Brands need to take a leaf out of ALDI’s book and make us laugh more. And not just in quirky campaigns. Martin Hopkins explains.

With the world’s ongoing uncertainties and struggles, it’s not surprising that a report from Oracle and author Gretchen Rubin found that people want brands to make them smile and laugh more.

The study of 12,000 people across 14 countries found that consumers will reward brands that embrace humour with loyalty, advocacy and repeat purchases. A whopping 41 per cent of customers would walk away from brands that don’t make them laugh and smile on a regular basis.

So, why does humour work so well for brands?

Humour helps break down barriers. It makes brands feel more human, approachable, relatable, and enjoyable to interact with. It helps increase a brand’s visibility, as people love to share things that make them laugh. Plus, it helps memorability. And what brand doesn’t want to improve its recall?

We might think that Australian brands excel in humour. It’s used across multiple ad campaigns to sell us pretty much everything, from lamb chops to beer, glasses, rum, broadband and car insurance.

But beyond ads, few brands use humour across their broader customer experience.

Of course, advertising, by its very nature, must be attention-grabbing and instantly memorable.

The very best brands have stretch meaning they can step outside what’s expected in certain channels and communications. Still, overall, they have a consistent experience regardless of activity or channel.

So why is there such a drop-off? Why can’t brands make us laugh more beyond campaigns and why aren’t more brands being funny?

The Oracle report says that while humour is an incredibly powerful tool, it’s also viewed as a risky one. Comedy can be polarising, not everyone finds the same thing funny. For some, it will have them rolling in the aisles. For others, it’s downright insulting.

This fear of getting it wrong – or worse, being cancelled – is what’s holding back 95 per cent of brand managers and marketers.

The king of brand comedy – in my opinion – is ALDI. The supermarket chain’s brilliant ads combine a quirky German-esque sense of humour with relatable Aussie insights, like my favourite, the never-ending ham.


But beyond amusing campaigns like this one, the overall customer experience quickly defaults to being value-driven. On ALDI’s website, catalogue and socials, there are glimpses of that more light-hearted side with a love of alliteration, bright colourful imagery, and the occasional pun – Easter goodies have hopped into stores, see our bun-believable range of Easter eggs – but it’s a very light touch and feels different to the humour of their campaigns.

My local store, at least, is entirely humour-free. For most people grocery shopping isn’t the most fun experience; it’s a get-in and get-out quick mission. But a few touches of humour wouldn’t go amiss. From renamed aisles to messages on feature products, making the Special Buys zone more fun might just bring the odd smile to their customers’ faces and make it a more compelling and complete brand experience.

So, what can you do to make your brand funnier?

First and foremost, get to know your audience. Use data to find what tickles their funny bone.

A good stand-up comedian will hopefully have done their homework or will read the room quickly and adapt. Milk Run’s joke about getting ‘bags’ delivered in 10 minutes worked in Bondi but might have gone down like a lead balloon in Mosman.

Poke fun at yourself first. The best comedians can laugh at themselves. Likewise with brands, if you can make yourself the punchline, people are more likely to laugh along with you.

Avoid negative stereotypes and be mindful of cultural differences.

Comedy is all about …timing. Choose your moments. Humour at an inopportune time like a sensitive news event, natural disaster or PR crisis never goes down well.

Humour shouldn’t be used 24/7. Choose the moments where it is most relevant, impactful and will be best received. We all know a person who makes everything a joke and quickly gets labelled the clown. No one likes clowns.

Play with your codes. If you’re lucky enough to have well-known brand codes, put them to work. Find opportunities to play with them and have some fun. Create those double-take moments and stop your brand from becoming wallpaper. Find ways that are most meaningful and relevant to your brand.

Humour often appears when things don’t go as planned, i.e. on pretty much every 404 page. It’s a great way to put a positive spin on something negative. But what about when things go as planned? People are more receptive and remember more when they are in a good mood.

And lastly, be authentic (on brand).

There are many types of humour, from the corny dad jokes to the Ricky Gervais’ ‘did he really say that’ or the Economist’s clever wit. Know yours and stick to it. And if humour has no place in your brand, don’t use it, just try to be warmer and more human instead.

Humour isn’t an exact science but by getting to know your customers through data and research, you’ll have more confidence to find the moments to them smile and laugh.

And if you don’t, they might just take their loyalty, advocacy and repeat purchases elsewhere.

This article was first published in Inside Retail

Martin Hopkins is Creative Director at Principals.

Contact us to learn how Principals can make your brand a force for positive change.

How can we help?

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.