Humor is a great way to engage people. It helps lighten the mood, brings a smile, and, if done well, makes your brand more memorable. But before we get into how we can add humor to emails, let’s lay some groundwork.

Funny campaigns don’t work for every brand. You don’t want your medical provider or your financial service to be joking about their offerings. (Just imagine an April Fool’s joke gone wrong with one of these industries!) Humor, used in the wrong way, can cause confusion and chaos among your recipients and customers. So before incorporating humor, evaluate your brand and your campaign. Ask yourself:

Is a funny campaign in line with your brand?

Don’t put your brand on the line by trying to incorporate humor where it does not belong.

Would humor take away from your message or enhance it?

While we all enjoy a good chuckle, you don’t want the laughs to detract from the purpose of your email. If humor helps get your point across, wonderful; otherwise, focus on another way you can convey your message.

Is the humor appropriate for your audience or does it alienate them?

If you know the majority of your contact list is millennials, it doesn’t make much sense to tell a joke that references the 70s. Know who you’re talking to so you can gear your jokes toward that group.

Now that we have the ifs and buts out of the way, let’s get to the funny business, and show you how you can incorporate humor and fun ideas into your email campaigns.

Humorous Holidays

Holidays are a great way to leverage humor and incorporate that funny campaign you’ve been wanting to work on for 6 months now. Here are a couple of examples from brands who had a blast creating campaigns for April Fool’s Day, May 4th, and Earth Day.

April Fool’s offerings

REI announced Pet Ventures on April Fool’s to announce their new pet offerings, “global adventure travel for pets.” They take the joke even further in their blog post, explaining their variety of pet adventures, including a kayaking trip for your betta fish.

Thursday Boot Co. offered their Thursday Glutes workout program, with all pictures featuring their team in 80s workout paraphernalia and, of course, their leather Thursday boots.

While silly, these campaigns fit well into the April Fool’s theme, amused many recipients and got us all thinking about how fun and creative their brands are.

Pun-filled email for Earth Day

Lyft used Earth Day as a way to tell butt puns to get your butt on a bike and reduce the world’s carbon footprint. And if you don’t have a bike? They promote their ride-sharing option. While butt puns are not appropriate for most brands, Lyft knows their audience well even incorporating emoji-lingo into their subject line: “Go carbon-free with your 🍑 on a 🚲.” Nice touch, Lyft.

While we’re not convinced that emojis work for every brand, try experimenting with them in your emails. And, use these other subject line tips to give your emails the extra lift.

A treat extra for you, we have

On May 4th, Morning Brew played off the Star Wars theme, by including a second version of their newsletter in Yoda-speak. What I love about this method is that they know that the Yoda-speak would drive some recipients crazy, and after trying to read a couple of lines, those recipients would give up.

By simply linking to the Yoda-version of the newsletter, they offer something fun and enjoyable to Star Wars fans without annoying everyone else. While it may seem like too much extra work, I’m sure there’s someone on all of our teams that’s been dying to flex their Yoda language skills for a while now. Plus, these Easter eggs are what help differentiate your brand and make you stand out from the rest.

Think about other holidays you can leverage to create a fun, memorable experience for your recipients. From National Dog Day to Bring Your Kid to Work Day, there’s so much opportunity for creative campaigns. For fun campaign ideas around unique holidays, check out the 2019 Email Planning Calendar.

Snicker-worthy Subject Lines and Visuals

With such little real estate, it’s hard to be purely comical in a subject line. But what you can do, is allude to something funny and then reveal the joke in the body of the email.

Nifty newsletters

The Hustle is a great example of a brand that consistently uses humor in its emails. A Hustle email landed in my inbox with the subject line, “Taking a Tumblr.” I open the email to find a gif of the Tumblr logo rolling down a hill. This is a great way of visually tying in Tumblr’s fall from the top, and making me chuckle along the way. The visual supports the overall message, while the copy incorporates as many words that rhyme with Tumblr as possible. This consistency throughout makes Tumblr’s tumble that much more impactful.

Clean, crafty images

Harry’s, a men’s shaving and grooming company, does a great job of engaging its audience with clever subject lines and copy. The subject line, “Mom told you to wash your face. Find out why…” references the comically sweaty teenage years when all boys faced mom’s nagging to wash their face.

The email draws you in further with unique illustrations and the option to learn more about mom’s wisdom behind face washing. If you don’t have access to creative resources to develop brand-specific illustrations, take advantage of all the non-stock photo options at your fingertips. Here are our favorites.

Chuckle with Chubbies

Meanwhile, Chubbies, a men’s shorts company that believes in shorter shorts and freeing the thighs, promotes their offerings with snazzy statistics. These include the greater percentage of corn dogs you’ll be able to eat with Chubbies in your wardrobe, as well the increased ration of fun to no fun that you’ll have with new Chubbies in your closet. (More corndogs? Sounds like a no-brainer to me.)

Often humor is the tactic of surprising your recipients with the unexpected. By referencing charts and stats that are the complete opposite of credibility, Chubbies surprises and amuses recipients.

Another great way to grab a grin is to incorporate witty copy in the call-to-action (CTA). Check out the Chubbies email on the right (featured by Really Good Emails). With CTAs like “Yes We Did,” “Go Back to the Future,” and “Shwiiing,” how could you not smile, or refuse such tempting holographic shorts?  Instead of the standard “Learn more” or “Shop now,” think out of the box for clever CTAs.

 

Parting Tricks

While we know you’re funny and you know you’re funny, not everyone else may agree that your campaign is best for your brand’s audience (crazy, I know). Toss your funny idea around with a few coworkers or friends before diving in. The worst part of coming up with a fun campaign is creating it and then realizing it’s only funny to you… so, get a few other perspectives first.

And, lastly, have fun! If you have fun with it, it’s a good bet your recipients will feel the fun radiating through your emails and become something they look forward to opening. For additional email writing tips (funny and otherwise), check out our guide, Awesome Email Copywriting: A How to (With Examples).



Julie Griffin
Julie is the content marketing associate at SendGrid, helping to write and edit the blog, as well as enhance SendGrid’s SEO efforts. When she isn’t at the office, you’ll find her buzzing around Denver’s coffee shops, breweries, and yoga studios.