When Humor Converts (and When It Doesn’t)
Think about the last thing that made you laugh. Was it a TV ad? Tim from HR? A tweet?
Now think about the last landing page that made you laugh. Truly, take a 2nd and attempt to come up with an response. Was it just another four hundred four page?
Studies showcase that 30% of all ads and 50% of TV ads are based on humor. So, does that mean humor converts? Does that mean landing pages can and should be funny?
Clever vs. Clear: It’s an Old Debate
“If you’re an agency or in-house copywriter, you’re likely familiar with this controversial topic. If you’re more of a generalist at your company, or you wear many hats in your role, here’s the gist of it:
In one corner is Clever Marketing. Have you ever laughed aloud while watching a TV commercial but struggled to identify the product being sold? That’s him (at his peak weight). At his optimal weight, Clever does pretty well for himself, most notably inbetween plays at the Super Cup – creating millions of fans and generating a ton of revenue for advertisers.
In the other corner is Clear Marketing, who fights using a very different style. He’s not there to dance or dazzle. His strengths are messages that make instant sense to customers, and he packs a mean punch when it’s time to close.
Everyone loves a good fight, and these two heavyweights of the copywriting world have been pitted against each other since people embarked selling stuff over the airwaves.” (via Copy Hackers)
In latest history, clear marketing has been the winner. UX experts and designers call for clear, simplified sites. Copywriters call for clear, simplified value propositions. Does that mean clever never works? Absolutely not.
Using humor to convert just isn’t that plain.
When It Works: JCD Repair Case Examine
In 2013, Copy Hackers released a JCD Repair, a while-you-wait iPhone screen repair service, case investigate. According to JCD Repair, St. Patrick’s Day is like their Black Friday. As it turns out, when people go out drinking, they tend to harm their phones. (Go figure.)
Here’s the control that Copy Hackers and JCD Repair commenced with…
Very clear and to the point, right? Well, they wished to experiment with some more clever copy…
Each variation is more clever than the last. Of course, given the youthful audience, it’s not surprising that the third variation (the most clever variation) won. Take a look at the results…
Note that the more clever the copy, the larger the improvement.
When It Fails: EZ Grill Case Examine
“But here’s the thing: While there are many companies that have made such ads that quickly translated into rapid sales, other companies with viral movies and other funny content never enlargened their sales at all, despite millions of shares. The bottom line is humor can create sales, but it has to be done right.” (via Conversion Scientist)
Of course, just because humor converted for one company, doesn’t mean it’ll convert for you. Sometimes, as Susan points out, all humor does is raise awareness.
Consider this EZ Grill, a disposable charcoal grill manufacturer, case probe that was released a few years ago. Essentially, EZ Grill determined to lean on traditional PR for enhanced awareness early on. As a result, the company was featured on the Today display four times and local news stations numerous times. No results.
Years later, EZ Grill turned to a social media marketing company that suggested a viral movie based on the popular Will It Blend? YouTube series. In the EZ Grill movie, various smartphones were placed on the grill to see which would last the longest.
The movie, What Grills Swifter, was observed 1.Five million times in three days. It was covered by major media outlets like TechCrunch and Engadget. The results? A sizeable increase in Twitter and Facebook engagement, but no sales lift.
In other words, humor didn’t convert at all.
It’s Complicated: Why Humor Does Convert
So, humor converts sometimes, sorta, maybe? Yes, exactly.
Of course, understanding why humor converts when it converts can help you make it work for you. There are four key principles to recall here.
1. It attracts attention.
Humor directions attention.
According to the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute Letter, “Jokes work because they defy expectations. The surprise aspect of these tales kicks in the frontal lobe’s search for pattern recognition. The punchline moment shifts one’s orientation away from information processing toward an emotional response arising deep within the nucleus accumbens.”
In other words, jokes are unexpected, especially on landing pages. When we come across something funny, our brain stops analyzing and responds emotionally.
“This response is then tagged for an overall relevance check. If the prefrontal cortex, which is part of the frontal lobe, deems the information attention worthy, it dedicates more processing power to it, along with conscious awareness,” they proceed.
So, if you can make your visitors smile or, even better, laugh, you can capture their attention. Enlargened attention means your product or service is given more thought, which means your visitors will be able to recall your company better.
Note that this means the idea that humor doesn’t work in “boring” industries is a myth. In fact, it might actually work better. When the humor is especially unexpected, attention increases even more. If Clorox can make bleach funny with their Bleach It Away landing page, you can make your landing page funny.
Two. It makes us leave behind we’re being sold to.
