In Market Like You Mean It, marketing expert Al Lautenslager explains how you can engage your customers, create brand believers and gain fans for everything you sell. In this edited excerpt, the author offers numerous examples of companies that have used humor to get attention and attract their target audience.

Adding humor to your content is one thing that will surely get your marketing messaging noticed. Both customers and prospects continually face a constant onslaught of social media, video, email, marketing messages, and more, both online and off. Adding a touch of humor will help to capture your target's attention. It's a fact that content that's laughed at is shared more often and is more memorable than "straight" messaging.

Laughter is a reaction. Reactions are engagement. Engagement lifts the awareness of a brand and typically gets it talked about and remembered. We all know that humor sells. Just look at the highest-ranked Super Bowl commercials every year. Those that are funny are talked about at the water cooler the following day. Funny ads are watched over and over, and no one seems to mind the repetition.

Studies have shown that university students increase retention and pay greater attention if instructors add humor to their teaching. Getting a person's attention is the critical first step to getting them to remember (learn) important information. In marketing terms, using humor will grab the attention of a customer or potential customer and aid in creating that top-of-mind awareness for your message or brand long after the message is delivered.

Southwest Airlines uses humor all the time. They say they do it to get people to pay attention to safety information before and during the flight. And passengers are more likely to do so, especially when compared to the dry presentations by other airlines. Here are a few examples that show how Southwest uses in-flight humor to get passengers to listen up:

"If the cupcake-looking plastic things drop down in front of you, stop screaming, let go of your neighbor, and put it over your mouth."

"Your seat cushions can be used for flotation. In the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments."

"If you smoke in this airplane, the FAA will fine you $2,000 [pause], and at those prices, you might as well fly Delta!"

If you heard any of these, you'd take notice, right? You'd probably laugh, too, but you'd definitely pay attention, and you might even tell someone about it after you got off the plane.

Year after year, and for a long time, the airline has experienced growth in sales and profits. Southwest's attitude about humor continues to help bring the airline outstanding success. No matter what type of business you own, you may find that plenty of people pay attention to you and share your content simply by adding humor.

Southwest isn't the only company using humor, of course. Remember the Budweiser frogs or the donkey that wanted to be a Clydesdale? What about the AFLAC duck, sometimes intermingled with baseball humorist Yogi Berra? In commercials for Super Bowl XLV, Teleflora included singer Faith Hill helping her male sound engineer write a card for his girlfriend's Valentine's Day flowers. Hill tried to help her friend get in touch with his sentimental side, to help him channel his true emotions into words--but to no avail. His final card to his girlfriend? "Dear Kim, your rack is unreal." The ad got noticed, the acting was understated and believable, the joke wasn't forced, and the viewing audience learned about Teleflora. Mission accomplished.

Marquee signs offer a marketing touch point for any business or organization that takes advantage of its "front and center" display. Take the Eau Gallie Veterinary Hospital, in Melbourne, Florida. They're getting noticed on every drive-by thanks to their creative messages.

Would the signs below turn your head? (Keep in mind that these are veterinarians who are passionate about controlling the animal birth rate.)

  • Neutering Your Pets Makes Them Less Nuts
  • Live Nude Dogs! Free Lap Dances!
  • If You Don't Talk to Your Cat About Catnip, Who Will?
  • The Only Balls Your Dog Needs Are the Ones He Fetches
  • We Like Big Mutts and We Cannot Lie!
  • No Hump Wednesdays. 10% Off Spaying and Neutering

By now, you've seen that many brands that understand their target markets can apply a little imagination and use humor effectively to get noticed and get remembered. It's a formula that works and one that should be used more. Humor is social by nature; people share funny stories all the time. It's no secret or surprise that the most viral online videos are those that do the best job of making you laugh. A humorous brand is a confident brand, and a confident brand is in demand--and gets noticed.