Using humour for successful B2B marketing

Marketing 2016-04-05

Humour is a technique commonly used in B2C marketing; however, it’s something we rarely see in B2B marketing. This is largely due to the fact that B2B is inherently professional and so the marketing has to match that, nearly always resulting in more serious campaigns. After all, a large corporation trying to sell their services or products at a high cost cannot be seen as comedians who want to make a joke out of what they do. However, on few occasions some B2B companies have taken the risk and added some humour to their marketing campaigns, with great success.


It makes sense to remain corporate and professional in your marketing campaigns if that reflects the business appropriately. However, it is important to remember that at the end of every business deal is a group of human beings, all with emotions and the capacity to laugh at a joke. We are surrounded by traditional adverts with a stern message full of corporate jargon and buzzwords. Rarely, though, do we see a humorous advert that makes us stop, think and, most importantly, remember the message and the associated company. In a world that’s becoming increasingly social, too, the funny ads are the ones we’re likely to share with our friends and colleagues, essentially extending the reach and success of an advert.

people laughing doing business

Examples of successful marketing using humour

One company that managed to incorporate humour into their marketing strategy effectively is Epuron. They are a clean energy company essentially trying to sell wind… not exactly the most exciting thing to market. Yet, with the use of humour, and by poking fun at the dull nature of their business, Epuron has managed to produce a video that turns something relatively uninteresting into a joke that everyone could enjoy. In fact, the video was so successful that it’s racked up 3.5 million views on YouTube and collected a number of awards including two golds at the 2007 London International Advertising Awards and two more at the International ANDY Awards. While it may not make you go out and purchase a wind turbine, it will definitely make you think fondly of the company as a whole.


What Epuron did so well was recognise that a traditional advert may not wow their customers and instead used it to their advantage by putting a humorous spin on their service. Their video tells a story starting with a sad, lonely man, using everyday relatable events throughout, and ending happily, leaving us all with a laugh and a warm heart. This is a common pattern for using humour in adverts.


A company called Kinaxis has truly embraced comedy in its marketing. This advert by Kinaxis uses an everyday dating situation to represent the simplicity of its software. Often, B2B marketing can become over-complicated and technical, but this advert has stripped it right back to a simple and funny story, which everyone can probably recognise. Drawing parallels between your ex/current girlfriend and computer software probably isn’t the most obvious of links, but it definitely worked and is in fact part of a 6-part video series. Watch them here and see whether you’d consider investing in their products with ads like these.


Tim Washer, a stand-up comedian and video producer, created this advert for Cisco, marketing an $80,000 ASR 9000 Router. It’s not exactly a gift you’d buy for anyone – ever – but the company fully embraced this and advertised it as the ultimate Valentine’s present for the person you love. Boasting the product’s features that make it better than its competition, the Cisco router is made out to be the present that everyone is hoping to wake up to on Valentine’s morning. I think this advert is definitely one to make you chuckle, and even if you’re not prepared to dish out $80,000 on that special someone, sending them the link to the video may just be enough…


Creating your own humorous advertising campaign 

The most common starting point for devising a successful comedy B2B advert is identifying a common pain-point or highlighting everyday situations that cause us trouble, and building a story around this for your product. The above examples all contained recognisable situations that a lot of people could relate back to their own lives. They all appeal to a widespread audience and, because of the humour, leave a lasting impression of the company on everyone.


Humorous marketing in the life science industry

The use of humour in Notch’s industry, life science and chemicals, remains limited. We’ve seen some companies adopting a slightly more light-hearted tone with their marketing on social media with the likes of sharing science jokes, but that’s typically where it ends. It remains a very corporate sector and pulling off an advert like the ones above would be a massive risk, but maybe someone will have to take the leap of faith as far as humorous marketing is concerned. Ultimately, companies are always looking for innovative ways to market their services and products, and this may just be the way to do it.

 Begin thinking about humour in B2B marketing now

I think the point I’m trying to prove with this blog is that humour should not be absolutely ruled out of a B2B marketing campaign. Granted, it’s a risk and it may be difficult to get right, but if you do, the outcomes could be great. More and more so, companies are looking for different ways to advertise, and something as simple as humour could be that differentiator.


What are your thoughts on humour in B2B marketing? Unprofessional or a breath of fresh air? Let me know by tweeting me @EmilyAtNotch!