A explore from Radboud University Nijmegen found that humor distracts the brain, lowering its resistant to influence. In other words, humor puts your visitors at ease and distracts them from the fact that they are being marketed to. Their defences are lowered and they’re more likely to go after through with the suggested call to activity.
Of course, it also builds a connection. The same way you feel closer to a fresh acquaintance after trading stories and jokes at a bar, your visitors will feel closer to your company if you showcase personality.
Trio. It creates positive sentiment.
Thomas Cline, Ph.D., professor of marketing and statistics at Saint Vincent College, has found that humor elevates mood, and that people may then associate their good mood with the product in question.
So, humor makes us glad. Not surprising.
What’s interesting is that the brain will then turn that feeling of joy into a positive opinion about the related product or service. It’s why you have a positive opinion of Poo Pourri, even if you have never purchased it. Or why you think Dollar Trim Club is awesome, even if you aren’t a customer.
A positive sentiment doesn’t assure a conversion, evidently. It does, however, make it more likely.
Four. It’s social conditioning.
Consider the JCD Repair case explore again. Their target audience is college students / youthfull professionals and middle-class parents of teenagers. The copy Copy Hackers tested was clearly directed to the former. So, does clever only work for the junior generation?
Herman Chan created a movie series about real estate and design called Habitat for Hermanity, which makes joy of the real estate business in order to convert. Herman thinks junior generations are, in fact, socially conditioned to react best to humor.
“Junior generations have been socialized to receive info via humor. My clients don’t witness ’20/20′ or ‘Nightline’ for news, they observe Colbert and Jon Stewart. They want data delivered with a punch line,” he says.
According to Nielsen, it has less to do with age and more to do with geographic location.
Earlier this year, they wrote, “Humor resonates more strongly in Western markets. It tops the list of most appealing message types in Europe and North America, cited by 51% and 50% of respondents, respectively, yet doesn’t rate higher than third in any other region (respondents in Asia-Pacific and Latin America rate it fourth).”
Take a look at how humor stacks up…
However, junior and older generations do have comedic preferences, Nielsen reports. “Older consumers choose clever, light-hearted humor, while junior consumers choose offbeat, sarcastic and slapstick humor. Health- and value-oriented ads are also rated very by all five generations.”
And Why Humor Doesn’t Convert
You’re reading this on the Internet, so you already know that when companies attempt to be funny, it doesn’t always go well. What makes them flop, exactly?
1. They go too far.
If you’re hitting the road on a comedy tour, there aren’t many rules. You can basically poke joy at anyone and be as explicit (hey, Nicole Arbour) as you want. People will still laugh, you’ll very likely still find an audience.
Since you’re a company, things are a little different. There are rules. You can go too far.
KFC thought it would be funny to spoof the Mick Fanning shark attack. They got a lookalike to twirl a shark in the air, above his head while railing a wave. As it turns out, Mick’s mother didn’t find it all that funny.
Kurl-On Mattresses thought it would be clever to demonstrate the quality of their mattresses by displaying a cartoon version of Malala Yousafzai being shot, recovering in a hospital and “bouncing back” to receive an award for her advocacy. Indeed?
Two. They aren’t consistent.
If you’re going to have a funny site, have a funny site. Don’t have one line of copy that results in a roar of laughter followed by ten paragraphs of plain, clear copy. Consistency is significant.
Do you have to cram as many jokes into your landing page as possible? Of course not. You don’t want to seem like you’re attempting too hard. You should, however, maintain the mood and atmosphere.
It’s better to be consistently clear or consistently funny than to be caught in the middle.
Three. They haven’t covered the basics of persuasion.
Clear and clever are not mutually sensational. You must have some degree of clarity to pave the road for cleverness.
“Your landing page visitors need to understand (1) where they are, (Two) what they can do on your site, and (Three) why they should stick around. If you’re at all unclear about any of these things, you’ll lose credibility and the visitor.
But once you have the essential messages in place (and as clear as Voss water!), it’s okay to have some joy and let the creative juices flow. Chances are that if your message makes your target audience smile, you’re more likely to be remembered. And in a sea of Google search results, being memorable is a very good thing.” (via Copy Hackers)
You can choose to be just clear. But you cannot be just clever.
How to Make Humor Convert for You
So, how can you use humor on your landing pages? Ann Handley of MarketingProfs suggests focusing on the agony…
“Much of what’s funny emanates from anguish. If you think about it, that’s very likely true of your business, too: You commenced producing a product or launched a service because you perceived a void or frustration in the market. Humor permits you to explore that agony and corset it, by using hyperbole to amplify the frustration to an absurd level.
