When — and How — to Use Humor in Your Brand Storytelling
Do you want your customers to like you and trust you?
Then make them laugh!
Or, failing that, make them chuckle. Or at least smirk in a mildly amused fashion.
When it comes to establishing a sense of trust and connection, humor is no joke. It can help you cut through the noise, grab your customer’s attention, and make an amazing first impression.
Or second, or third, or fourth, etc.
All this makes humor the perfect tool for engaging, memorable, and hilarious brand storytelling. Because let’s face it: most brand stories are unforgivable snoozefests! (Snoozefestivals? Snoozapaloozas? Whatever!)
But they don’t have to be.
In today’s article, we’ll show you how just a few touches of humor can transform yawn-inducing brand storytelling into something that brings a smile to your customer’s face…
…and later brings them, still smiling, to buy your products and services.
You will learn:
- When you should use humor — and when to keep a straight face.
- 4 different levels of humor to spice up your brand storytelling.
- A simple process to make even the blandest brand story funnier.
The Do’s and Dont’s of funny brand storytelling
Humor isn’t a silver bullet that solves all your marketing problems. Even a great joke can fall flat or backfire! So let’s start with the most basic, and most important, question: when should you use humor to tell your brand stories?
Here are some simple rules of thumb you can follow.
DO use humor:
- To make a boring topic more engaging. The fact that you’re in a “boring” industry should never stop you from using humor. So what if you sell complicated financial products or cutting-edge tech that maybe 0,001% of people on Earth know how to use? Your bottom line still depends on your ability to make your work interesting to the average customer, and humor is an excellent way to do that.
- To add value to loyal customers. Entertainment value is underrated — but it is value, and it works! Finding low-key jokes and references makes your audience feel clever and special. It’s a great way to encourage people to follow your brand and consume any content you create.
- To differentiate your brand from the competition. 99% of your competitors don’t have the guts or the imagination to be funny. Use this to your advantage and set your brand apart from the crowd. When everyone else zigs, you zag, do a kickflip, and play a mean air-guitar solo! (Metaphorically speaking.)
DON’T use humor:
- Directly in your value proposition. That’s one time when being clear is more important than being clever. If your USP is embedded in your brand story, make sure it’s as easy to understand as possible. Otherwise your audience will have no idea what it is you do… Oh well, at least they’ll have a good laugh!
- If your topic is too heavy. Some stories work better if they’re joke-free. Not because they’re boring, but because they’re “weighty.” For example, if you run a funeral home and you’re writing or filming a story about how you started it, being jokey about it can easily backfire. There are exceptions to this rule, but better safe than sorry-slash-at-the-mercy-of-outraged-customers!
- To put down your customers OR your brand. There’s a difference between good-natured ribbing and using someone as a punchline. For example, inserting a couple of jokes about your CEO’s dog into your brand story is all good. But self-deprecating humor can make your business look less credible. Similarly, joking about a relatable situation your customers are facing is one thing — but insulting them, even as a joke, is a no-no.
4 foolproof tools for injecting humor into your brand storytelling
So, maybe you’re looking at the guidelines above and thinking, “Those are way too vague! How am I supposed to apply them to my brand storytelling?”
Don’t worry: we’ll give you 4 actionable tools you can use to enrich your brand stories with humor. Here they are!
1. Tone of voice
The biggest problem with brand storytelling is that most of it sounds the same — like a generic corporate brochure. Change up the tone of voice, and you will instantly add more life and personality to your stories.
Here are some specific ways you can do that:
- Use a “casual but classy” tone of voice. If you have a personal brand, you should just communicate like you talk. That way, your natural personality will shine through and any jokes you throw in won’t sound out of place. If your brand image isn’t based on your personality, then just stick to simple English — like this, for example.
- Talk to your target customers directly. “You-focused,” conversational tone is more engaging and much easier to understand than overcomplicated corporate-speak that keeps referring to “our valued customers” — as if they’re not right there reading or watching your story! Plus, any jokes you might use will look sooo much more appropriate in that context.
2. Pacing and rhythm
Humor isn’t just about what you say, but how you choose to say it. Timing is the most important rule of comedy, cooking, and giving bad news to people you really don’t want to mess with!
Whether your brand story is text-based, audio-based, or visual, the same rules apply. You can use different tricks to play with rhythm and pacing and make your message funnier. For example, you can use:
- Funny asides. They break up the flow of your story and play with audience expectations. For example, in this story video about a dog daycare, we used a quick joke to emphasize how it’s like a “high school” for dogs. It took literally 2 seconds but made the message more interesting.
- Pauses. Pauses help you to build tension (comedic or dramatic) and emphasize jokes to help them land. They also help your audience to absorb information — all so they can appreciate how hilarious you are! In a text, every line break, paragraph break or punctuation mark is a pause you can use to amplify the effect of anything you say. In video and audio content, you can use actual pauses, cuts, and transitions to do the same.
