Patrick Gilmore is the Marketing Director and Head of Humor at Studio Gilmore, a creative consultancy out of the UK that helps global brands inject the power of humor into their communications. He has nearly two decades experience working in advertising as a copywriter, creative, communications executive and strategist and he’s here today to tickle our funny bone about humor in marketing.
Patrick Gilmore has had a long career in marketing, working as a copywriter, creative, and communications executive, so you’d think after dealing with the funny business in marketing departments of all sizes, his pivot to launching his own humor consultancy might’ve germinated from his professional pursuits. However, Patrick’s fascination with humor goes back much further.
“I did my masters in history and art,” explains Patrick. “And one of the things I examined was how avant garde groups used humor to communicate. I was particularly interested in how Andy Warhol incorporated humor and pop culture in his work, so years later, setting up my own humor-based advertising consultancy seemed like the next logical step.”
When asked how humor, something that’s both universal and contextually dependent, squares with brand communications and advertising, Patrick didn’t miss a beat.
“A lot depends on where the brand is, and where the audience is,” says Patrick.
“One of the things about humor is that it's universal but unique to individuals. The way a brand can use humor well, is by looking at common themes within their brand, the audience, and the object of the humor, or the butt of the joke. I look at those commonalities and demographic information and how closely we can align those concepts.”
Patrick takes his mission of injecting humor into brand communications seriously, relying on mounds of psychological research and questionnaires, like this Humor Styles Questionnaire, to inform his work and really dial in the tone of his suggestions for humorous campaigns with his clients.
And this scientific approach to humor is a key element to his success, because most businesses don’t consider their marketing to be anything to clown around with. When asked about the hesitancy of injecting humor into their campaigns from the C-Suite and marketing departments alike, Patrick had his punchlines ready.
“In a funny way, the more serious a subject, the more appropriate the use of humor. One example is Comic Relief. A serious issue like homelessness shouldn’t be funny, but by allying this grave topic with humor, you get the underlying message through much more effectively.”
However, humor in advertising isn’t always a knock-em-dead strategy, and Patrick is well versed in the ways in which jokes can quickly turn into pratfalls.
“If an ad is too funny, and the brand isn’t linked properly, there is something called the Vampire Effect where the joke is remembered and the brand is forgotten. For humor to be successful in an ad, it has to be a playful interaction.”
In the age of “brand purpose” this dichotomy of serious vs funny can seem difficult to navigate, but it’s this difficulty that can make humor that much more effective, says Patrick.
“Marketing is like dating; no one has ever come home from a first date remarking positively on the seriousness of their date, but there are many examples where a sense of humor in a potential partner has been noted as a signal of confidence. The same goes for the impact humorous brand communication can have on an audience.”
For a few Cinderella stories about brands that used humor in their marketing to dominate their category, tales of once well known brands that attempted to joke in their advertising and basically died on stage and had to shutter their business entirely, and for empirically sound advice on how any brand can successfully use humor in their communications, listen to the entire episode at the links provided above and below.