Humor Sells. Or Does it? A Resource for Marketers

Like sex, humor sells. Or does it? The answer is “Sometimes.” If the humor is appropriate for the audience, it can work. If not, it can be counterproductive.

That sex sells is accepted as common wisdom in advertising copywriting circles, but it has to be handled carefully. Ad backlash in recent years, such as last year’s J Crew ad brouhaha, shows that.

Thirty years ago you would still see industrial ads with bikini-clad women draped over equipment and tools. Then a major study at University of Texas found that, oh, yes, men remembered those ads more—and so did women. The problem was, they did not remember the product being advertised. Results were negative for sales.

Humor sells when it is on target for the target audiencebuyers of the product or service being sold. Teenage humor will not sell retirement planning services, for example. Frat boy humor often offends women, just as women’s humor is seldom appreciated by men.

Even if the humor gets laughs, it may not help sell the product. And with kids, you have to also consider the reactions of parents.

So what am I writing about today? A new humor website: BuzLol. One of the interesting things about this site is that it covers topics like Photoshop Fail.

Yes, the examples they show are extreme, but all marketers need to take a very good look at any photoshopped photos we use. What may look good to us may be obvious to someone who knows more about either the topic of the photo or about using Photoshop, as many people do today.

This site is a good place to monitor humor trends, including humor fads that are trending downward, how to use each trend effectively, and when to give them a miss. For example, look at these examples of the duckface photo trend, with explanations of why some fail and a prediction that the trend will last awhile longer.

While also entertaining, the trend analysis articles on BuzLol are actually pretty astute. They can be especially valuable for marketers who sell (or hope to) in niches they are not a part of themselves, including what works—and what fails. For example, this article on the popularity of funny autocorrect messages on iPhones.

There are a lot of sites where you can research what items are selling well: Amazon, eBay, and so on. But seldom can you find much info on what currently works for selling to the audiences that buy them.

BuzLoL is a great place to get some clues on what appeals to your target demographic. Marketing is still an art, not a science. You have to do your own research and draw your own conclusions. But at least while using this resource, you will have a smile on your face—and maybe occasionally LoL.

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