Email Campaign Management

Use Humour More Frequently In Email Marketing

It was rag week at a London teaching hospital and the behaviour of the student doctors encouraged you to avoid entering hospital unless absolutely necessary. One particular jape consisted of a skeleton tied to an automatic traffic signal, thumbing for a lift with a piece of cardboard reading Timbuktu around its neck. It caused traffic chaos.

You didn’t have to be a genius to work out who was responsible and eventually a couple of medical students, presumably, in scrubs appeared, jogging with a stretcher. After taking the pulse of the skeleton, they placed it on the stretcher, bowed their head and solemnly walked away.

The humour was used, as we would in an email marketing campaign, to generate interest, in their case quite a crowd, in order to get a ROI. They sent collectors in somewhat stylised nurses’ uniforms (the old days) with buckets to shake. We’d have to be somewhat subtler. 

Use Humour More Frequently In Email Marketing I read a report a year or so ago regarding the reasons given by customers as to why they picked a particular company to buy from. Four factors were clearly in the lead. Unsurprisingly, honesty, friendliness and helpfulness were up at the top but just behind came how funny the company was on the likes of social media and marketing emails. It shouldn’t surprise. 

What brought the report to mind was me signing up to a weekly newsletter. As I normally do, I try work out why I picked that particular one over others, and it was clear that it was the gentle but clever humour. It seems I’m like 72% of customers.

If you are having any success in email marketing, you probably have guessed why humour can help sell. It generates an emotional response. It makes people feel positive and there’s nothing more likely to make them complete. 

The skeleton jape ran the risk of being seen as poor taste, and we need to be aware of this when designing the campaign. Some people found it distasteful. Others thought it suitable for inclusion in a news bulletin, complete with one of the ‘doctors’ looking grave, and then shaking his head. However, we can discover the limits by testing.

If you are just starting out trying to instil a bit of humour into your marketing email, I’d suggest avoiding the Subject Line as you need a bit of experience before ensuring it doesn’t appear awkward. We’ve all seen examples of them. Just search for ‘Liz Truss – pork markets’ on YouTube. It’s hilariously unfunny. 

I’d suggest being gentle first of all, maybe with a pun or double entendre, although it’s best to ensure that it’s not too subtle. You want to laugh with your customers, not let them feel you’re laughing at them. Make it too obscure and you might empathise with Liz Truss.

Don’t let the humour dominate. It should support the purpose of the marketing email and not be the message itself. To effectively use the subscribers to your email marketing list, ensure your subscribers remember the product rather than just the joke.



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