Humor is an often overlooked but useful tool for any business looking to create a positive customer experience. Using humor can help you build your brand, foster connection, and promote relaxed and happy customer relationships.
Yet, many businesses hesitate to use humor. Some are afraid it may appear unprofessional. Others are worried it may sometimes be misconstrued or unintentionally offend. These are real concerns — and that’s why it takes some thought to use humor correctly.
Wondering how? We’ve put together a few tips that will help you leave your customers smiling, chuckling, or even laughing.
6 tips to use humor for positive customer experience
1. Be accessible and relatable
Marketing 101 dictates one simple rule: know your audience. Make sure to use humor that is relatable and relevant to your customers and doesn’t leave them scratching their heads.
Also, it’s important to create an inclusive experience. Maintain accessible language, avoid jargon, and consider people with varying needs or abilities.
To do this, focus on fostering a common connection and shared understanding. Touch on something most people can relate to, and avoid excluding a particular group.
For example, take a look at telecommunications company Mint mobile and how they create a positive customer experience. Featuring colloquial (yet understandable) language, minimalist design and trending color schemes, both their customer landing page and recent video advertising campaign (a $500 ad) is light-hearted, to-the-point, and contains audio, visual and written cues – keeping it fully inclusive.
2. Aim for authenticity
Humor can be a great way to build trust with your customers, but it has to be aligned with your brand’s authentic voice and mission. Don’t try too hard – just let your values guide the language you use or the subject of your jokes. Sometimes, even being more approachable and relaxed can be key in creating a positive customer experience.
In 2015, for example, the Ritz Carlton Hotel Group rebranded their old-world charm and adopted a new company communications strategy. This involved less formal language between customers and staff, abandoning scripts, and leaving employees show their own personalities when dealing with customers – a change which prompted an overwhelmingly positive response.
And an example on humor: toilet tissue company Who Gives a Crap. Selling toilet paper leaves a lot of room for jokes, but this company still takes itself seriously — at times. They have an honest voice, and employ a savvy marketing strategy that engages customers and effectively promotes their mission and products. The example post from their Instagram page below illustrates just how simple it can be to tie in your business objectives with humor.
3. Keep it appropriate
The customer comes first, and this means making sure they feel comfortable. Avoid risky humor that could be deemed inappropriate. This doesn’t mean you have to walk on eggshells, just consider your timing, tone and audience.
As a rule of thumb, always steer clear of any offensive language, themes or topics. Just remember that you should be using humor to provide value and always keep the different people in your audience in mind.
On-demand streaming service Amazon Prime Video does positive customer experience right — it has an active and light-hearted Twitter account, providing comic relief for their 1.9 million followers. They actively engage with their customers, catering to different tastes, sharing memes and commenting on posts. Their posts and updates cross-reference photo stills from movies and shows, keeping their social media marketing relevant, appropriate and appealing for a cinephile audience.
4. Maintain a conversational approach
Conversational and personalized marketing trends are on the rise, because customers want to be treated as individuals instead of a faceless consumer base. Fostering a lighthearted connection online can help.
Tech support humor, for example, can be a great ice breaker. Granted, if a customer is frustrated, you probably shouldn’t joke with them. But if your customers just ask questions or want to get more information about products and services, there’s no reason to be dry and formal.
A great way to implement this approach is using humor through chatbots — a great digital marketing strategy. You can program them to be lighthearted and joke around depending on what the user says. Even just the use of emojis and gifs can add a positive note to customer conversations.
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5. Try self-deprecating humor
Self-aware marketing, also known as meta-marketing, is another trend taking up a lot of space in 2021. This is when a company produces satirical content that parodies advertising and branding.
Many big brands and consumers are now appreciating a tongue-in-cheek approach – it’s a great way to show customers that you don't take yourself too seriously, leaving room for a friendly and relaxed relationship; and ultimately a positive customer experience as a whole. It's also the safest choice if you're just starting out using humor as a brand and you're not yet sure what your audience's tastes or boundaries are.
For example, in 2020, Bank West launched a video advertising campaign, stating ‘this is not a bank ad, this is a customer ad!’ It’s fun, lively and pokes fun at the traditional advertising tropes associated with banking.
6. Keep it timely
In a rapidly changing marketing space, it can be difficult to keep up with what your customers are feeling, expecting or find funny. But, for any humor to be effective, it needs to be relevant and in line with current events and trends. For example, old-school humor may not always land well if your audience consists mainly of millennials or Gen Zers.
So, keep an eye on what’s trending and carefully choose the topics or aspects you can have a bit of fun with. Use customer service emails, social media, or other available channels to create a dialogue, if possible.
For example, American food chain Wendy's adapted well during the pandemic with a quirky and caring advertising campaign. The group offered free promotional nuggets with the tagline ‘If we can’t Hug, we might as well Nug.’ The video provided some much-needed comic relief and encouraged customers to buy their product. Tapping into the lighter side of current events helps engage your audience, and build buyer trust.
4 different forms of humor to try
1. Puns and wordplay
Wordplay, homonyms, double entendres – this form of humor is a simple and effective way to make your customers laugh. Inclusive, straightforward and perfect for headlines and mottos.
The Dollar Shave Club, for example, has a pretty straightforward approach, bundling their identity, objective and audience into one cleverly worded tagline ("Shave time. Shave money."). Dollar shave club didn’t waste any time making an elaborate, funny first impression. Instead, they get straight to the heart of what their customers need.
While some businesses might opt for a snappy tagline to represent them, others use wordplay and puns to promote specific products. Hot sauce company Tabasco melded both visual cues and words to create a witty ad campaign. Bringing customers in with a comic warning and promoting their product at the same time is a great addition to their efforts toward a positive customer experience.
2. Videos and memes
Over 71 percent of people use social media for comedy and entertainment, leading to the ever-growing popularity of funny videos and memes. So, devising a funny social media marketing strategy is a great way to connect with your customers and extend your reach.
Many brands are now using memes and comments in their social feeds to interact in a relatable and humorous way. Netflix’s social media accounts cover a broad range of genres and topics, including humor to connect with their followers. They post relevant content across multiple platforms that still matches their brand identity and what they have to offer.
While it may seem simplistic, emojis are actually a great way to boost engagement and improve customer experience. The fun and growing list of emojis is a universally understood and accepted language.
With an estimated 1 in 5 tweets containing emojis, they are proven to improve engagement, increase email open and response rates, and put audiences at ease. Emojis give a business or brand a personality and add emotion to digital exchanges. Be it via email, mobile or social media, emojis are great for establishing an informal tone and getting across a point quickly and easily.
4. Self-referential humor
As we touched on earlier, using self-aware humor is a great way to build trust with customers. Poking fun at your brand shows authenticity and confidence.
An example is UberEats' most recent campaign that pays homage to the cult classic film Wayne's World and features a cameo appearance from American rapper Cardi B. The ad is pointing out the brazen way advertisers exploit consumers. Despite a big budget, the commercial stays true to UberEats established identity and commitment to local businesses.
Humor is a great way for your customers to get to know you, and key for building a lasting and positive customer experience. Just remember to match your brand voice and tone, keep an eye on relevant trends and make sure your humor is appropriate and relatable. People in your team who post on social or create campaigns can double-check the jokes with colleagues before they launch.
So what are you waiting for? Go put these handy tips into action and create the perfect punchline for your audience.