Minister and author Steve Goodier once said, “Humor can make a serious difference. In the workplace, at home, in all areas of life – looking for a reason to laugh is necessary. A sense of humor helps us to get through the dull times, cope with the difficult times, enjoy the good times, and manage the scary times.”

Humor Is Incredibly Subjective

Humor is important, and when utilized in an effective way, it can win over the hearts and minds of your target audience. In addition to being important, humor is often hard. It’s not an anomaly that many good comedians and comedic writers command huge sums of money to simply tell jokes and share humorous anecdotes, either on stage in front of an audience, in the script for a movie or sitcom, or in a book. Not only is creating humor from scratch incredibly difficult for most people, but presenting the appropriate kind of humor to your audience is also essential. What’s funny is incredibly subjective, and an audience that is expecting to hear non-offensive, neutral, or “family friendly” humor will respond to a joke very differently than an audience that is expecting offensive, shocking, or “insult” humor. As the voice of your brand in advertising or marketing materials or on your blog or social media, what humor is acceptable to your audience, which includes both your target market and the public at large?

It’s Never Okay To Be Unprofessional Or Offensive

No matter what business or industry you’re in, there is no reason to ever behave in a manner that is unprofessional or offensive in an attempt to be humorous. While that may sound like a simple and obvious rule to follow, one person’s interpretation of what is humorous and non-offensive can be off-base, even among advertising, PR, and communications professionals. Attempting any amount of offensive humor can lead to infamous and sometimes career-ending incidents involving public statements, outbursts, advertisements, and blog and social media posts. In addition to simple lapses in judgment, many of these incidents stem from a misunderstanding of customers, including the target market and what is considered acceptable by the public at large. For instance, you may believe that all of your customers have similar political beliefs, but posting a politically-charged joke may anger or simply “turn off” a significant number of customers and potential customers.

Why Is It Important To Be Universally Funny

Believe it or not, being professional and inoffensive isn’t your only concern when employing humor in your brand voice. It is also important to be universally funny, or at least broad enough that both your target market and the public and large correctly interprets and understands your humor. Even if you do not do business internationally, humor can be incredibly subjective among different groups and cultures, and the more culturally and socioeconomically diverse your community and target market are, the more broad and “universal” your humor may have to be. If you employ humor that is indecipherable to a portion of your target audience, it can be problematic, even if they are not offended by the humor – if a customer or potential customer feels alienated by your humor, they will subsequently feel alienated from your brand.

Now that we’ve covered what you shouldn’t do, we’ll explain in our next blog post how to properly and successfully integrate humor into your brand voice!