We recently came across a piece of marketing research that was published in 2012. We summarise it here in case you missed it too.
In a study, individuals were shown a range of product advertisements. Each ad had text of one of four types:
Which did people prefer? They preferred the brands with either the funny or the positive message – there wasn’t much difference between the two.
But an extra twist is that some of the participants were primed to be resistant to some of the brands, by listening to a negative story about them beforehand. For these participants, it was either the funny or the neutral-distracting brands that did best. It was as if distraction lowered resistance to the negative priming, and humour was a good way to achieve that distraction. And the more resistance the participants felt beforehand, the better they responded to the humorous version.
So is humour the silver bullet you're looking for when marketing products that might have some customer resistance? It’s not quite as simple as that. Because although the humorous ads were well liked, those brands were remembered less well. The humour might distract from prejudices, but it also probably distracts from the process of remembering who’s doing the actual advertising.
Moral for advertising and creative agencies: humour can cut through prejudices, but you need to work extra hard in order for the brand to be remembered.
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