25th April 2023

Why does humour work in advertising?

Humour is a powerful tool in advertising because it helps to capture the audience's attention, create a positive emotional connection, and make the advertisement more memorable.

When an advertisement is humorous, it stands out from the many other ads that people encounter on a daily basis. Humour can help your brand break through the clutter and make an ad more attention-grabbing. This is particularly important in today's fast-paced world where people are bombarded with ads everywhere they turn.

In addition, humour can create a positive emotional connection between the consumer and the brand. When people associate positive emotions with a brand, they are more likely to remember it and feel positively towards it in the future. This can lead to increased brand awareness, positive word-of-mouth, and ultimately, more sales.

Finally, humour can make an ad more memorable. People are more likely to remember an ad that made them laugh than one that did not evoke any emotions. This can lead to increased brand recall and ultimately, more sales for the advertiser.

Of course, it's worth noting that not all types of humour will work in all situations. Advertisers need to be careful not to offend their target audience or make light of serious issues. When done well, however, humour as we found in our Sexual Health Advertising Campaign for Umbrella, is an extremely effective tool in advertising.

Umbrella STI Self Sampling Campaign Case Study 4

This is all very well. But it did get me thinking about why we find things funny and the behavioural science behind why human's evolved to laugh.

The exact reason why humans evolved to laugh is still not fully understood by scientists, but there are a few theories. One theory suggests that laughter evolved as a way to signal to others that a situation is safe and that there is no danger. Laughter can be contagious and when people hear others laughing, it can signal that everything is okay and they can relax.

Another theory suggests that laughter evolved as a way to bond with others. Laughter can be a social signal that people use to connect with others and build social bonds. When people share a laugh, it can create a sense of camaraderie and bring people closer together.

A third theory suggests that laughter evolved as a way to release tension and reduce stress. When people are in a stressful situation, laughter can help to reduce tension and create a sense of relief. This can be particularly important in situations where fight or flight responses are triggered, and laughter can help to diffuse the situation and calm people down.

Overall, laughter likely evolved as a way to serve multiple functions, including reducing stress, signaling safety, and building social bonds. Whatever the reason, laughter has become an integral part of human communication and is an important aspect of our social interactions.

Is humour in advertising good for brand building?

Laughter is a human-only trait. It's hard-wired and universal. You can see it in every society, every culture, every civilisation has some form of laughter and humour - except the Germans haha.

In his book, The Emerging Mind, Prof Vilayanur S Ramachandran writes about the evolutionary process and science behind the punchline of a joke. He argues that humour is the human signal for everything is okay, ‘there's no real danger here’.

"Laughter evolved as nature's false alarm. The rhythmic staccato sound of laughter informs your kin that shares your genes, don't waste your precious resources rushing to this person's aid, it's a false alarm."

Laughter is the sound early humans might have made when on realising they’ve just seen sun-dappled leaves and not a tiger’s face in the brush.

This sense of relief is funny, powerful and highly memorable. Everyone knows laughter is contagious. Perhaps this evolved as a signal that spreads across a village or hunting party that all is well.

As humans, we're exceptional at recognising patterns: a predator's eyes, Tiger stripes, Leopard spots, a Coca-Cola logo, and a Shreddies blue cereal box.

Coke 3

Just like scary things, funny things are memorable, because funny means it is safe. And now we come back to the crux of it. The goal of advertising is to improve the memorability, fluency and salience of your brand in your audiences.

When consumers laugh at a brand's advertising, their brain stores that memory and this increases mental availability. Funny ads make it easier for consumers to recognise and remember them. Humour can build salience and become more likely to be considered by consumers in buying situations.

5 types of humour used in advertising campaigns

1. Slapstick: This type of humour is based on physical comedy and involves exaggerated actions or movements that are intended to be funny. Advertisers use this type of humour to get people laughing and create a memorable impression of their brand.

2. Satirical: Satirical humour involves mocking or making fun of a particular situation or topic. Advertisers use this type of humour to make a point or highlight the absurdity of a situation, often with the aim of getting people to think about a particular issue in a new way.

3. Parody: Parody humour involves imitating or mocking a particular style or genre. Advertisers use this type of humour to playfully poke fun at a competitor's product or to make their own product seem more appealing by associating it with a well-known cultural reference.

4. Irony: Irony humour involves saying one thing but meaning the opposite. Advertisers use this type of humour to create unexpected twists or surprises in their ads, often with the aim of catching people off-guard and getting them to pay attention to the message.

5. Self-deprecating humour: Self-deprecating humour involves making fun of oneself or one's own brand. Advertisers use this type of humour to show that they don't take themselves too seriously and to connect with consumers by being relatable and approachable.

In summary, the use of humour in advertising increases mental availability because brand association with a positive emotional experience creates powerful and longer-lasting connections in the brain. Having higher mental availability than competitors means your brand is more likely to spring to mind in buying situations.

Humans are hardwired to laugh and advertising at its most effective goes with the grain of behaviour and instinct.

Funny Advert

Need help with boosting memorability through humour? Get in touch with us today to see how we can support you with your goals.

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