Business 3 ways to differentiate your marketing content by using...

3 ways to differentiate your marketing content by using subtle humour


If I can make you laugh, you’ll like me more, which will make you more open to my ideas. And if I can persuade you to laugh at a particular point I am making, by laughing at it, you are acknowledging that it is true. – Actor and comedian, John Cleese

There is so much content out there these days, much of it written in the same bland, boring language. That’s why creating vibrant, colorful content that stands out and attracts your ideal customers is crucial in content marketing.

How do you create lively content? Here are three ideas for you to consider:

  1. Add subtle humor to your marketing content.
  2. Use fresh, detailed language in your marketing content.
  3. Bring the best of you and your brand into your content.

In this article, the first of a three-part series on how to differentiate your marketing content by expressing yourself with verve and color, we look at the first idea: how to infuse your content with subtle humor.

I’m not talking about being a comedian or having a laugh for a minute. I’m talking about making your readers smile every once in a while.

A word of warning: don’t try to use all of these techniques in one piece of content at once. This can cause the opposite of your intended effect and drive away potential customers.

Humor technique 1: Use words with the letter K

The humorous aspect of the letter K is best expressed in a few lines in Neil Simon’s play ‘The Sunshine Boys’. In it, a comedian played by Walter Matthau explains the allure of the letter K to his nephew.

Fifty-seven years in this industry teaches you a few things. You know which words are funny and which are not funny. Alka Seltzer is funny. You say “Alka Seltzer” and you have to laugh… Words with a “k” in them are funny. Casey Stengel, that’s a funny name. Robert Taylor is not funny. Cupcake is funny. Tomato is not funny. Cookie is funny. Cucumber is funny. Car keys. Cleveland…Cleveland is funny. Maryland is not funny. Then there’s chicken. Chicken is funny. Pickle is funny. Cabin is funny. Cockroach is funny – not if you understand them, only if you say them.

Here are a few words with the K sound; do you see yourself using any of these in your content?

  • Pickle
  • Bikini
  • bonk
  • underpants
  • Kerfuffle

You can also use the technique to name your company and products or services. One brand springs to mind: Design pickle.

Design Pickle offers unlimited graphic design for a “crazy-affordable” flat monthly fee.

The word pickle subtly tickles my funny bone, just like the company’s logo – a smiling pickle.

Design Pickle founder and CEO Russ Perry says his company’s name is meant to be easy to pronounce, easy to remember and put a smile on someone’s face.

“In naming and branding Design Pickle, I had a huge pill of pride to swallow,” he says. “I realized that in my previous agency life I spent so many years branding companies, products and marketing campaigns, trying to be as smart and smart as possible, but often forgetting one essential requirement: be memorable. The name Design Pickle fit the bill – and the domain was available.”

Caiden Laubach, Director of Creative and Communications at Design Pickle, says the team has been strategically considering humor as part of a recent brand refresh.

“When we went through a brand refresh earlier this year, we purposefully talked about styles of humor that would elevate our brand and elevate us, while really staying true to our roots,” he says. “We decided to use sardonic humour because by definition it elicits a smile to the side and perhaps a clap on the knees, often mocking collective pain points in a way that draws you in rather than out.

Several major brands also use the K sound to great effect, including Kit Kat, Krispy Kreme, and Kool-Aid. The names are catchy, memorable and likely to make people laugh.

Humor technique 2: Use unexpected comparisons

A second way to bring humor to your marketing content is to use similes to convey ideas in unexpected ways.

For example, to convey the idea of ​​a growling stomach, think of other things that growl and use those alternatives to describe the growling.

My stomach growls like…

  • A poodle that warns you NOT to get closer.
  • My sister when I almost pushed her too far.
  • The hurried lady behind the counter at the RDW.

Granted, I’m not the best humorist, but I can point you to someone who is: Joe Garza, editor of the The reckless muse.

Joe wrote a message about using equations and their related metaphors to make the content more humorous. While his style differs from mine, the ideas he shares are sound.

Here’s one of his equations from the post referenced to give you an example:

The restaurant’s signature Phaal curry dish was excruciatingly hot and spicy, like the armpits of a sweaty flamenco dancer using habanero sauce as deodorant.

What do you think? Funny? Not funny?

I vote for smart.

While not always what I would consider unexpected or humorous, many business-to-consumer (B2C) brands also use comparisons to good effect.

  • Chevy: Like a stone.
  • Doritos: Tastes like feels great.
  • State farm: Like a good neighbour.

What is your brand like it or if? If you’re not sure, question your customers, as they are the ones who really know you best.

Humor Technique 3: Missteering, Breaking Patterns

A third way to use humor to bring in more of your ideal customers is to deceive or break expected patterns.

Consider the opening lines of these clichés; if you’re a native English speaker, you probably know their endings:

  • Everything that glitters…
  • Any time…
  • Every cloud has a…

The humor approach is to give the brain something unexpected. It is to lead the reader’s mind in one direction and then make a sharp turn, somewhere the readers did not expect.

  • All that glitter will probably distract me.
  • Only time will tell if the cactus needs water.
  • Every cloud has a habit of ruining my picnic plans.

Deception is not limited to the endings of clichés. The goal is to break a pattern and make a point in a surprising way.

A few examples:

  • That’s about as American as an affordable ER visit.
  • I’m ready for the beach; I have my sunglasses, towel and portable air conditioner.
  • Writing is easy; just sit down, open your veins and bleed (attributed to Hemingway).

Both B2B and B2C brands successfully employ these techniques, often in advertising.

MailChimp: In his B2B “Did you mean MailChimpad agency Droga5 created a series of ads that played with the brand’s name in unexpected ways, such as Fail chips, Male Crimp (note the K sound), and KaleLimp (Ditto). This campaign exploited deception by making the public expect one thing (MailChimp) and present something completely different.

Dollar shaving club: Dollar Shave Club launch video, viewed more than 28 million times, begins with the words of the company’s founder: “Hello, I’m Mike, founder of What is Well, for a dollar a month, we ship high-quality razors to you.” The video then unexpectedly rotates to show viewers a toddler shaving a man’s head, the founder cutting packing tape with a machete, and a bear costume, all working together to create humor through pattern-breaking and deception.

Next one…

In the next two articles in this series, coming over the next two weeks, you’ll discover ways beyond humor to express yourself with verve and color in your marketing content: using fresh, detailed language and infusing your content with the best of you and your brand.

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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