9 Ways to Create Funny Videos That Get Your Message Across

Just make sure your audience can relate to your brand of humor.

Create Awareness

A funny video can net millions of views and instantly turn the brand behind it into a press darling and/or the topic of conversation around the proverbial water cooler for days – or even weeks – to come. Brands don’t have to have deep pockets to create the perfect digital video, but, for starters, they have to aim for content that is relatable and authentic.

So you want to make a viral video for your brand? That may be your first problem. That’s because you can’t necessarily set out to create a video that will actually go viral. But, with the right strategy and tools, brands can create videos that will not only reach their intended audiences, but also drive shares, views and other desirable outcomes.

Here’s how.

1. Even When Talking About Serious Issues, Work In Some Humor

Take this video for the nonprofit Water is Life, which has racked up 6.5 million views.

“If it’s just horrifying, viewers tend to look away,” said Ben Relles, head of programming strategy at YouTube in the YouTube Next Lab, during an Advertising Week panel.

But that’s not the case if the brand is able to work in some humor about the issue at hand, as the organization has done here.

The same is more or less true with a video from journalist Mo Rocca in which he attempts to teach children about the electoral college.

“You want it to be funny if you’re using humor to advance a social goal or shed light on a social issue, but you also want to do something [that will spur] some kind of action,” Rocca said.

2. Aim For Relatable More Than Funny

That is perhaps the case in this gun safety video from gun rights organization Evolve with 6 million views.

“In general, because there is so much content online, you have to do something to stand out,” Relles said. “I wouldn’t start with, ‘We have to do something funny,’ but, generally speaking, the idea that these videos relate to the audience in some way, [make us] feel proud and [that they’re] good to share.”

In addition, one of the biggest mistakes nonprofits or brands make is starting with themselves instead of creating situations people can relate to, he said.

“When we’re trying to convince [a brand] to do something funny, we get them to realize a general truth for better or worse,” Relles said. “There’s ton of stuff to do, so we have to figure out some way to make it worthy of being shared.”

3. Don’t Be Afraid To Do A Video Even If You Have A Small Budget

Just look at Modern Office, the pay discrepancy video from featuring Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks with 1.2 million views.

According to Chris Bruss, vice president of branded entertainment at comedy video site Funny Or Die, the video was created in partnership with the White House, which has helped connect Funny or Die with a number of smaller organizations with less money and access for various causes.

“Ten years ago, you only had a strategy if you had a TV budget,” Relles said. “Now with YouTube, smaller budgets can do very effective video and tell stories. And it’s not always about the video. Some of best campaigns on YouTube [ask consumers to] get involved. The Ice Bucket Challenge wouldn’t have existed without online video – that kind of thing. It’s the biggest nonprofit video story I’ve ever seen, but it’s very unique to online video with Bill Gates, LeBron James and me and my kids.”

In addition, Bruss said, nonprofits are generally more willing to take some risks because they don’t have big budgets.

“They need to do something consumers will pass around, so they’re more willing to partner,” he said.

4. Tap Into The Universal Desire To Feel Part Of A Group

Bruss pointed to comedian John Oliver as a good example of someone who is able to tackle serious issues and inspire action. His net neutrality video has 6.3 million views and ended up crashing the FCC’s website after he encouraged Internet commenters to weigh in.

That success in part lies in the desire of viewers to feel like part of a group.

“He didn’t say, ‘Let’s crash the site,’…but he did crash the site,” Bruss said. “And they were doing it because they wanted to do something fun together.”

Ben Palmer, co-founder of interactive marketing firm Barbarian Group, said the lesson here is that brands have to be more creative with their calls to action and come up with ideas consumers can join in on and that will allow them to see effectiveness in real time, such as crashing websites.

5. Be Authentic

Zach Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns is another wildly successful video series – his interview with Barack Obama, for example, has 24 million views.

Bruss attributed its success to allowing viewers to go inside Galifianakis’ world.

“We let [Galifiankis] do what he wanted to do, which came across as authentic to the audience,” Bruss said. “They said, ‘Wow, that was unexpected,’ because they weren’t watching a press conference.”

6. Go For A ‘Fun Ear Worm’ Instead Of A Terror Message

When working on a campaign for childhood asthma awareness, Palmer said his agency wanted to create a piece that would work for both radio and digital media and realized much of the previous messaging was fear-based. That’s when Palmer and his team decided to go in another direction with 15-second songs and an animated band, resulting in the Breathe Easies.

This strategy had the added bonus of creating multiple short videos that could potentially connect with different audiences rather than just one video for one audience, he added.

7. Don’t Just Ask Consumers To Click To Participate

Palmer cited the Global Citizen concert in which attendees had to do something useful in their communities before they could get free tickets.

“I would say you probably aren’t using the Internet enough if you want to take action and the only thing you can do is click ‘like,’” Palmer said. “Maybe that button sucks and you need a way better button that does more.”

8. Be Wary Of Being Misunderstood, But Don’t Let That Stifle You

When “The Daily Show” made a joke about splinter terrorist groups that included boy band One Direction, fans of the band went crazy, Rocca said.

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Hashtags including #TheDailyShowGoneToo Far and #ZaynDefenseSquad popped up and trended.

This, Palmer said, is what happens when the joke doesn’t reach its intended audience.

Therefore, brands need to understand that it is easy to be misunderstood online – particularly by audiences outside the target – but that certainly shouldn’t stop them from creating content.

9. It Takes A Lot More Effort To Make A Video Than A Tweet

Digital videos have so many filters, they are usually not the biggest disasters when digital content goes awry.

“Brand mistakes usually end up being a tweet that went bad,” Palmer said. “With one person it’s really easy, but larger products tend to not be…huge disasters.”

Bruss agreed.

“We vet our ideas pretty thoroughly,” he said. “If you write it, shoot it and put it out there, there’s good reason to do so. We’ve never pulled anything down or apologized for things that go too far.”

Have you found humor to be a successful means to reach consumers?

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