You’d think humor would be the last thing on CMO minds right now. After all, being a CMO in 2023 is no joke. I know because I Googled it. A quick search turned up more than 7 million results dedicated to the plight of modern marketers. I didn’t read all 7 million, but I read a lot of them. It turns out that today’s C-suite marketers are up against pretty much everything. Global economic uncertainty. Changing buyer behaviors. Budget cuts. Workforce reduction. Soaring customer expectations. Towering martech stacks. You name it.
Adweek summed up B2B marketers’ current situation best with their start-of-the-year predictions; and so far, it looks like they were right:
“For many b-to-b chief marketing officers and their marketing organizations, 2023 will be a crucible year. After three pandemic years, marketers are facing not only budget cuts and hiring freezes but also pressure from their C-suite to do more and do better.”
So, the pressure is on to make stronger connections with buyers. And one counterintuitive way to do that is to lighten up.
Humor? Customers are asking for it. But marketers aren’t listening.
Two years into the pandemic, Oracle released “The Happiness Report,” a survey of 12,000 consumers and business leaders across 14 countries. The study found that 45% of people had not felt genuine happiness for more than two years and that “… consumers will reward brands that embrace humor with loyalty, advocacy, and repeat purchases – and walk away from those that don’t.”
And yet, while 91% of consumers said they preferred brands to be funny, only 20% of business leaders said they use humor in their campaigns. Ouch. And it’s not just consumers who want humor. We’ve seen the same principle apply to B2B buyers as well. After all, these decision makers are people, too. They respond to humor as much as anyone else does.
But playing with humor feels a little risky
According to the same report, 95% of business leaders feared using humor in customer interactions; 85% doubted having the data insights or tools to deliver humor successfully. Fair enough. Playing with humor can come with certain risks. You could unintentionally offend someone. A joke could fail. And, despite today’s dwindling distinctions between B2B and B2C marketing strategies, many B2Bs still cling to the idea that you must project seriousness at all times if you want to be taken seriously.
However, the truth is that you already know when humor is too silly, too mean, or simply taking things too far. All you really want to do is make a prospect smile – and often the best way to do this is by gently poking fun at the challenges and pain points they’re up against. We laugh the most at humor that captures our own day-to-day frustrations and fears. A light touch is all it takes. Just one witty headline … or funny real-life scenario … or amusing observation can make your sales and marketing messaging a lot more human and relatable.
Some serious numbers on humor in marketing
Risks aside, the pursuit of humorousness has a whole lot of upside. It’s no secret that humor helps reduce resistance to sales messages and can connect with consumers on an emotional level. Everyone knows that laughter helps relieve stress and puts people at ease, which are ideal vibes for potential buyers.
But that’s not all. The Happiness Report also suggests that humor can help your brand stand out in a noisy marketplace, increase memorability, boost customer acquisition, and reduce churn:
- 90% of people said they’d be more likely to remember an ad if it was funny
- 69% said they’d be more likely to open an email with a funny subject line
- 72% would choose a brand that uses humor over the competition
- 41% of people are willing to leave a brand if it doesn’t make them smile
There are a lot of unproven marketing tools and tactics out there. Humor isn’t one of them. So don’t be afraid to give it a whirl. Because, both you and your customers – and everyone else – could really use a laugh right now.