This article examines the relationship between humour and sales in marketing; showing that at the base level laughter is one of the most powerful tools in the advertising repertoire.
Many of us consider ourselves savvy consumers and the truth is that increasingly many of us are. Traditional advertising methods have, for many, become transparent and shamefaced attempts simply to help consumers part with their hard earned cash. That’s not to say these techniques are not still effective (they still are in a lot of cases) merely that they have had to become more adept, more subtle if they are to succeed in growing brand awareness and increasing sales. However more and more people of cautious of advertising claims and are reluctant to take advertisers claims at face value or to believe false promises of desirability or beauty.
This has led advertisers to explore a variety of new advertising techniques and has created a paradigmatic shift away from traditional advertising techniques. They have not gone completely as can be seen in the myriad of beauty and car commercials still littering our media outlets but they have had to change. In the past decades we have seen slews of new advertising techniques including abstract commercials, artistic commercials, post-modern commercials and a variety of stylistic variations. However the key way we have developed is towards humour as a central marketing pillar. But the key question remains – why does humour make us buy things.
The answer to this is a complex one and it hinges on the importance of the traditional advertising psychology upon which commercial marketing is based. Marketing psychology identifies the key aspirations, desires and fears of key demographic groups using a variety of socio-geo-demographic segmentation techniques. These techniques break people up into the identifying characteristics that define people within a social group. Combined with the identification of key fears and desires this allows advertisers to laser target specific fears within a certain social group.
In humour this has proved hugely effective as, put simply, you can make light of a certain groups fears and worries whilst exposing them to a certain product or service. In some cases the product itself will act as a deterrent to a potentially funny situation (from an outsider’s perspective). The line of logic runs that the audience will go “I’m glad that’s not me” and then buy the product itself to avoid ever falling into the situation themselves. This is a key way in which humour sells and it works time and time again. Not all funny advertising campaigns rely on these emotional triggers – some simply use humour as a way of exposing people to a brand and causing retention of the products they sell. This technique of brand exposure through humour has been shown to encourage people to buy the products in later shopping excursions as it creates positive brand image and positive connotations (of laughter) whenever the product is experienced. These techniques have real buying power and have proved incredibly effective; whilst individuals may rail against advertisers’ techniques, laughter still makes us buy.