Practical Ways to Add Humor to Your Business

UPDATED: May 22, 2023
PUBLISHED: July 17, 2013

America’s Next Top Chortle

Want a joke, meme or mascot that’ll tickle your customers’ funny bones? You’re halfway there if you include one or more of the following, says Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh:

Anthropomorphized animals. From cats pounding on pianos to lizards selling car insurance, we can’t seem to get enough of critters acting human. Baby animals are usually winners, “but if you want to be more professional and less cutesy, you can use [adult] lions, tigers, giraffes—things that reflect you a little more than, say, a kitten would,” Huh says.

Pop-culture references aka “music or TV that appeals to your demographic”: Are your customers in their teens or 20s? Then Awkward or Girls memes might be the ticket. Middle-aged? Try Downton Abbey.

Human stupidity. People love to see others’ mistakes—bungled business signs, say, or cars repaired with astonishing ineptitude. (For examples, check out FAIL Blog.) Huh sums up the phenomenon: “It’s really good-natured, like, ‘Nobody got hurt, this isn’t permanent, it’s no big deal—but this is funny.’ ”

When You Mess Up

Can humor help when your business faces a major setback, such as a product recall? Yes, says Huh—but don’t use it too soon. If people feel you’re not taking the situation very seriously, you’re just “throwing gasoline on the fire.”

So stay solemn in the early stages. Retool your product; send out those refunds or replacement parts. “Once you fix the problem and you recognize that the window has passed a little bit, and you’ve now got time to rebuild, you can poke fun at yourself,” Huh says. For example: in a letter assuring clients that this problem was a one-time thing, you might print a picture of a sad-eyed puppy whose thought bubble reads, “I won’t eat the rug again.”

“You’ve got to find a way of breaking down the barrier [with customers] by placing something contextually relevant that says, ‘We hear you,’ ” Huh says.