Many brands, from automotive manufacturers to pharmaceutical companies, aspire to launch humorous marketing campaigns. For some, it works out well; for others, not so much. In the purported last words of 18th-century actor Edmund Kean, “Dying is easy; comedy is hard.”
Even when a marketing joke falls flat, there are plenty of reasons for brands to keep trying. After all, humor—when done correctly—increases the likelihood that ads will be remembered and, more important, shared with others. And let’s face it: Knowing that you made a person laugh just feels good.
Over the decades, marketers have honed and evolved their approaches to humor in print and television campaigns. And just when they thought they’d gotten it down to a science, along came social media—and screwed everything up.
After all, what translates on the screen or in print won’t necessarily play in the form of a Facebook status update or tweet. No, no, no. This is social media, where sarcasm will usually backfire and light-hearted irreverence will be perceived by at least someone as being downright hurtful.