Leveraging LOL for ROI: Using Humor in Your Content Marketing Strategy

By Michael Ward

Don’t underestimate the power of the l-o-l. Content that makes your audience guffaw, chortle, chuckle, titter, or just crack a smile is more likely to stick in their heads, make them view your brand more favorably, and share on social media. In fact, 56% of Americans prefer online ads that make them laugh instead just giving them facts according to a recent Ipsos survey.

Some of the most shared content today comes from websites like Buzzfeed, Mashable, and Funny or Die, who all rely heavily on comedy and encourage their advertisers to do the same.

So we should all just stop what we are doing and start thinking of jokes for our upcoming posts right? Nooooope.


Using humor in content marketing is totally different than cracking jokes around the office or throwing down some hilarious tweets on your personal page. While using humor correctly can pay off with high engagement and lots of shares, using it incorrectly is so so easy and can cause significant damage to your brand’s reputation.

So we should just leave the comedy to the professionals then? No way! Don’t get so discouraged. As long as you follow some of these simple strategies and exercise a healthy dose of common sense, a sense of humor can be a viable and profitable tool for content marketers everywhere.

Know Your Audience

In order to connect with a shot directly to your audience’s funny bone, you have to know exactly where it is. Knowing your audience well not only informs you of what they find funny, but also tells you if they even want or respond to funny content. But if you don’t happen to be a mind reader, knowing your audience’s sense of humor takes a bit of reflecting, a smidge of good research, and a touch of trial and error.

First, you have to ask yourself, “Is humor even appropriate for this brand?” Some brands and products naturally lean more towards humor, while others like to keep their message simple and professional. “Fun” brands that don’t take themselves too seriously are the best bets for humor, like Old Spice, KFC, and Virgin Airlines.

Image: KFC

However, even brands like H&R Block, which you normally wouldn’t associate with humor since paying your taxes isn’t the most hilarious experience for most people, have experienced success creating humorous content. So just because your brand hasn’t historically been linked with “fun,” doesn’t mean that it can’t do comedy in content, provided its done correctly unlike Veet’s latest campaign.

On that note, keeping an open dialogue with your client, if you are working with one, is vital when attempting to use humor. Although you might think the brand’s audience might respond well to humor, it is ultimately up to the client on how they want their brand portrayed, and their wishes must be respected in the end.

Once you and your client know that you want to go for something funny and think it’s appropriate for the brand, you need to figure out what kind of jokes your audience will find funny. Are they internet savvy millennials? Hit them with all the GIFs, memes, and lists of GIFs and memes that they can handle, or make a shocking video. Is your audience actually the parents of these millennials? Tone down the snark and make something a bit cuter like this Catstarter campaign from Meow Mix.

Image: Meow Mix

Knowing your audience takes more than just some reflecting. Doing a little research about your audience and how they consume your content goes a long way in informing best practice when it comes to lols. Using Google Analytics will help you figure out how you actually reach most of your audience. Nielsen demographics research will tell you who you are actually reaching. Taking the time to research your competitors and their approach to content will tell you how you can make your content pop amongst the rest.

Be Relevant

We all know that comedy is all about the timing. Just take a look at this timing:


These days, people consume their content quickly no matter what channel it comes from. If you plan on using current events in your humorous content strategy, make sure that you are participating in real-time. By staying on top of the Zeitgeist, you can capitalize on events, such as sporting events, holidays, and pop culture, that could be used to be funny today but be will be forgotten about or irrelevant next week.

Staying relevant and timely means using humor differently across different channels. Quick witty comments about real-time events work best in social media channels with high turnover like Twitter and Facebook. If you are expecting your content to stick around for a while and continue to be relevant, it’s best to avoid one-off events or trends which will cease to be funny and make your content look dated. Also it might be a good idea to explore new and untraditional content channels like Snapchat, OKCupid, and Tinder which have all been used in successful campaigns by Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Domino’s.

Image: Return On X

While humor may be just the tonic on your social media pages where you are competing against lots of humorous content, it probably isn’t wise to be too cheeky on your website’s service page where people are looking for cold, hard information. Even on more serious social networks like LinkedIn, it is better to tone down the humor level, since people are most likely using the channel for professional purposes.

Keep it Consistent

It is important as well to make sure that when your team is using humor in content, that there is a method for communicating the brand’s comedic voice to anyone involved in the marketing of your product or service. If your brand doesn’t speak with a coherent voice in general, then consistency in content marketing is impossible and your audience might end up confused.


If you’re having trouble coordinating your humorous content with your team, create a voice guide like Mailchimp did for their content team!

Guidelines not only help create internal coherence with your content team, they also help hone and refine your comedic voice. Brand guidelines that are constantly updated with what worked well and what fell flat on its face can be an valuable tool to keep both your team and your client informed, as well as providing a forum for feedback so that everyone is on the same page.


By balancing your knowledge of your brand’s audience with your knowledge of the kind of image that your brand is trying to convey and executing your comedy well, content marketers can find that sweet something called a comedic voice. With this new weapon, you help create an identity for your brand so that you stand apart from the rest of the pack, while entertaining your audience and making your clients happy.

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Michael Ward

By Michael Ward

Michael Ward is a Social Media Specialist at ThunderActive. Noted Anglophile, sports watcher, and guacamole aficionado.

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