Making people laugh is not always easy. Just ask any stand-up comedian who has bombed in front of an audience. The danger that lurks for your marketing team is that the effort will come off as cheesy or campy, and that probably scares you. And to be honest, it should. But there are ways to reach your audience and gain their attention and admiration through humor. After all, there is nothing cooler than funny.
The following seven elements have proven to be successful in ensuring some laughs and diminishing—even banishing—every marketer’s deeply ingrained fear of ‘cheese.’
Know Your Audience
This applies to any communication effort, comedic or not. Yet what is hilariously funny to some elicits crickets from others. Who is the audience? How old are they? What do they care about? What makes them laugh on YouTube, network TV and Comedy Central? Make sure that what you are creating lives in a similar genre, in both tone and style.
Get Inside Their Heads
Once you know who it is you are talking to, get in their heads. When creating an internal company video, for example, talk to multiple employees to find out what’s funny team-wide and company-wide. Case in point: I recently created a safety training video for a large beauty company with an internal tendency to overuse acronyms. Our team played with that and created a few ridiculously long acronyms that had team members giggling while learning important safety lessons at the same time.
Keep It Dry
Granted, this is a personal preference (and my own brand of comedy), but I think it’s fair to say that audiences prefer to judge for themselves whether something is funny or not. Avoid winking at the audience. Telling them when and where to laugh only cheapens the joke and makes it a groan fest instead of generating actual laughter—which is, after all, the sound you are looking for. So avoid the over-the-top performance, the ‘on the nose’ music, and the over-stated dialogue. In this case, dry is good.
Casting, Casting, Casting
Casting is the most important aspect of the production process. It will make or break your marketing video (which is why I tend to jump up and down when I talk about this). This is no place to skimp—make sure you have the budget and the time to find the correct cast. I tell clients to not rush this phase, even if it means pushing back their deadlines. It’s that important.
Also, share audition tapes with trusted team members and friends. Make sure you’re not the only one enchanted by this person. Your cast needs to be universally charming—did I mention funny, too? Hollywood stars earn ridiculous amounts of money because the success of shows and movies rides on their backs. Believe it or not, the same goes for a marketing video.
Keep it Short
‘Brevity is the soul of wit’ or so says Billy, and boy is he right. Grab their attention, make them laugh, and leave them laughing. There’s no faster way to kill a joke than to beat it into the ground. Like I’m doing here. Just stop, seriously. There is nothing funny about long windedness.
Hire People That Make You Laugh
Funny people make funny videos (most of the time, anyway. But un-funny people never do.) The person directing your video should have the same taste in humor as you and your team. If your meetings are filled with laughter and mirth, you’re on the right path. That synergy is the first sign that you’re about to make something great…or at least funny.
Spend Time on the Script
A good performer can breathe some life into a flat script, but he or she can’t be expected to lift it out of the basement of despair. Hire an experienced production company or recruit the office comedian to take on this phase. Then, take the time to ensure that you’ve actually got something funny on your hands. Read it out loud with co-workers. If they’re not laughing, it’s not ready.
There are plenty of ways to have fun with your message, whether you are spoofing something in popular culture or making fun of yourself. Just step up with these seven fancy tips and you’ll get the laughs while steering clear of the gouda, cheddar, mansueta and goat.
About the Author
Jane Selle Morgan is a producer/director with Studio B Films where she specializes in comedy and performance-based work. She is best known for her work on the pilot season of The Guild, the Internet series phenomenon that has garnered over 76 million views on YouTube to date.