- but, at the very least, they'll understand your message.

    The problem with humor is that what one person considers humorous, another will not. So one bad joke and your chance at making the sale may be over... before it really begins.

    Humor makes it very easy to veer off course and crash and burn.

    Of my all-time favorite PRINT ads (TV is a different animal), not a single one uses overt humor.

    And there's a reason for it... copy that is clear (but interesting) will usually trump humor.

    If you're Frank Kern or Brad Gosse and your prospects *expect* humor from you, fine. Go at it.

    Otherwise... think twice before you dive into the murky, shark-infested waters of humorous sales copy.

    -John
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    • Profile picture of the author Mr. Subtle
      Originally Posted by Johnny12345 View Post

      Of my all-time favorite PRINT ads (TV is a different animal), not a single one uses overt humor.
      Here's a famous ad that uses humor:



      Maxell used a variation of it to promote their video tape and new (and improved) audio tape.
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      • Profile picture of the author Johnny12345
        Originally Posted by Mr. Subtle View Post

        Here's a famous ad that uses humor:

        Subtle,

        Excuse my vague use of the word "print." I should have been more clear and specific. I meant long-copy direct marketing ads, catalog copy, or direct mail pieces.

        Obviously, humor in magazine display advertising is VERY common. The Maxell ad you posted is a classic, but it uses all of ONE short paragraph of actual copy. It's also a pretty subtle example of "humor" (no pun intended).

        I was really thinking more along the lines of long form JS&A or even Joe Karbo style direct response copy. Those are among my personal favorites.

        -John
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        • Profile picture of the author Robert_Rand
          I think the best way to use humor in sales copy is self depreciating humor. More specifically, using a story that someone will empathize with.
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        • Profile picture of the author Mr. Subtle
          Originally Posted by Johnny12345 View Post

          Subtle,

          Excuse my vague use of the word "print." I should have been more clear and specific. I meant long-copy direct marketing ads, catalog copy, or direct mail pieces.
          Hey, no problem, after all this is the warriorforum where normal meaning of words lose their meaning. (Check out the "offline marketing discussions" forum and you'll know exactly what I mean. Somehow "offline" there takes on a new meaning.)

          Another print ad that uses humor (and does not require a ton of copy to make its point):

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          • Profile picture of the author Johnny12345
            Originally Posted by Mr. Subtle View Post

            Hey, no problem, after all this is the warriorforum where normal meaning of words lose their meaning. (Check out the "offline marketing discussions" forum and you'll know exactly what I mean. Somehow "offline" there takes on a new meaning.)
            I have no idea what you mean by that, but... Hey, no problem, after all this is the warriorforum where normal meaning of words lose their meaning.

            (OMG... it might be contagious.)


            Another print ad that uses humor (and does not require a ton of copy to make its point):
            Yes, cool image... and 5 words of copy. (Of course, at some ad agencies, that could pass for long copy.)

            The problem I have with those sorts of ads is that they're slick and fancy and all that... but they don't make me want to buy. (But money can't buy prestigious advertising awards.)

            -John
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  • Profile picture of the author larrydcook
    There are four major personality types with 4 minor personalty's & of millions of combinations. what did I just mean! Humor is in the eye of the beholder!

    Great thread with lots of insight. It reminded me of the study or personality with in sales! You might look for the book by Stephen K Scott " Mentored BY A Millionaire" it give a lot of insight in to the psychology of saleing to different personality types!
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  • Profile picture of the author thetrafficguy
    Easiest solution is if you aren't already an expert copywriter than don't do it. You need to know the rules before you can break them.
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  • Profile picture of the author jtunkelo
    If humor is part of your public persona (or your client's, if you're writing for someone else) and the audience knows to expect it as part of the story without getting distracted, then you may be able to use it, very consciously. In many cases though, it comes off gimmicky and only distracts. Or worse, it's used to fill in the gaps in the actual marketing, and that can never end very well.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mr. Subtle
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  • Profile picture of the author Johnny12345
    Subtle,

    Very funny ad... and it has more than 5 words. So let me ask this...

    If you were not already a Heineken drinker, did it make you want to switch brands?

    Maybe it did. But for most people, I'm going to guess the answer would be "no."

    As I noted, the Panasonic ad is also very cool -- but it didn't make me want to buy a Panasonic television.

    So, unless Panasonic is trying to break in the lucrative "toy dinosaur" market, for me it's a FAIL.

    -John
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    • Profile picture of the author Mr. Subtle
      Originally Posted by Johnny12345 View Post

      Subtle,

      Very funny ad... and it has more than 5 words. So let me ask this...

      If you were not already a Heineken drinker, did it make you want to switch brands?

      Maybe it did. But for most people, I'm going to guess the answer would be "no."
      Would this ad make you switch...






      Faux ad by Mr. Subtle
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  • Profile picture of the author Mr Bill
    I just got back from a drive to town and despite being bombarded with 1,000 marketing messages I only remember on. It was a big banner spread across the top of the door to a pub and it said...


    Adelaide's Worst Vegetarian Restaurant!
    Steaks 1/2 price!



    I enjoyed it so much I immediately thought of this copy writing forum. Looking for a place to post my amusing encounter with cool copy I found this thread. "perfect".
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  • Profile picture of the author hanandaner
    Using humor in a sales copy is always a tricky thing... 90% of the people reviewing are very serious over it.. and cracking humor over might go crazy...
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  • Profile picture of the author Nick Huonder
    Wow this question generated a lot of response.Humor can be useful in articles, social
    media and emails to create a bond with the reader.A sales letter has only one purpose.
    To compel the reader to purchase what is being offered.
    If you need confirmation of this read the greats Caples,Hopkins and Schwartz.
    Study their letters.Their techniques are still valid today.It is about persuasion.Humor entertains, it does not give one a reason to buy.Use it and you break the flow of persuasion you worked hard to create.John Carlton and Frank Kern are funny guys but they do not write funny sales letters...As far as Frank Kern is concerned
    I received a sales letter from him the other day.And guess what.There was not one attempt to be humorous or clever.It was meant to do one thing
    to convert the reader (me) to become a buyer.In the end a sales letter
    is written to make sales.We are constantly hit with commercials
    that try to promote products by being funny and cute.Yes I am entertained but I seldom
    see a compelling reason to buy.
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    • I've found humor does work well in copy - I just don't overdo it.

      Even if the subject is dreadfully serious (most aren't) humor can still work if you use it properly.

      Tends to be better if it's aimed at yourself not the reader.

      One of the best ever Sales Letters - "Read This Or Die" by Jim Rutz had lots of humor.

      And it worked like gangbusters.
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