These 5 Takeaways from FunnyBizz Are No Laughing Matter

Tips and tactics for injecting humor into your content

June 17, 2015

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As part of our ongoing effort to keep the LinkedIn Marketing Solution’s fun level at an all time high, we attended David Nihill and Rachman Blake's FunnyBizz Conference last week, right here in San Francisco. The extremely entertaining event highlighted well-known marketers (Kathy Klotz-Guest), stand up comedians (Andrew Tarvin) and those who fall somewhere in between (our own Jason Miller).

The topic of injecting humor into the workplace is certainly a timely one. After all, in order to be a successful marketer in the modern age, we must know how to laugh at ourselves. We live in a world where 95% of website visitors never provide an email address and of the 5% who do, about 20% open emails (on a good day). To survive and thrive, we must treat humor as the replenishing source of fuel that sends us along our merry B2B path. Read on for five takeaways from the event - covering the elements of great storytelling, the importance of bringing humor to work and ways to make boring content funny.

1. Entertainment doesn't equal advertising.

Brands are using humor more than ever before. More than half of all ads are funny (or try to be, at least). Social media is now seen as an entertainment medium. Our ads are now competing for attention with all of the funny content produced by brands like BuzzFeed and by user-generated Vine videos.

With this immense pressure to be funny, brands must walk the fine line between promotion and entertainment. You want your audience to laugh, but you also need them to remember your brand’s name. In her session, ‘Getting brands to funny,’ Associate Creative Director at R/GA San Francisco Annie Sloan outlines a 5-step plan for getting brands to the right kind of funny.

Step 1: Develop a strategy and align with marketing goals, (i.e. brand awareness, targeting a new audience, etc.). Then make sure you know who you’re talking to.

Step 2: Check yourself. Know who you’re talking to, develop your tone of voice and find the right way in. Also, refrain from mocking the people you are trying to sell to.

Step 3: Create something that goes beyond money. Think about what people can write about your ad rather than the ad alone.

Step 4: Find your balance. Don’t talk too much about yourself. Create content that will get shared, but with the right risk. Make it as universal and timeless as you need to. A great example of this is this Heineken commercial. Perfect amount of branding, minimal words needed.

Step 5: Work with experts. Hire real comedians and writers. Maybe your mom told you that you were funny once. Other people may not feel the same way.

2. You’re not the hero in this story. Your audience is.

Good storytelling is based on core values. Humans share values by telling stories. A well-told story will give you a core truth to believe in. In many of the stories we craft as marketers, the villain is the prospect’s pain point and our product is the hero.

Maybe we’ve been looking at it wrong. Instead of telling our audience ‘Look how awesome we are!,' we should be saying ‘Look how great you can you can be!’

In addition to the storytelling tip above, Co-founder and Chief Storytelling Officer of Free Range Studios, Jonah Sachs, encouraged marketers to use ‘freaks and cheats.’ Freaks and cheats are characters who break audience expectations. We are programmed to listen to stories about rule-breakers and what happens to them. Stories that have a renegade who breaks societal norms shake us up a bit – and hold our attention for a longer period of time.

3. There is a difference between efficiency and effectiveness.

With 80% of Americans reporting they are stressed out at work, humor is quickly moving from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’. Research has proven that people who use humor in the workplace are happier, productive and more effective. Humor also gets people to listen, improves communication, strengthens leadership and builds relationships. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that 91% of CEOs prefer job candidates with a sense of humor.

You might be thinking – that’s great, but I’m not funny. Well, there may be a glimmer of hope still left for you. According to Humor Engineer Andrew Tarvin, humor is a skill, which means it can be learned. You just have to start – assess, decide and execute. If excellence is a habit, then so is humor.

4. Don’t try to be funny, try to be honest.

It’s no surprise that the most shared content is content that makes people laugh. But what if you’re marketing something that is widely viewed as painfully boring? Speaker & Writer Sarah Cooper, author of ’10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings’ and similarly hilarious viral posts, offered up four unique tips (with accompanying images) for turning your content from sleepy to sensational:

1. Tell the truth. As Kathy Klotz-Guest, CEO of Keeping it Human said, "Comedy is the truth on steroids." Ask your community for honest opinions and experiences to spark great content ideas.

late to party2. Mash it up. Comedy often takes us to unexpected places. Mixing two unlikely elements can spice up your content. Just follow Sarah’s formula: Boring + Exciting = Funny. For example, have you ever thought of your coworkers as rappers?

two cent3. Make fun of yourself. Humor lowers people’s guards. Brands who aren’t afraid poke fun at themselves are perceived as more transparent, relatable and likeable. By laughing together, we’re going to start a genuine conversation. For example, this is how I work out without exercising.

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4. Compare two things. Stark contrasts are funny. Find two relevant, interesting and hot topics and make people want to get on one side or another. For example:

nyc sf occupations

5. People buy from other people, not companies.

When a brand doesn’t always take itself too seriously, it shows authenticity. In his session, "Humor in B2B," LinkedIn's own Senior Content Marketing Manager Jason Miller stressed the importance of injecting personality into your content. Jason, who is well known for his rock n’ roll flare, truly walks the walk on this one. Have you seen his latest eBook, "Creating Your First Big Rock: A Step by Step Guide for Marquee Content? Bonus points to anyone who accurately name the album that inspired this cover.

As Co-Founder of Velocity Partners Ltd, Doug Kessler once said, “Aim for charming and enjoyable instead of hilarious.” Getting people to like you is what top of the funnel content is all about. Engage with your community. Create content that pushes the boundaries and gets people thinking differently. And have a bit of fun while you do it. Because the bottom line is: content that was fun to create will likely be fun to consume.

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