My Advice for Working Some Humor Into Your Brand - Rolling Stone
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Advice for Working Some Humor Into Your Brand

Let’s see if we can work in a little levity in our brands.


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Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.

Since we are all surely filled up to the brim with the dread of the day, let’s see if we can work in a little levity in our brands. Humans need to laugh. Research has found that laughter can be an effective stress reliever in the short-term. I believe it’s cleansing and good exercise for the lungs if it’s something hilarious.

I recently explored this in a course on just that very subject from HumorX, a course on humor designed and presented by leaders who have taught at Stanford Graduate School of Business. It’s been quite an insightful and funny experience.

I think we could all agree that we could use a lot more laughter today. So is everything on the table?  Let’s add in a few outside voices and perspectives here as this topic has come up before.

Humor as defined by Psychology Today reads as the following: “Humor, the capacity to express or perceive what’s funny, is both a source of entertainment and a means of coping with difficult or awkward situations and stressful events. Although it provokes laughter…humor can play an instrumental role in forming social bonds, releasing the tension, or attracting a mate.”

Having that as our baseline or definition of humor, let’s dive into what it means for business. I believe comedy is the release valve of humanity, and in business, it’s important to utilize it as any other tool. I am not saying do stand-up comedy — no, just let the room breathe.

My company,, has seen a lot of less-than-funny instances that we were able to repurpose before too much damage ensued. In my other iteration as a real estate professional, a lot of situations come up from every angle that may need a little diversion or break in the tension.

How do we use the tool of humor?

According to Peter McGraw, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and co-author of The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, businesses can in fact leverage humor. McGraw states, “There seems to be some good evidence that funny or humorous leaders are going to be more successful, at least within certain tasks.”

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It’s about how you approach the application of humor which will determine how your brand will benefit from laughter. Think of Progressive car insurance’s Flo — we all know her.

However, humor can be tricky to pull off. I myself have been the deployer of bad humor many times, but not because I’m rude — just misfiring. In times like these, I find it’s important to always regain footing through other means. The brand and its appendages must understand the elasticity of humor.

Now imbuing humor in the veins of your brand will take management and care. Do we have to care about everything? No, you surely don’t; it waxes hollow when you try, like a grocery store petition collector.  A brand must temper at times and sometimes experiment and then modulate.

Here are some ideas to help get you started on adding a bit more humor to your business.

Your brand is holistic and any change could affect another aspect of your branding. As a first step, consider appointing a knowledgeable person as your change manager. (Hire if needed.)

Consider developing an internal contest with your employees. Whoever comes up with the best brand-related joke wins a prize. Additionally, consider how your brand could be mocked or poked fun at by the competition. If your employees break out in laughter during these contests, don’t punish them. The fact is you may know deep down that they are right. Ask them how they would make a change; involve them. Consider complaints a fertile ground to search for humor.

Depending on what the focus of your business is, think about what’s funny in the course of your business or unique field. Again, involve employees since they interact with customers and products day-to-day. Consider making a joke of some of your more interesting, challenging, or funny sales calls or encounters. Think from a “has this happened to your pitch from the client/customers?” perspective. Let it be known this won’t happen with your brand; make sure it doesn’t. Perhaps put together short video clips, animation or other easily put-together content creation tools illustrating a funny situation. Then attach the video to your email signatures, depending on the situation of course. Measure the response or comments. Another thing that can go a long way is to learn the humor of the client and customs that pertain to their humor. Once you have a handle on what works, create more. Do this so you don’t get stale.

The point of business is to offer your product or service to the market. One of the best ways to do this is connecting with what we all understand: humor.


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