Most marketing concentrates on the product or service being sold. But customers are more interested in how what you sell can help them. How does it shoulder their burdens or ease a agony?” (via Entrepreneur)
Use humor to highlight your visitors’ ache points. What’s plaguing them? What have they come to you to fix? Amplify the agony until it’s funny. Then, use that to emphasize your value proposition.
There are two main types of humor you can use…
- Relatable Humor – Think of Ellen DeGeneres. Her humor appeals to a broad audience, it’s very relevant. It helps bring people together and feel close to one another because they can all laugh together (i.e. they all share the same, everyday agonies).
- Self-Depreciating Humor – Think of this as the opposite of a political ad. Poking joy at someone else is risky, but mocking yourself can go a long way.
Good Example #1: ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com
When Mat Carpenter launched ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com, he used both types of humor. Here are some screenshots of his original landing page (he sold the site for $85,000 shortly after launch)…
Mat even continued the same style of copy to his Twitter account…
I've just added a form on the http://t.co/cN3fLGreiU website for people who want to be notified when we're taking orders again. ╭∩╮(-_-)╭∩╮
Within four days, ShipYourEnemiesGlitter had been visited Two.Five million times and generated over $20,000 in sales (reminisce, it’s a $9.99 product). When asked about the role humor played in his success, Mat had this to say…
“Using humor to convert visitors into customers is difficult but can be done as evident through the success of ShipYourEnemiesGlitter earlier this year. The company didn’t receive ems of thousands of dollars worth of orders within hours because there was a thick request for sending glitter envelopes to friends & family, it was due to the copy that millions of people found hilarious and made them want to attempt it.
Had the websites copy been serious (read: boring) and not from the point of view of a pissed off Aussie who fucking hates glitter I very doubt it would have gotten the level of attention it received.”
Good Example #Two: Eat24
Ok, so ShipYourEnemiesGlitter is a product designed to be funny and Mat makes his living on products that are clever. What about average companies that just happen to be funny? One of my beloved examples is Eat24.
Take a look at their homepage copy…
Further down the page, you’ll find more subtle humor…
Eat24’s humor isn’t as in-your-face as ShipYourEnemiesGlitter’s humor. It’s subtle, it’s used to showcase personality and create positive emotion.
How You Can Use Humor
You’ve been exposed to a funny site or two in your lifetime, I’m sure of it. Typically, you see humor being used on four hundred four pages, in “viral” movies and on social media.
1. Four hundred four Pages
Since the four hundred four page isn’t part of the main site, companies tend to have a bit of joy with four hundred four sites. After all, the best way to reduce strain and frustration is through humor, right? They can also be used to set your visitors on the right path (see the ConversionXL four hundred four page).
Two. Viral Movies
This one is badly demonstrable. Companies attempt to create “viral” movies all the time. A petite fraction of them are successful. An even smaller fraction actually turn their movie into revenue.
You can have the world’s most viral movie, the movie everyone is talking about. But if it doesn’t convert to sales, what do you have? You have a funny movie and $Four,000 less in the bank.
Example: Dollar Trim Club
Dollar Trim Club had 12,000 fresh customers in the very first forty eight hour following their movie launch.
Trio. Social Media
Social media is inherently, well… social. It’s perceived as less “risky” to use humor there. In fact, it’s encouraged. You’ve very likely seen slew of examples of big brands engaging with one another, hopping on pop culture bandwagons, etc.
Okay, maybe I don’t lift the weights in my house, but three times a day I go up to them and say “Keep up the good work, weights.”
Here’s the Problem…
Traditionally, humor is separated from landing pages. It feels “risky” and largely untested. On a four hundred four page, in a viral movie or on social media, it’s safer and more familiar.
Humor captures attention, makes your visitors think about what you’re telling and puts them in a better mood. Why not test humor near points of friction and frustration?
Here are some points of friction / frustration that you could begin testing with…
- Funnel Entry Points. Signup forms, email captures forms, etc.
- Conversion Points. Cart pages, checkout pages, confirmation pages, etc.
- Support Points. Contact pages, live talk windows, FAQs pages, etc.
- Abandonment Points. Unsubscribe confirmation pages, exit popups, etc.
So, does humor convert? Well, do your visitors know…
- Where they are?
- What they can do on your site?
- Why they should stick around?
If you answered yes to all of the above, the response is… it depends.
Humor converts best when you…
- Concentrate on the agony points to emphasize your value proposition.[Tweet It!]
- Are consistent with your level and type (relatable or self-depreciating) of humor.
- Use it near points of friction / frustration.
However, the only way to know if it will work for your audience is to test it. And don’t be funked to test it on your landing page itself.
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Shanelle Mullin previously did content and growth at CXL. She’s a jill-of-all-trades marketer with a 10-year background in growth and content marketing.