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Is there room for humor in the marketing of training, or for that matter, L&D (Learning & Development)? Or is that a bridge too far? Not a lot of humor going around. Maybe it’s time to rethink.

It’s not about telling jokes

We think humor is basic to human interaction and understanding. And by humor, we don’t mean telling jokes, it’s about storytelling. It’s not the point of the story, but it

  • Encourages connections and a sense of community
  • Breaks down silos and promotes open communication
  • Reduces anxiety and injects energy.

It’s about connecting your training to your customer

Let’s hear from some smart, accomplished people on how, when, and why humor is so effective connecting your message with your target audience:

First, on effective marketing communication, the basics as told by Stan Freberg, a pioneer in the use of comedy in advertising. His counsel was to assume that people are intelligent, operate on that assumption, and sneak in some sly humor to seize their attention, making the message memorable.

  • A great example is a commercial he did for Heinz soup. It featured Ann Miller, a star of song and dance, who turns her kitchen into a Hollywood musical. She belts out the lyric, “Let’s face the chicken gumbo and dance.” At the end, her husband asks, “Why do you always have to make such a big production out of everything?”
  • Another great example is the classic GEICO ad with the talking camel who annoys his co-workers about it being Hump Day. Who of us didn’t go around for months quoting, “Hump DAAAAY, yeah!”

John Cleese, of Monty Python fame, is an actor, a comedian, a screenwriter, a producer, and a keen observer of what it takes to get people to listen and learn, whether we’re imparting a skill, a concept, or promotion explaining how wonderful your training is. He explains, quite simply, that at any point in time, a person’s mind is either open or closed.  If the mind is open, the person is receptive to new thoughts and ideas.

It’s about making your message memorable

We’ve got three observations to share about levity, when used in support of defined training goals:

  1. A clear message that contains both intelligence and humor becomes memorable (which applies to your marketing and brand, making them relatable and resonant).
  2. Learning is more effective when it feels more like play and less like a chore. The playful mindset fosters creative thinking.
  3. Taking time to add humor to your message opens doors and minds.

Here are some guidelines:

  • This may be most effective in generating awareness, where a dash of humor can break through the clutter.
  • The humor is there to underscore your humanity, not to hurt or harm. It can’t be forced. It has to be consistent with your brand.
  • Don’t swing for the fences – it’s more likely about sly wit and whimsy. No pie in the face.

And for perspective, Chaka Sobhani, Chief Creative Officer at Leo Burnett UK and Global is quoted as saying, “Brands turning up with humor have the greatest chance to create the deepest connections with their customers and audiences. And become more likable and loved in the process.”

About the Author

Scott Hornstein

International author, lecturer and consultant, Scott Hornstein has worked with clients in all phases of marketing strategy, research, and implementation. He has worked with companies large and small to build profitability, by improving marketing performance, and reengineering the customer experience to boost satisfaction, referrals, and customer lifetime value.

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