Humor is the greatest ice-breaker. It can bring people together, cross cultural divides and help us find our common ground. It can be a hugely powerful tool for marketers that can help us not only reach our audiences, but persuade them to share our message.
The brand videos have all gone viral, and they all use humor in different ways. Some take a very commonplace theme and use humor to make it into something special that people want to share. Some are sheer entertainment, and some cleverly look at a serious message through the humor lens.
Humor connects us, and these videos are a masterclass in how to use humor to give your marketing that extra spice.
1. K-Mart: Ship My Pants
Some of the best comedy works on the simplest of ideas. K-Mart may have had a challenge coming up with an original idea to tell their customers that if they can’t find what they were looking for in store, the company offers free shipping online.
“I just shipped my pants.”
The 30-second ad works because your brain can’t help but mis-hear. And it may be childish, but it gets the message across and it’s been shared over 20 million times. Simple… but funny and very effective.
2. Coors Light UK: Jean Claude Van Damme’s Frozen Pants
Jean Claude Van Damme seems to be everywhere right now, but it’s not just his epic ability to do the splits that is getting him hired to promote products – he has a great sense of humor too. Coors Light UK recently signed the action hero up to be the spokesperson for their brand for a cool £25 million ($42 million). His deadpan humor and ability to parody his tough-guy image have helped his series of adverts go viral: the first installment became the UK’s most-shared beer ad.
The latest is a simple idea: Van Damme talks about the time his pants froze – but that’s nothing compared to the ice cool refreshment of a Coors Light: 40 seconds of ice-cold comedy.
“Have you ever seen a man penguin walk after an intense mating season?”
No, but we’re getting an idea, thanks Jean Claude.
Here is the video that offers a compilation of all of the spots.
3. Metro Trains, Melbourne: Dumb Ways to Die
If your company is given the brief of getting the message of train safety over to the public, you’d be forgiven for feeling kind of short on ideas. But one advertising agency, McCann Melbourne, realized that by using humor they could engage those ‘at-risk young people who were most likely to become injured in or near a Metro Train station’ – a tough demographic.
So ‘Dumb Ways to Die’, a music video featuring cute animations dying in imaginative ways was born… and quickly reached over 75 million views. Surely that’s a first for a public service message?
4. H&M: Short film directed by Guy Ritchie starring David Beckham… and his underwear
OK, so I’m cheating a little on this one – it isn’t just this ad’s humor that has earned it over 10 million views; using a near-naked David Beckham running around LA helped a bit too.
When H&M launched their new underwear range, designed by David Beckham, they already had the perfect leading man for their campaign right there. They could have chosen the sort of classy angle that Becks is comfortable with, having proved his credentials over at Emporio Armani. But no, H&M asked fellow Brit and Hollywood local director Guy Ritchie to inject some laughs into the campaign.
The result is an action-packed film with neat comic timing: David Beckham gets his robe caught in the car door when his family drive away… then he loses the rest of his clothes (kind of improbably but what the heck) as he races around the winding roads that lead down from his mansion to catch them. He somehow has time to score a goal, dive through a swimming pool and spook some paparazzi in the race to catch up with his modesty.
Phew! With 10 million views this ad proves that humor plus looks is a winning combination.
5. Mercedes-Benz: Magic Body Control
If you’re trying to come up with an animal that best represents Mercedes-Benz’s control and precision, maybe you’d think of a puma, a racehorse or an eagle…
But a chicken?
This hilarious chicken-dance video from Mercedes Benz demonstrates exactly how their new Intelligent Drive system gives you stability at all times… all through the medium of dancing chickens. It is stylish, funny, and has to be seen to be believed.
The danger of using humor is that when it backfires, it can do so spectacularly. So you must be sure of your audience: different cultures and generations can find different things funny… or even shocking. Do your research and make sure that if you are going for the humor angle, it is the right humor for your market. But when you do it right – magic happens!
Originally published May 21, 2014, updated Aug 07, 2020