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Humour in Marketing Isn’t Just For Sport

At a cost of $5,000,000 for a 30-second spot, the price of advertising in this year’s Super Bowl has increased year-on-year by 11%. And looking at the television commercial line-up, many brands are using comedians to deliver their marketing message. Bud Light’s commercials will feature Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen, while Squarespace has selected comedy duo Keegan-Michael Kelly and Jordan Peele from Comedian Central’s “Key & Peele.” Not to be outdone, Billy Eichner from Funny or Die’s “Billy on the Street” is the frontman for Butterfinger and T.J. Miller will represent Anheuser Busch’s brand Shock Top.

All those comedic names may not mean much outside of the US, but then, Jack Whitehall may not be so well known outside of the UK either. He too delivered humour to an engaged audience during last year’s Rugby World Cup. Whether it is the US or the UK, companies have the same goal at these big sporting events, they want to create a buzz around their brand and, ideally, have their content spread virally.

But humour in marketing doesn’t need to be confined to important sporting events; it’s a powerful tool that is underutilised. In fact, companies attempting to stand out in a noisy marketplace should consider using more humour in their messaging.

According to Karen Nelson-Field in her book Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing, content that elicits a strong emotion is more likely to diffuse virally. That means content which unleashes our emotions; moments that make us laugh out loud, cry without reserve or make the hair on the back of our neck stand up are more prone to be shared.

In effect, humour gives a brand personality and it also makes their content a powerful currency. But having a sense of humour is not a natural fit for some companies, particularly larger companies with stayed cultures. Marketing departments with a high degree of flexibility over their marketing activities and with an open-minded executive team to support slightly wacky ideas are the ones that will be able to use this nonconformist marketing tactic. Sporting events don’t have a stronghold over humour, more brands need to be brave and weave it into other marketing activities.

Greta Paa-Kerner is a UK-based independent marketing consultant who helps medium-sized businesses modernise their marketing. She is also a lecturer in digital marketing at Bucks Business School, the IDM and the CIM. Visit her website at

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