Biz Tips: Humor Succeeds When It’s Relevant

Biz Tips: Humor Succeeds When It’s Relevant


Humor Succeeds When It’s Relevant

Illustration: Mark Armstrong

Then It Makes People More Receptive To What You Have To Say

I read a Forbes post about a mom who launched a startup to make it easier for kids to learn vocabulary. The key to the program’s success: humorous illustration.

Robyn D. Shulman writes that teachers today are working with students who have much shorter attention spans. She notes that during her own years in the classroom, “I always found students to be most responsive and comfortable when I was able to connect their work to something personal in their world or simply make them laugh.”

Enter Sofia Fenichell, whose startup, Mrs. Wordsmith, produces The Storyteller’s Illustrated Dictionary, along with vocabulary cards and workbooks. They all use wacky illustrations to help kids learn new words. The humor keeps them engaged and makes learning fun.

I was inspired to make my own illustrated word. You have to feel sorry for the poor kid who’s stuck with plain text.

It’s important to note that the goal here is learning, not being funny or getting laughs.

The humor has to facilitate learning; humor fails if it’s a distracting influence.

Humor succeeds when it’s relevant to your target audience; then it can hold their attention, lighten the mood, and improve retention.

College professor Ron Berk, who uses all kinds of zany humor to teach biostatistics to college students, puts it this way:

“What I do and how I teach is all about the students. It has nothing to do with me. I’m tapping into their multiple intelligence needs and their culture so that they can understand the material in their terms.”

Carol Schlef, RNC, MSW, a women’s health educator, takes the same approach.

While teaching pregnant teenagers about proper nutrition, she noticed they seemed bored and disinterested. So she created a special “food pyramid for teens” that identified the 4 major food groups as “refined sugar, fat, caffeine, and salt.” The teens laughed at the absurdity, and were more receptive when she introduced them to healthier ways of eating.

Ms. Schlef says humor even delivers a little medical bonus: it makes your audience feel better because “laughter can increase respiration and oxygenation and bolster immune systems.”

There’s an important lesson in all this for marketers: Humor not only builds relationships, it also helps people be more receptive to what you have to say.

And remember this important point: when you’re trying to teach or communicate, it’s not about getting laughs or being funny for funny’s sake. Rather, you’re using humor to help your audience relax, put down their shields, pay attention, and be more receptive to your message.

About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Questions? Send me an email.

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