The business case for comedy in B2B marketing

Estimated reading time
4 minutes
20th November 2020
Author: Kit McKay
Posted in: Content production

Are you tired of risk-averse stakeholders shutting down your creative ideas because they’re too “funny” for a B2B audience? Let’s look at three facts which prove comedy in B2B marketing is not only appropriate, but also helps win business.

1. B2B buyers are more emotional than B2C

It’s a common misconception that a B2B audience is more logical and rational than in B2C. 

Google and CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council worked with research firm Motista on a buyer survey that explored this issue. They found that 50 percent of B2B buyers are more likely to buy if they connect emotionally with a brand. When compared against previous research they had conducted on a B2C audience, this number was up to five times higher than B2C buyers.

They concluded from this data that B2B audiences are more emotional because there’s more at stake. If a B2C buyer makes a wrong purchase, they’re usually just inconvenienced. If a B2B buyer makes a wrong purchase, their employment could be in jeopardy.

With so much personal consequence on the line, funny marketing can help build a relationship with your would-be buyers that helps offset the risk-averse, rational sides of their brain. If you can create this emotional connection with your marketing, the research suggests that you’ll be making your audience all the more likely to convert.

2. Funny content gets shared internally

Another criticism of comedy in B2B marketing is that the buyer journey is significantly longer and involves more decision-makers than in B2C, therefore funny marketing, which is often impulsive and reactive, can’t capture the quick-wins seen on the other side of the aisle.

This might be true to an extent, but funny content serves a different purpose in B2B marketing. We can largely accept that there are many decision-makers involved in the purchase of a B2B product or service. Deals can often take months, if not years, to pass through barrier after barrier of legal and regulatory checks. And it’s often the case that many of those gatekeepers have had zero interactions with your brand before the proposal is placed in front of them.

B2B marketing trails far behind B2C in one key area: shareability. No one is rushing to share a 30-page PDF of your product’s 12 different use cases. But funny content that taps into something relatable to your target audience? That’s gold dust. New business tools like Slack have made internal communications much more casual than they used to be. Content that makes people laugh gets shared among coworkers much like between friends on social media.

People are 90 percent more likely to trust and buy from a brand recommended to them by someone they know. Comedic marketing does wonders for word of mouth and has the potential to reach the hidden decision-makers beyond your main stakeholders.

3. The top B2B brands are already doing it

If you’re ever unsure whether something can work for a B2B audience, take a look at some of the brands that lead the pack. You’ll find that many of the most influential and profitable companies have been getting away with comedic marketing for a long time.

Take Cisco, for example. Its hardware products don’t exactly scream “funny”, but with the right creative team behind them, they’ve been able to tickle even the most serious of audiences. Take a look at the time they pitched a $250,000 printer as a last-minute valentine’s gift:

Sure, the product features of the Cisco ASR9000 will get some people excited, but when you’re marketing to a business, it pays to add a twist on them that appeals to a wider audience.

Not all funny marketing needs to be budget-breaking. Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that are the most effective.

Cartoon example

Marketoonist created this cartoon for Dun & Bradstreet to drive traffic to their blog. It works because it’s an inside joke. It makes their target audience feel included because they understand the pain point behind it.

Let’s not forget that these brands take in billions of dollars of revenue. If they can be funny, so can you.

The golden rule of comedy in B2B

Ultimately, the brand of comedy you use should be empathetic to your audience. It’s not about being funny for the sake of being funny. That could be taken as vulgar or unnecessary if it’s forced. The one question you need to keep asking yourself is whether this is something your reader will relate to. This could be playing on a marketing troupe, pointing out an industry absurdity, or creating some commentary on relevant topics or events that are impacting your audience. The more niche you go, the bigger the laugh.

Want to see how we add some comedy to our B2B marketing? Try out our interactive adventure through a day in lockdown.

Turtl