Email contentI’ve noticed a bit of a trend recently for brands using humour in their email content as a means to engage recipients and get them to click through to their website.

Humour has long been used in marketing, of course, but it seems to be being deployed more often than ever now.

Just today, I received an email from Theatre Royal Bath with the subject line: “If you haven’t yet seen Phill Jupitus’s Bottom, you’re missing a treat!” For a bit of context, Jupitus is currently starring in A Midsummer Night’s Dream down here in Bath.

For what it’s worth, I gave an inward chuckle; I thought the humorous line worked well on this occasion. However, there have been other incidents where I’m left cringing at an attempt to be funny. Either because it’s clearly just not funny, or the humorous approach isn’t a good fit for the firm who’s sent the email.

Humour should be used sparingly and strategically; don’t force it; wait for the right moment. The Business 2 Community website believes that you should ask yourself four questions before you decide to hit “send” on that hilarious email you’ve just put together – it’s a smart approach to adopt.

1. Is it appropriate for my audience?

What somebody in their twenties might find funny, could go down like a lead balloon with the over forties crowd. That’s not me saying that you start to lose your sense of humour as you get older, just that our sense of humour changes as we age.

So, it might be an idea to run your email past someone who is in your target audience age range, even if you know your audience inside out.

2. Does it help humanise my brand?

Humour can be a great way of showing the human side of your brand. After all, it’s showing off your brand’s personality; you’re sharing what you find funny.

However, if it looks like you’ve attempted to use humour for the sake of using humour, your email subscribers won’t feel like they know you any better – they will see it as you going through the motions. That’s why your material has to be funny (and relevant) in the first place.

3. Is it consistent with my overall approach to marketing?

Have you been known to use humorous messages in your marketing material in the past? If not, it might seem strange to long-term subscribers if you suddenly start cracking jokes.

If you want to start introducing humour into your messages, it’s got to done in a natural way – only one in every four emails, say, should be jokey in approach at the start, before steadily increasing the frequency of funny content.

There’s an argument for using humour regardless what industry you operate in – just don’t overdo it too early. Keep things consistent with previous messages, until you reach a point where humour becomes synonymous with your brand.

4. Does it steer clear of controversy?

The last thing you want to do – in this day and age especially – is to send out an email that some of your subscribers find offensive. That will have them unsubscribing in no time, so your best bet is to stay away from the prickly issues.

Settle with your email being mildly funny but inoffensive, as opposed to potentially ‘hilarious’ but a little risky. If in doubt, scrap it, is my advice. Otherwise, you might be forced into an apology – really not funny.

So, take care not to offend, make sure your audience ‘gets’ your jokes, try to show off a bit of your personality, and make sure the email doesn’t come as too much of a surprise!

Ben Hollom

August 12, 2016