Funny business: 7 tips to add humour to your next B2B campaign

We all love to laugh. Yes, that’s right, even B2B marketers.

Campaigns that make their audience smile are proven to be successful time and time again.

Earlier this year we created a campaign around the concept of a Tinder for cows (shortlisted for three B2B Marketing Awards). The success of the campaign was largely down to the humour surrounding it. The idea was funny – and we pitched it to media titles using puns, which they then used in their coverage of the story.

That particular campaign was created for an agritech business, which goes to show that humour’s not just for consumer brands. As is often preached, B2B audiences are people too, and people like to smile.

We are, thankfully, moving away from some of the formalities that previously surrounded businesses, both internally and externally. At a macro level, many are relaxing their dress codes, and some are experimenting with allowing their employees to spend more time away from their desks – even in more traditional sectors such as finance.

In communications, this trend towards being more personable and informal manifests in modern copy and design. And an important part of that is humour.

One business that does this well is Cisco Systems. Tim Washer, formerly senior marketing manager of social media at Cisco, said: "When I can’t find a compelling statistic to support my argument, I invent one: ‘73 percent of people who read B2B blogs are people.’"

The networking company is not afraid to make fun of itself, as its 2009 ad above shows. The ad was part of an online campaign that was so unusual in its approach, it was covered by The New York Times.

MailChimp

Another B2B brand that famously uses tongue-in-cheek humour very well is MailChimp. Above is its 401 unauthorized error message in 2013.

In this example, MailChimp brings together design and copy to make a potentially irritating message fun, while reinforcing the brand’s identity. It uses the same playful language and imagery in its campaigns.

7 tips to add humour to your next campaign

Here are a few tips for peppering your next campaign with humour:

  • Use expressive, relatable imagery – whether photography or animation, images are unrivalled at evoking emotion, except perhaps by video 
  • Use video – people love funny videos
  • Have fun with your language – use jokes and puns, and write in a playful and conspiratorial style
  • Be informal in your comms – an informal approach to all comms makes your audience feel relaxed and comfortable, creating a greater level of intimacy that’s fertile for humour
  • Add a gaming element – gamification is interactive and great for engagement, and games are often funny, just look at Operation or Cards Against Humanity!
  • Be personal – know your audience and tailor your cheekiness accordingly, some audiences will be more receptive to certain types of humour than others
  • Be surprising – this may sound general, but it’s where creativity really comes into play – how can you elicit humour in a unique and surprising way?

Humour has a role to play in all sorts of communications, whether in your day-to-day exchanges with existing customers or in inbound and outbound campaigns. It’s a risk – you don’t want to look like you don’t take your customer’s needs seriously – but if these examples are anything to go by, it’s a risk that’s worth taking.

Article written by CEO at Octopus Group, Jon Lonsdale, and originally published by B2B Marketing.