- Interjections. In real life, we don’t talk in lengthy, uninterrupted sentences. A well-placed “yikes,” “ugh” or “no way!” emphasizes what you just said and makes your story sound more natural. Now, you don’t have to fill your brand story with caveman grunts to keep it interesting — but using interjections occasionally can and will enhance your message!
Wordplay is one of the oldest forms of humor. We all understand it, we all love it (or love to hate it, which is almost the same thing), and we all use it. If you want to inject humor into your brand storytelling, wordplay is the most surefire choice. Here are 3 ways to use it:
- Puns. We love puns. Puns are clean, inoffensive, and universally understood. And even when bad, they’re still amusing. Plus, subtle puns can work even in otherwise serious content — here’s a good example from a recent video we’ve done. Whoever it was that called them “the lowest form of humor” didn’t know what he was talking about. If puns were good enough for Shakespeare, they’re good enough for us!
- Speech patterns. The human brain is hard-wired to recognize language patterns. And when you know what those patterns are, you can disrupt them for comedic effect. Maybe the best-known pattern is “the rule of threes” — when we list 3+ related things, often with an unexpected twist. “A man, a woman, and a sentient manifestation of the US dollar walk into a bar…” sounds like an opening to a great joke, just because it plays with an established pattern. Too bad nobody will ever hear it, because we didn’t bother to make up the rest!
- Analogies, comparisons, and metaphors. You can make something funny just by comparing it to something else, creating a clever analogy to explain it, or emphasizing it with a ridiculous metaphor. Remember this story video we referenced earlier, about a dog daycare? We used the “high school for dogs” analogy to make the video funnier, but also to create a specific image in the viewer’s mind: of a place that’s safe, professional, and beneficial to their dog. See — humor isn’t just fun and games! (Pun intended, always.)
You can use visuals the way a chef uses seasoning — to spice up your brand stories and give them a little bit of extra kick. There are two ways to do that:
- Images. Animated gifs (however you pronounce them), cartoons, weird stock photos, embarrassing yearbook photos… any kind of imagery can add character to your brand storytelling when used well. You can add them to your story videos, your webpages, your emails, or almost anywhere you want. Visuals can also double as pauses or interjections, breaking up the flow of your story and helping to keep your audience engaged. Just remember not to overdo them!
- Visual language. A picture may be worth a thousand words… but you can also use words to make your audience imagine something on their own. That’s right — you can be visual without any images at all! Visual language is key to memorable storytelling, so you should use it even if you shy away from humor. Check out this article for some useful pointers on how to do just that.
You have the tools you need to add humor to your brand storytelling. And now we’re going to show you a simple 4-step process for doing just that. We hate to say, “It’s so easy that anyone can do it” — but it kind of is!
How to take your story from bland to funny in 4 easy steps
Let’s say you have to write a fun, engaging brand story. Maybe it’s for an email, a blog post, or a video script — doesn’t matter.
The most obvious thing to do would be to sit down and try to bang out a funny first draft…
…obvious, but wrong.
Well, you’re welcome to try, but take it from us: you’ll hate it. It will take a long time, you will despair at how not funny you are, and you’ll be constantly fighting the urge to throw in the towel.
Here’s a better way.
Step 1. Create a terrible 1st draft of your brand story. Don’t try to be funny, don’t try to be clever. Just write down everything you want to communicate, no matter how awkward and stilted it comes out. You’ll fix it later.
Step 2. Refine your 1st draft into something you don’t hate as much. Go back through your story and fix anything that looks irredeemably terrible. Focus on the big things: overall structure, clumsy sentences, that kind of stuff. Remove any pointless tangents or unnecessary information, too.
Step 3. Add humor and personality. Now we’re getting to the good stuff! Go through those 4 tools we gave you earlier, and use them to make your story come alive. Do this in the exact order we showed you. Start with the overall tone of voice, then play with the pacing and the rhythm, then move on to the jokes and wordplay. Finally, sprinkle in some visuals — actual images, tidbits of visual language, or both.
Step 4. Do a final pass to weed out typos and make small changes. This step is basically cleanup, where you go over the story you created and polish it a little bit. Ideally, you should wait a couple of days between Step 3 and 4. That way, you’ll be able to look at your story with a fresh set of eyes, and anything that still doesn’t work will jump out at you like a starving cobra.
Aaand you’re done! Wasn’t that a piece of cake?
Well then, you don’t have to create your brand stories by your lonesome. If you want someone to do it for you, we are happy to help!
Want to create brand stories that convert? Let’s talk
Book a free strategy session with one of our video marketing experts and let’s discuss how The Draw Shop can help you create brand stories that engage, entertain, and most importantly — grow your business!
Simply enter your name and email and we’ll be in touch with you post-haste!