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Bittersweet taste of humor copy – and how to make it li(cli)ckable!

Good question to ask every copywriter- Why is humor copy so tough?

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They will probably tell you the simplest answer – because it just is. If we are all funny, we would all elicit smiles from our clients like Jerry Seinfeld on his stand up. Although we`re not, we can try and scratch our ways into it. Even for a few funny copies.

How to make a reader content with your content?

Humor brings people closer and makes them feel good. And we all know the real content accomplishment: a reader who’s loving your lines! Sociologists say that our ability to laugh serves two essential life functions: to bond with members of our tribe and to let go of tension. Therefore, effective use of humor can make you closer to the reader and make them trust you. But things aren’t easy as they may seem.

It’s a big push for your copy to stand out among the competition. Did you know that 30% of all ads and 50% of TV ads are based on humor? No wonder, as advertising studies have shown, humor enhances how much we like what we’re reading and how well we remember it afterward, so competition is here for a reason. So the way to look at it is pretty straightforward: If you want to stay memorable to your readers – humor is the way to do it! 

wilde west salesman

When it comes to writing, people usually presume humor is only used in satire and ad copy is not so much on the tip of their tongue. But humor copy is real and thriving in all kinds of media. Effective humor can engage any reader by surprising them with unexpected turns of events. On a daily basis we see or hear something and anticipate how the situation will develop so jokes and humor have a huge part in playing with our expectations, in real or fictional life. 

But now comes the biggest problem in humorous writing – You are trying your hardest to be funny, but fail. Not surprisingly, funny writing is the hardest, certainly much harder than writing serious copy. Humor is highly subjective and we all have a different sense of what is funny, therefore what makes you fall off your chair, may not even give me chuckles and vice versa. The tricky thing about it, though, is that it appeals to everybody`s innate desire to be happy. For this reason, it’s an intimidating, but impressive tool to leverage in web copy—if it’s leveraged the right way. 

Even if it seems like a no-brainer, the good tip to start with is to ask yourself if you consider your own “humorous” copy truly laughable. If you don’t, then probably no one else will either. However, If you’re the only one laughing at the punch line then everyone else may be laughing at you rather than with you so asking a few colleagues for extra opinions before posting should be useful. 

ancient rabbit

Tips on writing humorous copy:

Despite all the positive aspects, it is essential to use humor at the right moment – or, if necessary (which often is), to go without it.

  1. Know your audience. Like with all marketing copy, the greatest success comes from knowing what makes your audience click. 
  2. Stay true to your brand. Stay consistent and relevant.
  3. Keep it brief. Short and sweet is the way to go.
  4. Think of accessibility. Humor works best when it’s on a trace of something everyone can relate to. People have to know what you’re talking about so popular culture is always a good start.
  5. Test market. Find a few trusted guinea pigs and ask their opinion about a humorous piece before you publish. It could make a huge difference.

And the most obvious, but most important factor – your natural ability for the wit!  And that is, you guessed, the hardest part.

Keep in mind you don’t have to go all in when writing humorous copy. There is not always a need to get roaring laughter, a little smile is sometimes enough to brighten up a reader`s day, and that should be the aim. You can start by simply choosing metaphors that make readers giggle. This is the easiest way to make your copy much more amusing and relatable without pushing far from your limits.

A fine line between being funny and too funny

While there are many companies that have made such hilarious ads that quickly led to rapid sales, other companies with funny million-shared viral videos never increased their sales at all. You can definitely remember at least one commercial that resulted in the opposite effect by its humor being so funny you don’t even remember the product that was selling. 

However, funny and viral product campaigns can at least increase brand awareness as consumers share the ad with friends.

The conclusion we can draw from this is – humor can create sales, but it has to be done right. You may be so determined to be funny that your humor overshadows the message. It’s important to keep the focus on the topic of your sale, not the humorous parts of your content. Especially because you’re not just going for a laugh and don’t want the consumer to be distracted from the main point. The goal in copywriting is not to make a laugh itself – it`s to make a conversion or increase brand awareness. If the consumer’s attention is focused on the humor and misses the point, can you even be proud of your punch line?

When you’re tasked with writing a funny ad, the first thing to do is to identify what actually happens in real life that relates to the product or service you’re trying to sell. Explore everything that happens around your product and its industry. Chances are that in every industry there are piles of humor just waiting to be discovered. So putting elements of an absurd or relatable issue in a real life situation will make your copy much more engaging.

Places, where you can find a lot of inspiration for clever humor-infused eCommerce sites, are, among others, Behance and Awwwards directories. Also, good examples are Neuralab`s History of a salesman or Mahuna i Mahuna marketing campaign awarded by Awwwards (with an honorable mention). They are witty, funny and engaging. And we can gain some insights from them.

history of salesman

For instance, inserting humor into a television ad or including funny photos is much easier than purely writing the web copy. Writing is all about tone, and since body language isn’t present, one slip in tone or word choice can result in the exact opposite – an insult.  Since we’ve mentioned Seinfeld early on, it’s time for one of his one-liners that fits this problem: “There is no such thing as fun for the whole family”. And it’s a thin line between something being funny or disrespectful. So whenever you can, include some visuals into your funny copy and get your way. 

Further, like all candies, humor is great, but a little bit too much of it will make you sick. As you infuse some sweet laughs into your content, limit the humor to selective references. The purpose of humor in content is to make a point in a creative way, not come across as an entertainer. You have to ask yourself: Why do you want a funny copy in the first place? Do you honestly think humor is the most effective way to convey the message of your brand or do you just enjoy other comedic websites? History of a salesman made a good balance between haha moments and let`s-show-you-our-skills points.

Also, the determining factor is what kind of environment you work in. There are agencies that have more freedom to produce comical spots than others. Some can pull full on slapstick while others have to keep it down and focus on a lighthearted concept for an entire campaign. Some say that the comedic campaigns that are most effective are the ones that are rooted in a traditional concept. 

Additionally, like every good copy, a funny one is short and sweet. A long patch of text will bore the reader in a second. That doesn’t mean it took a short amount of time to create, like for any other copy. A three-sentence hilarious, yet engaging paragraph on your website that clearly conveys your company’s message probably took some major rewriting. And so be it. The thing to get you through frustration on your tenth try may be – one-line jokes are usually the funniest.


Writing for Emotions

Every human has an innate sense of humor but it’s pretty evident that not everybody has a sense of humor we can characterize as good. The answer may lie in genetics, at least some researchers have linked a sense of humor to certain variants of the 5-HTTLPR gene.

However, there’s no such thing as a completely humorless individual — comedy is a fundamental part of human nature and no culture has ever been found that was devoid of laughter and comedy. So, if you want to improve your sense of humor, surround yourself with funny books, funny movies or funny content of any kind. Trying to look on the funny side of life won’t hurt either. The worst case scenario is that you’ll laugh a little more.

Tena Gašparac
Tena Gašparac Copywriter and Content Maker

Into art and theatre, Tena brings that classical mindset into the ever evolving modern tech ecosystem

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