Want to build a digital connection? Try humor

As a marketing firm for tech companies, the question all my clients ask is, “how can we find more leads, identify more opportunities and build new business relationships?” While there are a few answers to that question, the lowest common denominator and simplest answer is this – strengthen your digital relationships.   The key to […]

As a marketing firm for tech companies, the question all my clients ask is, “how can we find more leads, identify more opportunities and build new business relationships?” While there are a few answers to that question, the lowest common denominator and simplest answer is this – strengthen your digital relationships.


The key to an online connection

Not surprisingly, digital relationships are a lot like in-person relationships. They thrive upon commonality, empathy, trust and a sense of connection. My in-person relationships do well when I listen well, provide sound advice, share experiences and make time to laugh out loud. My digital relationships flourish in the same way. I use platforms such as LinkedIn to thank or mention colleagues, congratulate and recognize others, share business tips that have worked for me and occasionally pass along something I find funny.


Developing a humor muscle

Humor played a significant role in the extended family I grew up in. My dad was famous for his sharp wit, and my siblings and cousins all vied for the title of “funniest” at our regular get-togethers. In high school my job was to write snappy one-liners for photos in the yearbook. The results were mixed; people either loved them or hated them. But I learned not to take myself too seriously as a result – a good quality for both my personal and business life. It also set a foundation for my interest in using humor to get a point across.


Where does humor belong in technology?

Now that I run a marketing firm that specializes in creating campaigns for tech companies, I like to find ways to sneak humor in. Not always easy. Why? There is a propensity in our industry to be serious about technology. After all, directory structures, security profiles, data migration, machine learning and sub-second millisecond latency don’t necessarily lend themselves to a great punchline.

And people in tech are earnest about tech. Technology that sounds daunting or complex to understand is not always easy to communicate. As humans we cling to what we know. In an industry where buzzwords abound, phrases like “leverage the cloud”, “deep dive into the stack” and “modernize your digital transformation” begin to lose meaning when used over and over.

But every tech firm we work with asks for the same thing. Elevate our message. Help us stand out from the crowd. My response is often – how do you feel about using some humor?


Take a tip from NetApp

If you haven’t heard of NetApp before, you’ve probably used their technology. NetApp is the world’s leader in data storage. Almost everybody’s data, everywhere. If you’ve banked at an ATM, checked out the scores at a sporting event, marvelled at the CGI graphics in a 3D movie, or viewed a medical image at your doctor’s office, all that data (yes, images are data too) is probably sitting somewhere on a NetApp storage platform.

But while the miracle of a digital world is not possible without it, data can be a dry (dare I say, “boring”?) topic.

NetApp decided to change that with their recent re-branding and messaging campaign. The overall message is a simplified, “we know cloud and we are the data cloud storage specialists”. They deliver that message with some tongue-in-cheek humor. It’s plainly spoken and avoids acronyms. Check out this video and you will see what I mean:

Emily Miller, VP Brand & Influence Marketing at NetApp commented on why NetApp decided to introduce humor into their new campaign:
“We discovered that a large segment of our target audience was unaware NetApp had become a global leader for data storage solutions in the cloud. Our focus was to tighten our message, as well as catch peoples’ attention. As a smart technology-driven company, we have a fun team at NetApp. We enjoy working together and we like to laugh. We saw this as an opportune time to catch people’s attention through our humorous and irreverent side, while also reinforcing our cloud expertise.”

The response to this new brand and messaging is overwhelmingly positive. People are sharing the videos – they stand out. At a recent online industry event where NetApp had their video playing alongside content from several other technology vendors, the NetApp video had double the views. Let’s face it: a guy in a tutu is intriguing at a tech conference where other video options begin with images of technology components.

Using humor to catch attention works.


Humor Sells1

The number one reason why humor sells is the element of surprise, making it easier for the subject matter to land.

Of course, there’s research data to back that up: look at Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey2. The results identified that the European and North American audiences respond most favorably to humor, at 51% and 50% respectively.

Another study by Fractl3 showed that content virality is closely related to either complex feelings or highly positive emotions – both states related to humor.


But does it work in the B2B world?

On the other hand, it’s understandable that a serious business like yours might be concerned that humorous messages will hurt your customer trust. Beer or cleaning products are one thing, but technology modernization is something else, right?

The good news is that not only will humor not hurt – it can strengthen customer trust and connection to your brand.

According to Dr. James Barry, a humorist, professor at Nova Southeastern University, and co-author of the research paper “A typological examination of effective humor for content marketing”, humor works very well in the B2B space as long as the creator knows exactly what type of humor strategy they’re using:

“Why wouldn’t CEOs want to be entertained? They’re just like anyone else. The difference between an individual making a joke and a brand making a joke is that the individual’s only aim is to entertain. A brand has to entertain and connect the joke to their brand image. They’re using laughter to leverage brand familiarity.”4

There are many examples to prove it, even in the IT space.


From a few hundred views to 10,000+

We recently worked with leading global systems integrator sa.global to respond to mis-information about them with a humorous video posted on LinkedIn. The response on social media was overwhelming, with 10,000 views in the first day of posting.

“We were blown away with the results of using humor to correct mis-information,” said Matt Calderwood, Chief Revenue Officer at sa.global. “We tripled the performance of our previous best posts in terms of views, comments and shares. The video helped us begin some great business conversations, and we were delighted with the results.”

What humor brings to the table

Humor makes you feel good, catches you off guard and goes straight to the heart, avoiding the complicated “road system” that the usual B2B marketing messages take.

Let’s break down the key benefits for technology companies that want to use humor in content marketing:

Science says that humor acts as an inherent social bonding mechanism. In an experiment, Dr. Robin Dunbar found that “…laughter not only plays an important role in social and non-verbal communication, but it also provides evolutionary qualities that encourage group bonding and protects us from physical and psychological pain.”5

Thought Leadership
Surprised? It’s true. Using humor proves that if you can joke about it, you’re the ultimate expert in your field.

Audience engagement
Humor is the most shared type of content online, so if you want to go viral: make them laugh!

Fun campaigns are easy to remember because they go straight to the heart and make an emotional connection to the brand. Even if it’s a light and unexpected wordplay, the brain will register it as something to feel good about and release endorphins that encode for memory.

Do you struggle to explain your tech to a broader audience? Humor can definitely help you make it easier to consume and comprehend. Even when you’re making a joke out of your tech jargon, such as in this iconic Intel video.


Who has the last laugh?

Putting smiles on your customers’ faces is not simple, but it’s definitely worth the attempt. It can boost your marketing significantly and help you meet your business goals – while having fun along the way. Humor helps customers relate to a product that may seem dry and helps backend technology take center stage.

A 1993 study conducted by the Journal of Marketing still holds true almost 30 years later. The journal found that, “humor is more likely to enhance recall, evaluation, and purchase intention when the humorous message coincides with ad objectives, is well-integrated with those objectives, and is viewed as appropriate for the product category. Under such circumstances, humorous advertising is more likely to secure audience attention, increase memorability, overcome sales resistance, and enhance message persuasiveness.”6 And, let’s face it, everyone can benefit from a good laugh.

If you need help in creating fun and memorable marketing campaigns, get in touch; we’d be happy to brainstorm a funny message tailored to your business and your target audience.