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International Joke Day: The best and worst of business humour on social media

Guys laughing at joke on phone

International Joke Day: The best and worst of business humour on social media

Humour is subjective, and that’s why it can be difficult to get right on social media. When done well, it can be the route to increased reach and a key part of brand identity. When done badly, it can fall flat or, worse still, cause offence and leave a company with some apologising to do.

Since July 1st is International Joke Day, let’s take a look at three examples of businesses who have successful tickled the funny bone of social media, followed by another three whose attempts at comedy would have led to them being booed off stage:

The Good

1. Paddy Power

Bookmaker Paddy Power has branded itself around its cheeky mickey-taking style of humour. At times, it could be seen as a little near the knuckle, but it largely seems to strike a chord with happy-go-lucky, banter-loving punters.

One notable example was in October 2017, when PP made a point of how boring England’s World Cup qualifying game against Slovenia was by taking bets on a Paint Drying Championship as it was taking place.

England had a reputation as a dull and untalented side at the time, but just nine months later, they would reach a World Cup semi-final for the first time since 1990.

2. Taco Bell

An odd incident in 2012 saw the deodorant Old Spice and restaurant chain Taco Bell trade jokey blows on Twitter.

Old Spice started it by stepping out of their market with a witticism on the food sector, but Taco Bell’s reply got more likes and retweets than the original tweet, and it’s fair to say the restaurant won the battle.

3. AFC Fylde

Last year, a non-league football club showed that good grace as the victim of a joke can go down as well as cracking jokes yourself.

When a young group of pranksters tricked AFC Fylde’s stadium announcer into reading out a rude vehicle registration during a game, rather than get angry about it, the club rewarded the culprits. They were given free shirts, and by giving the misdemeanor plenty of Twitter coverage, the Lancashire club gained national exposure.

The Bad

1. Bristol Dry Gin

One of the most disastrous attempts at corporate humour we’ve seen on social media came just last month. What on Earth was Bristol Dry Gin thinking by making quips about the Black Lives Matter protests? The poor taste tweet led to at least two companies removing the product from sale.

2. Snickers

Also recently, everyone’s favourite nut and caramel chocolate bar managed to upset the Welsh with a Twitter game that mocked the language. Some Welshmen thought Snickers’ stunt was no more than a piece of light-hearted humour, but a producer from Welsh language broadcaster S4C disagreed. Overall, the game was probably not the best idea, especially since it had nothing to do with the snack.

3. Red Lobster

The problem here was not so much the joke, but the time taken to deliver it. Singer Beyoncé handed Red Lobster a huge social marketing opportunity on a plate when she name-dropped the seafood restaurant chain during her performance at Super Bowl 50 in 2016.

Sadly, hours passed before the chain’s social media team got onto it, and when a response finally came, it wasn’t that funny or interesting.

It seems the key to successful use of humour on social media is to be quick and punchy, but from time to time, it can be effective to accept that the joke is on you. As the bad cases show, we should avoid diving carelessly into serious topical matters, and singling out certain demographics, even if it’s done in jest rather than with any malice intended.

We’re big fans of careful social media humour here at Engage Web, and believe it can be effective even in more “dry” and professional sectors. To learn more about our strategies, why not speak to us?

John Murray

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