I love a good joke. In fact, I love a bad one too. So do my kids. It must run in the family. My eldest came home from school the other day triumphant that he’d managed to convince his 10-year-old friends that I worked with someone called Scott Chegg.
I wiped a proud tear from my cheek and thought, “That’s my boy, you’ll go far.” Why? Because humour – in every type of communication – can be instantly arresting and powerful.
Humour has an endless ability to capture our attention and provide an instant moment of affinity. It can disarm people, diffuse a difficult situation or help us stand out from the crowd.
This is because it gets to the heart of what it means to be human. It makes us feel something. Not just understand a point or remember a key message. It sparks a moment of joy in our hearts, taking us away from reality – even if just for a second.
This is the Holy Grail for communicators. To leave someone’s emotional state elevated after having read or seen something aligned to, or supporting, their brand.
Not that all brands can use it. I’m not suggesting it’s the right tactic for everyone when considering how best to implement a strategy. Let’s face it, a couple of one-liners from Boris Johnson at the moment would probably fall as flat as a badly timed trouser cough in a busy tube carriage. Not that you get those these days. Busy tube carriages, that is, not badly timed trouser coughs. Plenty of those about. Anyway, I’m getting distracted.
The point is that humour seems to be on the wane in communications. Apparently, you’re half as likely to see a humorous ad today as you were 20 years ago, according to data from Kantar.
I’m not sure why this is the case. Perhaps it’s because too many brands are attempting to be achingly cool. Or perhaps it’s because, as Kantar also points out, no one has time for anything other than short-term campaigns that aim to drive sales rather than create any longer-term affinity.
I think this is a terrible shame and I feel compelled to do something about it – especially because in PR we have to earn our attention. We have no choice but to use every tool in the box to make people care about what we want to say. And in an increasingly serious and perilous world, humour might just be the tonic we need to get through.
So, if your brand has the right to use humour, grab it with both hands and wring the hell out of it. Sometimes you can tell a truth through a joke far quicker than you can with a dry, worthy or cool campaign.
I’ll leave you with a few one-liners. I bet you crack a smile at one of them. And if you do, then this post has proven my point. Humour always helps.
- “Working nine to when? What a way to make a what?” - Dolly Pardon
- Cows lactose
- Drilling’s boring
- If you go fishing with liquorice, you can catch all sorts
- My corduroy pillow is going to make headlines
- You can't use "beef stew" as a password. It's not Stroganoff
- My favourite teacher looked like a turtle. I remember everything he tortoise