Are you funny? I am. No really. My Mom told me I was.
Don't just take my word, I've pulled together several sources to back me up here. We've talked about it a bit before, but humor is incredibly effective in your business communications. I'm not suggesting you go all in. Imagine a funeral home with an email campaign like Moosejaw's. Or, if Bill.com started a series of skits on Funny or Die.
There was even a time when Tiffany Sauder said of Element Three "We don't do funny." She was wrong. We have some comics behind these walls. But, she was also right. We're "Business First." Nobody's laughing when humor is ill-timed or lacking context.
As you consider how humor can play out in your business, here are 7 reasons why humor works.
Let's start with the facts. When you, your prospect or your customers laugh, you actually get happier. Laughter releases endorphins in your body that reduce stress and increase your tolerance to pain. Endorphins are the same little guys that are triggered when you drink alcohol, eat spicy food, exercise or have sex. In this article by the Mayo Clinic, you'll see laughter does lots of other awesomeness to your body too.
Stop for a second. Who are the three funniest people you know? Go ahead…
Their titles might not have "Creative" in them, but I bet they're some of the most creative people you know. Why is that? When you're laughing, you're loose. When you're loose, you're open. And, when you're open, you're ready to create.
A good friend of mine is a creative director at an ad agency. Dude's hilarious, too. He does his best work while burning midnight oil/Marlboros and watching old television comedies he practically has memorized. He says it makes him comfortable. Which may be true. But, he's really found a way to catch a creative wave at will. His clients prosper!
"Humor is an essential part of the creativity we need to solve problems no matter how serious they may be." - John Cleese
Have you ever walked into a meeting where everyone was yelling or crying and immediately wanted to join in? No. But, have you ever walked in a room where everyone was laughing, started smiling and wanted in on the joke? You bet you have. Humor levels the playing field. It promotes togetherness. It makes everyone approachable. Even across gender, age, socio-economic and race gaps. We all laugh.
Get this. Professor Sophie Scott, from University College London's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, speaks to other species of animals laughing in relationship to each other and to humans. As it turns out, rats laugh when they're tickled.
Flip through your memory bank. The moments that undoubtedly jump forth are filled with great sorrow or great joy. And, don't you immediately associate them to or with someone else. A well-timed moment of comic relief can be an escape plan, a catapult or the closure of your next customer purchase.
When I asked a business development manager for a global energy company why humor is effective, he immediately equated it with intelligence. "You can trust the speaker knowing they are cognizant of generalities," he said.
To be able to take control of a setting with humor can't just take confidence. It requires the proficiency of context, timing, prior experience and available material. That's no cocktail a numbskull is going to serve up when the time is right.
In a study reported by Psychology Today, Professors Greengross and Miller went so far as to effectively predict humor production based on intelligence in 400 university students.
Comedian Demetri Martin graduated from Yale in 1995 and then went on to attend NYU Law School on a full scholarship. He dropped out after two years to pursue comedy full-time. He's not using his intelligence to practice law. He's using it to innovate stand-up comedy. You're smart! How can you subtly offer your prowess to your lead using humor?
In the recent Nielsen study called the Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages, 47% of respondents said humor was what resonated the most with them. If you've piqued your lead's interest enough that they're later recalling it, you've struck a chord worth repeating with other prospects (after you close that deal). Of course, there is danger here, too.
How many funny television spots have you seen that 5 seconds later - you had no idea what or who the ad was promoting? Just watch the Super Bowl. It's an epidemic. But, it can be done well. When your product or service is actively involved - even better! Que Dollar Shave Club and Le Trefle.
Neuromarketing professional Patrick Renvoise uses a line in almost all of his talk introductions that always gets laughs:
"So. I'm French. Nobody's perfect."
It's so simple. But, rather profound in its way of disarming any stereotypes and drawing a line of humanity from him to every member of the audience.
In the summer of 2000, a group of Ball State University sports marketeers and I were pitching an assigned campaign to the Indianapolis Colts marketing executives. To start the meeting, a few of us entered the boardroom in character. We had crafted comedic angles for various fan personas for a print campaign. I had been drafted to be Rowdy Fan who burst into the room bare-chested, "Woo-hoo-ing!!," painted blue adorning a blue curly-haired wig. While I only recall seeing the laughter of my peers (and laughing at myself), it only took until the opening of the regular season that year for the Colts to create the character. It worked.
How can you break into your next webinar or commercial with a humorous icebreaker to grab the attention of your prospect?
Said no better than by my 7-year-old son when I asked him about the value of laughing. He said, "It's just fun and other people think it is, too."
How have you effectively used humor in your business communications? Let us know.