Using Humor In Your Marketing … Even In B2B Marketing

by · September 27, 201212 comments

Think of the most memorable advertisements or even social media campaigns you’ve seen. Now think of how many of them are anchored in humor. A lot, right? When it’s funny, it gets shared. When it gets shared, it drives eyeballs, awareness and perhaps even conversions. But there’s a big challenge with using humor in your content. Humor is subjective. What’s funny to me may not be funny to you. Humor is also dangerous. There’s a fine line between funny and offensive, depending upon the subject matter.

Tim Washer is a comedy writer. His credits include The Late Show With David Letterman, Saturday Night Live, Conan O’Brien and The Onion Sports Network. His current role, however, is senior manager of social media for Cisco Systems … a B2B technology company focused on enterprise sales of servers, routers and the like. Yet, he’s still using humor in his job.

The combination of B2B social media and executing outside the box led me to ask Washer to speak at Explore Orange County and Explore Portland. You should come — both events are going to rock and partially because Tim is going to wow us with the knowledge. But I thought it appropriate to get some free advice from Tim before hand. So I caught up with him last week to chat about using humor, making the mundane interesting and more.

You won’t want to miss the business insights Washer has to give at Explore Orange County presented by Linked Orange County. He’ll be speaking there, along with an all-star lineup that includes SME Digital’s Nichole Kelly, R/GA business transformation lead Peter Kim, Kred CEO Andrew Grill, Smart Business, Social Business author Michael Brito, allen+gerritsen strategist Tamsen Webster, former Facebook executive Joseph Heinl, Edison Research’s Tom Webster and more. Yes, I’ll also be speaking, as well as hosting along with Linked Orange County’s Bryan Elliott. The event will also feature a number of excellent software providers and companies to help you navigate the waters of digital marketing. They’ll bring their knowledge to share as well as their products. This is a must-attend event, so register now!

The two-day event, incredible content, breakfast, lunch and a cocktail reception is $450, but if you’re a member of a professional organization (IABC, PRSA, AMA or similar), ask if they have a discount code for you and save big! (Or you could watch the video which features a little discount code pass along!) Learn more about the speakers, their topics and more at the Explore Orange County registration page!

Or register here:

Explore is a five-city conference event series from Social Media Explorer and presented by Expion and Raven Internet Marketing Tools. Learn more and sign up for email updates for the city nearest you at

Note: Video music from “M.I.A.” by Digby. Used with permission. Find Digby’s “Falling Up” CD at iTunes.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • James ‘Woody’ Wood

    Great point! Our mantra is that B2B buyers are still people…they just happen to be at work. Here is a bit more insight…

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  • Kathy Klotz-Guest

    Totally agreed. I would change in your title from “even” to “especially” in b2b!  B2B is about people and has a tendency to be dry, dull, boring, un-human, as well know, and those are the “nice” things I have to say about it (I came from high-tech marketing)!. B2B could learn a lot from B2C. The risk of using humor is not that high in B2B in my experience. I think the risk of continuing the B2B marketing status quo is much higher.

  • Deborah Richmond

    But man, if you get it wrong, it can be really wrong.  That being said, I would love more of my B2B clients to lighten up a bit in their marketing.  I’m all ears on how to do that.

  • Kathy Klotz-Guest

    I actually have had little issues with going really wrong. If the client is concerned, we test it or don’t do it. If the client isn’t 100% behind it – that’s really hard. If you over-test it, you kill creativity. Consensus by committee never happens and that kills the funny really quick. The things we’ve done have worked fairly well because the client gets and accepts the risk (which isn’t as high as some people think, esp. for smaller b2b brands. For bigger ones, yes, it’s a little bigger). All marketing requires some level of risk – not just humor. B2B just isn’t used to it and there is a bias that if it’s not “serious,” it’s not “real” marketing. I say that as a marketer and as an improviser that still performs – so I see both sides. I’ve been lucky enough to interview Tim about his “Art of the Sale” and his Cisco (“Valentine’s Day” and “Obsolete technology support group”) experience. You need an open-minded client on your side that gets that all marketing is about a human conversation. Without that, it is hard. Yet, it’s still worth aiming for – that’s for sure. Look forward to hearing more from Tim.

  • Anton Koekemoer

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for sharing the video with yourself and Tim Washer – Especially considering
    the topic of the post and the “business case for nonsense”. Enjoyed the video thoroughly. 

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  • Raheel Farooq Haraj

    Wow, man. You brought my attention to something rather novel and quite classic simultaneously. Humor is definitely one of the best ingredients of effective marketing. You won’t believe, but here in Pakistan, a mobile company’s clientele has multiplied just because their advertisements are masterpieces of comedy. When you make someone laugh, they tend to be controlled by you rather easily. Humor makes marketing a sugar-coated pill. ;)
    Thanks and hope you won’t mind the not-so-professional simile!

  • Claude Funk


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