Is laughter the best ROI? 

TikTok allows brands to test the comedic waters

Humour is at the heart of online interaction

36% of Gen Z consumers flock to social platforms for a dose of funny content, with laughs proving more of a pull than either staying up to date with current events or staying in touch with friends and family. Yet brands have shied away from humour in recent years. In fact, according to Oracle, 95% of business leaders fear using humour when engaging with customers. One reason for this is that it isn’t always easy to be funny; as anyone who’s been to an open mic night can attest. There was a clear move away from humour following the global recession in 2009, with brands being cautious of trying to be funny as the financial crisis unfolded.

This decline has been so well documented that Cannes have introduced the new Humour award category. They highlight that the reason for this category was the very fact that there has been a noticeable decrease of advertising that seeks to amuse the end customer. But we know humour works. In many ways it’s a secret weapon to supercharging the effectiveness of an ad. Even back in 1993 a Journal of Marketing study revealed that humour 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’. Humour is then ‘more likely to secure audience attention, increase memorability, overcome sales resistance, and enhance message persuasiveness.’

Google refers to the importance of being able to connect with an audience in its ABCDs of effective creative i.e., Attract (grab the viewer’s attention), Brand (make your brand front and centre), Connect (build an emotional connection, using humour where it makes sense), Direct (have a call-to-action). Humour is called out by Google as an emotion to trigger to make an ad more effective, and as we’ve seen above it can make something more memorable.

In advertising we love a good KPI

David Nihill points out that when using laughs per minute (LPM) as a measure of humour, most of the most popular TedTalks have a higher LPM than comedies that have stood the test of time.

The Hangover (2009) comes in at 2.4 LPM, while Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk on how schools kill creativity comes in at 2.8 LPM.

Again, humour is the driving force when it comes to impact.

For those brands who are worried about missing the mark when it comes to the effective use of humour, TikTok has become a safe haven. It gives brands a safe space to experiment with funny content. Unlike investment heavy TV, TikTok allows brands to test the comedic waters with low-budget, playful creatives. This platform thrives on user-generated content, making it a natural fit for brands to adopt a more casual and humorous tone.

By its nature, TikTok is fast paced and content will be old news in two weeks. This need to refresh organic content on TikTok is a double-edged sword, allowing brands more runway to test and learn while nailing their tone-of-voice on the platform.

RyanAir is a prime example of a brand nailing TikTok. Its platform presence is a masterclass in self-deprecating humour — poking fun at RyanAir’s own baggage fees and cramped seating through the character ‘Plane Face’.  This has also allowed them to be more daring in how they respond to customers.

The good news is that humour is back with a vengeance. It’s a lifeline for brands struggling to cut through the noise in today’s crowded digital landscape. Short-form video on TikTok offers the perfect testbed to experiment with humour. With its low barrier-to-entry and fast-paced nature the platform allows brands to test content, refine their voice, and build connections with audiences in a way that’s both memorable and measurable.

By understanding their audience and crafting humour that resonates with them, a brand can turn a laugh into a loyal customer.

Featured image: This Is Zun / Pexels

Mark Byrne, Director of Paid Media, Brave Bison

Mark has been working in paid media for over 13 years, specialising in paid search and paid social. His role as Director of Paid Media at Brave Bison Perfomance sees him lead a department of cross-channel paid media specialists working across a portfolio of clients from high street brands to scale ups

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