B2B MarketingContentContent Marketing

Not using humour in your B2B advertising? Joke’s on you

11 . 06 . 24

By Brian McKay, Copy Lead at Digital Radish

Knock! Knock! Who’s there? Gopher. Gopher who? Gopher it! You can do it!

Oh dear (wipes away tears of laughter), what a classic. As well as being hilarious, there’s a reason this article starts off with a joke.

The importance of comedy in B2B campaigns

B2B advertising is often viewed as having to be logical. It’s like a chat over a cup of coffee, rather than saying attention-grabbing one-liners in the street like B2C. But just because you traditionally need to present a business case in your advert, it doesn’t mean you can’t use emotion in it as well — being logical and emotional aren’t mutually exclusive.

And of all the emotions you can harness in B2B advertising, the one that is both really strong and really complicated is humour. In fact, if you search for ‘humour in B2B advertising’, you’ll be inundated with results telling you how important it is.

A lot of the articles seem to stem from this Kantar report from early 2022 as their inspiration. And they all agree with the benefits to using humour, namely:

  • Captures attention
  • Memorable and shareable
  • Humanises the brand
  • Builds relationships

And in this article from The Drum, they highlight research from Oracle which states, ‘90% of consumers say they’re more likely to remember a funny ad and 72% would select a humorous brand over the competition’.

But while there are a lot of articles on its importance and its benefits, you still don’t see it much in B2B. It’s certainly more prevalent in B2C, but why aren’t more B2B brands harnessing humour? What does it actually take to use humour in your advertising?

What to consider before leveraging humour in B2B advertising

It’s likely that many B2B brands aren’t using humour because, frankly, it’s hard. But it’s more nuanced than that — there are layers to it, there’s more to think about, so here are some points that are worth considering when using humour in B2B advertising.

Pullout 1

If your brand has never used humour before, either as part of the brand or through campaigns, it can seem strange to start cracking out the jokes out of nowhere. It needs to come from a place of authenticity. For example, if you’re a solicitor, can you use slapstick humour? Or would some dry wit be better for the brand?

So, sit down and have a think. Consider your values and brand personality traits. What seems right? Should you make wholesale changes simply to include humour?

We don’t think that any industry is excluded from using humour. But, it does need to be right for the brand.

Pullout 2

Humour, like creativity really, is utterly subjective. What you find funny might differ to what the person next to you finds funny. This means that you need to be prepared for some people to love it and for some to hate it. But in B2B, where a lot of campaigns are targeted to specific audience members (CTOs for example) – that’s fine.

Humour in advertising is, for all the talk of its importance, not that common. So, by creating something uncommon, you are of course going to attract attention — both good and bad. If you don’t believe in Paul Graham’s famous saying, ‘It’s better to have 100 people that love you than a million people that just sort of like you,’ maybe using humour isn’t right for you.

Pullout 3

Just like with any element of creativity, having lots of people involved is going to make reaching a decision hard. And you’ll find everyone has an opinion when it comes to humour.

If at all possible, ring-fence who’s involved. The people closest to the brief should be making the decisions about what’s funny and what’s not. What will work for the audience, and what they won’t like. It’s hard telling the MD that their golf joke, while funny, isn’t quite right for your ad. But you must be strong!

Pullout 4

Comedy is hard. Simply putting people on the job who are funny in the office or out on a social event isn’t going to work.

The humour needs to be related in a way that connects to the strategy, the audience, and the end goal of the advert. Creating something that is funny in the right context is the key. 

This is why a lot of brands use real comedians to help them create something that delivers comedy and the message. Which makes perfect sense. It’s a skillset after all, so just like any skill, if you don’t have it internally, go externally to find it. The quality of the end product will be better for it. 

Pullout 5

In B2B you tend to be solving a particular problem. Marketing is designed to highlight a pain point, and advertising is created to illustrate how you solve it. 

The more specific you are in your humour, and the more you can really shine a spotlight on the pain point your audience has, the funnier it’ll be to them. It’s not just saying that having isolated technology in the workplace is an issue. It’s saying that isolated technology is lonely, that it means it can’t speak to anything else and, as a result, CMOs don’t have all the information they need to make decisions. By drilling down and really finding the details in the issue, you can create something that really engages the audience. And makes them laugh.

Pullout 6

But as the saying goes, ‘seeing is believing’, so here are just five examples of some adverts using humour in the B2B space.

Wix ‘Things You’d Rather Do Than Watch Another Wix Ad’

An advert for a brand that pretends not to be an advert, using humour to promote its services? This ingenious advert is inspired by the comments left on previous Wix adverts. Smart, funny, and still delivers its message — three huge ticks for Wix. 

Acrobat’s Got It ‘Fresh Scallops

It’s rare that a brand can simply rely on hiring a famous celebrity to star in an advert to sell its product or service. The ad still needs to be ‘good’. Luckily, this Acrobat advert, featuring American comedian and actor Hasan Minhaj, is. A 60-second ad with quick dialogue and a clever twist, this feels genuinely on brand given they’ve brought us such classics as Click, Baby, Click and Mean Streets

Funny Ad

Barclaycard ‘The Crystal Barn’ 

Earlier we said we don’t think any industry is precluded from using humour, and here we have a bank, in an industry not traditionally known for its courage in using humour, doing just that. A bit tongue-in-cheek, it’s even a little surreal at times, but the overall message still comes through loud and clear. 

Veeam ‘A day in the life of an IT Admin’

Comparatively long with a run time of 2:15 minutes, this still manages to hold your attention throughout. Mainly because of the main character, Chris, who moves between IT admin and… well, superhero? With over one million views since it launched two years ago, this shows that some humour can go a long way. 

Addleshaw Goddard ‘Helping boardrooms to change their tune’

And we would be remiss not to mention something we’ve done. Our work for international law firm, Addleshaw Goddard, was a highly creative, music-led campaign that used original in-house musical compositions to present a key piece of thought-leadership. It made people smile and laugh, but not at the expense of the overall message.

Pullout 7

You might have noticed a bit of a theme throughout those five examples. And that’s because the last element to consider, ultimately, is making sure your message is still clear. 

You can’t lose the clarity of the message for the sake of humour. If all you do is make people smile or laugh but then they have no idea who the brand is, or what the advert is saying, it’s pointless.

Humour really can help B2B advertising stand out, and actually, if used correctly, it can deliver your message in a really unique, clear and inspiring way. And as the competition for attention grows increasingly tough, surely that’s what we need to do?  

Do you agree that humour is both important underused in B2B marketing? Are there other examples you think we’ve missed? To have your say, just drop us a line at info@digitalradish.co.uk