Humour is Like Medicine…

Kapil Vaishnani
by Kapil Vaishnani  |  23rd Jun, 2014 in Buzz

In order to be done right, it has to be dished out in just the right dosage

There have been days, when I’ve sat at my computer agonizing over whether I should use a witty headline to go with my blog or opt for the crystal clarity of a simple line.
The decision has always been tough!

Humour can engage readers and hold their attention like no other literary devise can, but one if done right. I will get to that point in detail later. Let’s first understand what humour is all about.

Boy: “Dad, will you do my Math tonight?”

Dad: “No, son, it wouldn’t be right.”

Boy: Well Dad, you could at least try….

Some readers, those who like subtle humour may find it funny; while some (those who like slapstick, American-style comedy) may not. But we all get one of the three assumptions that make this dialogue a tad-funny:

• That ignorance is all-pervasive. The child knows his father is ignorant

• That Maths is tough regardless of age, intelligence or social status

• That all power relationships are farcical. People say one thing but mean quite another.

This is indeed true of most humour-ads, at least, the black humour variety. They make universal, general statement, so we find it funny.

In other words, humour creates an “Us Vs them” divide, where everybody (“us”) can laugh at the expense of the people who can be bracketed in the “them” category. So the best jokes are on sardars, women, children, older adults, disabled persons, large persons, gay and lesbians, politicians, lawyers, police officers, religious leaders and followers, the list is endless. Seen Grey Bangalore’s spot for Bharti AXA’s critical illness policy

The insured patient won’t accept his doctor’s diagnosis of ‘critical lung disease’ and begs for an alternative diagnosis (stroke) because his insurance company does not cover the first.
This is humour on the downside.

On the upside, humour can bind us emotionally, break ice, cut through the clutter, stand out, add perspective to a serious issue, and at time expose a deep, painful truth – seen JWT’s lovers clip for Philips widescreen TV it has humour, mirth, even pathos, dished out in an absurd combination.

On the even side, humour gets us to relax. For instance, we “Like” FB posts that make us laugh and want to share them with friends and family. Example: The ‘Hilake Rakh De’ campaign for Perfetti Van Melle’s Center shock chewing gum

The assumption here is that if a brand can make you grin, it can also make you open your wallet. The three-year old spot for Glycodin Cough Syrup manages to bring a smile to our faces, even today.

Some brands lend themselves very easily to a high degree of humour quotient – the Fevicol song embedded in Kareena Kapoor’s raunchy number in Dabaang2 or the 2013 cyclist ad that so clearly spells out the product attributes of the adhesive brand.

Obscure brands can easily opt for humour to up their recall – example – the 2008 ad for Cobra soda that has been viewed 129,336 times on You Tube, and may even contributed to its sales.

However funny doesn’t always work if it’s been force-fit into a campaign. Or it’s mean spirited. A creative must know where to draw the line between edgy and crass; culture and vulgar humour; British and American humour etc. If in doubt, simply kick out, because wrong humour, like wrong medicine can kill the core message and ruffle up a few feathers.

Finally, as with anything potent, think twice before injecting humour in your campaign. Get better at predicting any potential, emotional damage it might have. Even the most serious of brands can use humour but only for showing off their more comic side!
Send us your personal favourites, where humour worked!

Kapil Vaishnani

Founder - Chairman, Litmus Branding Pvt. Ltd.
Kapil Vaishnani founded Litmus in 2001 to water his passion for creating brands. Kapil’s a creative brain hitched at business. He firmly believes that focused communication is the key and it must carry a purpose that serves both brand and business. Simplicity is Kapil’s power gear that has shaped some of the prominent brands in India and globally. His passion-filled sportsmanship with multi-disciplinary talent is brimming with experience of 20+ years. Talk sense and he is all ears.