What’s So Funny?  How To Use Humour In Effective Communications Without Becoming A Joke

by Alicia Simpson

Friday, September 4th, 2015

Farewell to the Funny People – but Laughter  can last well beyond the Festival Fringe

How humour can be used in effective communicatiionsJUST DAYS after the end of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s biggest annual arts event already seems like distant memory.

Billed as a month-long overload of culture, here at Holyrood PR we can’t help but feel it’s really all about another C-Word: comedy.

Every year the August-long arts extravaganza attracts an ever bigger army of funny people of every possible stripe, from aspiring comics to bona fide giants of the comedy scene from both sides of the Atlantic.

None of us really need an explanation of why. People simply love having their funny bone tickled. A little bit of laughter goes a very long way.

Public relations video for Edinburgh PR agencyAs those who often seek out evenings of side-splitting entertainment will be well aware, comedy acts can be risqué and whether or not a certain style of humour gels with an expectant audience can be hit or miss. A well thought out joke may be a graceless flop when tested against the wrong crowd.

The same can be said for comedy when it is set loose into the world of public relations. Fear of an adverse reaction can leave fretful PR professionals erring on the safe side and sticking to deadly serious, po-faced messaging.

For those who get it right, however, whimsy is an almighty PR device for a business to have at its disposal. Not only is it an effective communication method for any brand that suffers from terminal stuffiness, but having a sense of humour can also attract new audiences keen to engage with a fun company that, at face value anyway, refuses to take itself too seriously.

Though admittedly a tricky tool to master, a little comic value can also be particularly useful for brands that are active users of social media platforms, as has been successfully demonstrated by the likes of Innocent Drinks, Irn Bru and (arguably) Paddy Power, among others.

Here at our Edinburgh PR agency, Holyrood PR, we understand how important it is for our clients to deliver the right message with regards to their brand. However, we also have experience with clients who consider themselves not ‘sexy’ enough to be newsworthy. If this is the case for your company, adopting a more entertaining, witty persona may be the answer.

If you’re considering humour to spice up your branding, here are a couple of key examples from those who hit the comedy bullseye – from megabucks advertising and marketing campaigns to shoestring PR and social media hits.


Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

The Old Spice advert which took the internet by stormIn February 2010, Old Spice, a brand that was almost forgotten, launched their “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign and never looked back. Their debut commercial, which aired during the 2010 Super Bowl in the US , was an overnight success which instantly revived the fading brand, all due to the simple yet effective combination of humour and sex appeal.
Within 30 days of the campaign launch, Proctor & Gamble had enjoyed an 107% increase in its body wash sales, gained significant buzz among celebrity fans and accumulated over 40 million views on You Tube.


The National Lottery – #PleaseNotThem

National Lottery tongue in cheek advert featuring Piers Morgan#PleaseNotThem is a particularly clever campaign by the National Lottery that only went live in early July.
The tongue-in-cheek ads and Twitter strategy see Piers Morgan, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and Katie Price poking fun at themselves by way of discussing the godawful, vanity projects that they would pursue in the event of a big lottery win – a pier dedicated to Piers and a 24 hour Katie Price TV channel.
The campaign works well as it playfully captures the British sense of humour, as well as our captivation with celebrity culture.


Irn Bru – #getsyouthrough

Train toilet advert from Irn BruThe latest from Irn Bru’s cheeky Gets You Through campaign features a rather unfortunate train traveller attempting to retain his dignity in an awkward, toilet-door opening situation.
The previous ad saw a proud father struggling to accept the name choice of ‘Fanny’ for his beloved new born daughter.
Much to the enjoyment of our Edinburgh PR agency, Irn Bru’s campaign comes straight from its Scottish roots – tackling humorous, everyday issues that those residing in Bonnie Scotland may have to contend with.
The Gets You Through campaign is now in its fourth year and is the brands most successful to date, with its playful commercials generating 10 million online views and extensive Twitter activity by way of the #getsyouthrough hashtag.


Sainsbury’s – Twitter Punversation

A Twitter conversation with fish puns between Sainsbury's and a customerWhen a customer lodged a tongue in cheek “complaint” via Twitter, it sparked an hour long exchange of puns.
Shopper Marty Lawrence (@TeaAndCopy) Tweeted the supermarket giant claiming he had trouble buying a packet of salmon, because it had no “bar cod”.
Within minutes a quick-witted member of the Sainsbury’s social media team Tweeted back: “Were there no other packs in the plaice, or was that the sole one on the shelf? Floundering for an explanation!”
It was the start of a hilarious exchange which had countless Twitter users laughing like drains – and won the supermarket a wave of positive publicity.
So much so that some even claimed the whole thing was an elaborate PR setup. We like to think it was unprompted comedy gold – read the whole exchange here.


B&Q – Tie Me Up to Tie Me Down

An iconic scene from the 50 Shades of Grey movieComedy masterminds at the DIY store whipped up a media storm – when they “leaked” a memo to more than 20,000 store workers  titled: “Staff Briefing – Preparations for Fifty Shades of Grey Customer Queries”.
The memo claimed staff should brace for a flood of enquiries about rope, cable ties and tape as frisky customers experimented with sexual role play depicted in the movie version of the best-selling books.
It also suggested copies of the naughty novel would be sent to every branch, with staff urged to read the tomes to ensure they could deal with enquiries in a “polite, helpful and respectful manner”.
Cue a flood of media headlines as the story captured the imagination – only for the store to later admit the memo was a hoax by some creative comedians in the PR department.
Risky – but brilliant.


WANT TO TALK ABOUT HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR PR STRATEGY?

At Holyrood PR, we understand that not every business is edgy or glamorous. However, we know that this is not the be all and end all and that creativity in public relations is about digging deep for the real stories and making them relevant to the right audience; we are experts at knowing what type of PR campaign will benefit your business.

We’re a friendly bunch! If you want to find out how PR could benefit your brand, pop in and have a chat with our Edinburgh PR agency and we’ll even provide the refreshments. Failing that, feel free to give us a call on 0131 561 2242 or fill in the contact form below:

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Private: Alicia Simpson

The profile and biography of public relations professional Alicia Simpson, a junior account executive with award-winning Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh.

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