Why Your Business Needs a Sense of Humor

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What do people first think of when they hear your company's name? Do they remember the dry and dusty mission statement, the specs of the last machine they bought? Or do they remember the tweet saying “SO DOWN WITH THAT” when referring to a couple of your favorite TV show characters?

A growing number of companies are including humor in their brands, attracting a generation that is more casual than ever. Though many of these companies are American and do a significant amount of their business online, humor has permeated numerous industries worldwide.

Notice that all of the companies profiled here incorporate some amount of levity in their entire corporate culture. It doesn't work for a company to be stiff and formal but crack a joke every once in a while – customers want to know what to expect, and need to see the same spirit company-wide. Clearly this is not a tactic for everyone, but if your customers are internet-savvy 20-, 30-, or 40-somethings, consider making them laugh.

Of course, it is natural that companies selling humorous products or creating comics show a sense of humor. ThinkGeek‘s twitter feed is still a sight to behold, using distinctly casual vocabulary like d'oh, <3, and referring to employees as “monkeys.” Along with their unique, often video-game or movie-inspired merchandise, the company never seems to take itself very seriously.

ThinkGeek Twitter feed

In the same vein, Penny Arcade went from being a webcomic to a business producing online TV episodes, two video games, an annual conference, and a charity, along with… a webcomic. With lengthy blog posts and TV episodes of office life, fans can see how much work – and fun – is in a day in the life at Penny Arcade.

Groupon is another company which now epitomizes snappy, irreverent copywriting. Part of the attraction for each daily deal is how the company will describe it (my personal favorite mentions a deal item as “the perfect punchy present for a new friend you met in the wheel well of an airplane.”) Plus, the Groupon cat and its bling have come to characterize the brand at first glance.

Groupon bling cat

Of course, some companies do not have a significant following online, but still manage to include fun, even in hidden places. The About page of Lateral tells more about the Romanian company than meets the eye, as the employee portraits turn to follow your mouse movements (if you really want to laugh, hit your “a” key). Adding interactivity is bound to keep your website visitors engaged longer than a full page of text.

Lateral About page

Even industrial companies occasionally get into the funny business – for example, just the audacious name of Big Ass Fans tells customers to be ready for a laugh. But if you are someone who is shopping for a commercial-sized ceiling fan, you know that you've come to exactly the right place. And their mascot? A donkey, of course.

Brick-and-mortar stores also get into the action. What about a store with a Hawaiian shirt uniform and a large ship's bell instead of a PA system? Shopping at Trader Joe's is intended to be a store where “grocery shopping should be fun, not just another chore.” It's certainly a refreshing attitude!

Incorporating humor into your brand isn't just about making people laugh, it's about sharing an experience with your customers. This adds positive associations to your stores or websites, and can do amazing things through word-of-mouth. But don't embark on the mission to add some humor to your business unless it's part of your company's culture, too: there's nothing worse than a sad clown, or someone who doesn't believe in what the company is doing.

Are there any other companies that make you laugh, on- or off-line? What do you think are the best ones (or the worst misses)? How has your company started to incorporate humor into the workplace and the public image?

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