When it comes to neuroscience marketing, humor can be a tricky type of advertising appeal to get right. After all, people don’t have the same sense of humor and what is funny to some consumers might be stupid or offensive to others. If you are able to hit that sweet spot by developing an ad creative that is widely thought to be clever, you can win the hearts and minds of your target audience. Learn when humor appeals work and see classic examples of successful humor appeals from top brands.

What are Humor Appeals?

Humor appeals make consumers laugh, connecting directly to them on an emotional level. They can help make a brand, product, or service more likable and also reinforce brand perception in the market, doing double duty.

Humor appeals can backfire if they isolate or poke fun of an audience segment. These ads generally work best for products that are not controversial and are widely purchased by a range of market segments. Products such as coffee, alcohol, cell phones, and other consumer goods are frequently advertised using humor.

One of the most well-known examples in recent years is Coca Cola’s beach ad. The ad shows a thirsty man reaching for his Coke; unbeknownst to him, a thirsty penguin has stolen the beverage and finds it refreshing. The ad succeeds because it’s cute, clever, and appeals to Coke fans young and old.

Other brands that have successfully developed humorous ads include the Old Spice “Smell Like a Man” ads and the Altoids “Curiously Strong” ad creatives.

When to Use Humor Appeals?

Humor appeals work best for established brands and familiar products. If consumers aren’t familiar with who you are, what you sell, or what services you offer, a humor appeal can confuse them. If you have a relatable product or service and want to increase your market share, humor can help you do so.

Not all products or services lend themselves to a humor appeal. A personal injury law firm or insurance provider may want to steer clean of this type of neuroscience marketing, since accidents and injuries aren’t really funny. Non-profits and public health campaigns may also find that humor appeals clash with the substance of their ads.

If humor is a good match for the brand, product, or service, it’s still an uphill battle. These ads do require a great deal of care to execute well. Humorous ads can backfire if they aren’t found funny by the target audience or if they only create consumer recall for the ad itself (not the brand or product).

Humor ads rely on the joke and usually don’t contain a lot of information about the product or service. Adding product info bogs down the humor ad appeal, clashes with the joke and leaves the audience confused about messaging.

Humorous ads are by necessity somewhat edge, so you must be willing to commit to an out of the box ad creative. By trying to “play it safe” you can come up with an ad that misses the mark.

This type of neuroscience based advertising appeal may be difficult to create, but it can reward brands that are able to do it effectively. When a humorous ads captures attention and showcases the benefits of a product or service, it succeeds. As a result, consumers may have a more favorable opinion of the product or the brand, may be more likely to remember it when they encounter it in the store, and may be more likely to become a brand loyalist.