Top 10 Ways to Make Your Content Funny: #10 Awkwardness

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Are you like many that are hesitant to use humor in your content? Your fears are not unfounded given that many humorous attempts have left audiences confused or even offended. On the other hand, studies show that nearly 70% of high performing commercials include some form of entertainment, most of which is based on humor.

awkwardnessIf you follow these 4 tested techniques for applying “awkwardness” to your YouTube videos, you have a great opportunity to engage your audiences without the worry of falling flat. In fact, our study of the top viral videos demonstrated that the use of awkwardness is the fourteenth most effective technique used by advertisers to boost their viral video statistics.

4 Ways to Boost Viral Video Stats with Awkwardness

Why we laugh at awkward moments has much to do with the pleasure derived from seeing others fail or suffer misfortune. Stemming from the Comic Theory of Superiority, this disparaging form of humor leads to a feeling of sudden glory when we displace our own histories of embarrassing moments onto others.

Among the types of humor that capitalize on awkwardness are the following:

  1. Remorseful Regrets
  2. Uncomfortable Settings
  3. Exercising Humility
  4. Revealed Secrets
social video

Comic Devices for Awkwardness

Remorseful Regrets

One way to enjoy others’ misfortunes is through the depiction of embarrassing situations where victims are left speechless. Consider how we laugh at those experiencing fear and remorse after they realize they are in a “no win” situation. Geico did this by showing Abe Lincoln faced with a tough predicament of being honest or offending his wife.

The laughter in these cases typically results from the remorse felt by the victim from their regretful actions or statements. By displacing own recollection of these embarrassments onto others, we are in effect saying: “Thank God, that did not happen to me.”  Arguably, this laughter increases the more a victim is caught off guard or left with an unsolvable quandary.

In the sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, Robert and Ray Barone often found themselves in a sticky situation. Both were prone to engaging their mouths before their brains as regretful statements and actions put them in the dog house. We laughed, for example, when Ray was forced to choose between ingratiating his dominating mother or his wife.

ad humor example

Ray and Robert Barone Notorious for Their Remorseful Quandaries

Uncomfortable Settings

Another successful way to get laughter from awkwardness is through scenes of discomfort that arises when someone gets too intimate or discusses matters better left to themselves. A number of commercials feature the discomfort that men in particular feel when other guys get too close or expose their creepy behaviors. Doritos capitalized on this with their ad featuring a man licking another man’s fingers.

A similar sense of misfortune is realized when a young boy faces the dreaded kiss of an assertive girl or when a father is pressed to answer “where do babies come from?” We are likely reliving our own experiences of the fear that results from being put on a spot.

Exercising Humility

Displaced embarrassment can also arise when we witness others having to explain themselves after exposing their vulnerabilities. In this case, we are laughing at the relief from not being the one who has to exercise humility. Southwest uses this technique in their “wanna get away” campaigns. The story-line features characters often put on the spot publicly to explain their mistakes.

This technique especially works well when featuring men inadvertently exposing their feminine or child sides. This feeling of shame can also result when quiet words are broadcast publicly or when surrounding audiences get the wrong impression from seemingly perverted behaviors.

Revealed Secrets

Our final method used to create awkward moments involves the exposure of someone’s embarrassing intentions. This often includes the unraveling of a character’s foiled deceptions when caught red handed.

Other techniques include the detection of a man’s true colors or his inappropriate glances at another woman. In this case, we are likely laughing at their behavioral hypocrisy as well as their misfortune of having a poor disguise.

Study Background

A total of 3351 high performing videos (> 50K views) were examined in this ranking of top YouTube videos. These viral videos included re-casted television commercials that were posted on YouTube as a social media video back channel. Statistics were then recorded on the number of likes, dislikes, comments and views, where an exploratory study was subsequently published with the Academy of Marketing Science and 2013 Cross-Cultural Research Conference.

From the final list of most viewed YouTube videos, about 3% involved some type of awkwardness. This form of viral video engagement ranked number five, fifteen and fifteen in average views, comments as % of views, and net likes as % of views, respectively.

So what do you think? Is this an effective way to go? Have you ever resorted to using awkwardness as an entertaining content marketing theme?

Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

34 thoughts on “Top 10 Ways to Make Your Content Funny: #10 Awkwardness

  1. Awkwardness is a good content marketing theme. People are able to relate to some commercials that depict this, the theme covers a variety of areas. I actually do not have a favorite category under this theme, I like them all the same. I think that it is a good marketing concept for marketers to use when advertising.

  2. I do not believe that awkwardness is the best way to take when searching for an effective marketing strategy. As today’s organizations are focused more on globalization, utilizing this type of strategy would definitely not be effective in a global setting where there are many different cultures. Using this type of strategy in the wrong culture could result in you offending or disrespecting the culture which could ruin your marketing efforts both now and in the future. If utilized in a culture where this type of behavior is accepted, awkwardness may be an effective strategy to use however with global markets continuing to grow, I feel the use of this type of marketing strategy may very well be short lived.

  3. I feel like everyone can relate to awkwardness. There is nothing more funny than watching someone else mess up or get caught red handed. Sometimes people tend to jump to conclusions or create false judgments about others, which are clearly wrong, however they make us laugh. Advertisements are always going to be successful when humor is involved.

  4. I think using awkwardness is one of the most effective ways to engage the audience. Because awkwardness involves humor and humor allows the audience to connect with what they are seeing on a personal level, I think using this technique is great for any marketer. In my opinion, uncomfortable settings and exercising humility are the funniest and most effective ways to use awkwardness to engage the audience.

  5. I totally agree that awkwardness help to obtain viewers attention and have them remember the product, because the two different situation are that he will laugh at viewing the ad and will therefor remember, we remember that using emotion is always an excellent way to be remembered. Or it can make a strong impression on the viewers, catching his attention and having him remembering the product.
    I agree strongly with the blog, and do believe too that using awkwardness is a great way to achieve more viewers attention.

    Martin Tavernier,

  6. Awkward humor has always been interesting to me and it seems as if audiences really enjoy watching or witnessing those “awkward moments.” It brings out laughter with viewers especially if they are not associated with it. Commercials that show awkward behavior capture attention at whatever is happening. Embarrassing moments are often times funny to experience, again what it is not you that is being embarrassed. I do believe this can be an effective form of marketing especially if done correctly.

  7. I believe awkwardness is one of the most effective ways to get a customer to engage with your product. We’ve all probably had to deliver a speech in front of a large public from time-to-time, whether in the classroom or in our professional careers. I too have had my fair share and I can tell you the ones that I remember the most vividly are the ones where I stood up there, wasn’t prepared or just didn’t know enough about the topic to deliver the speech in the first place.

    There is ultimately a science as to why I’ve committed these to memory. It’s because these were overly awkward moments that are forever ingrained in my head. That is the feeling that advertisers want to portray. They show us these awkward situations and through laughter or our own connection to it, we forever commit it to memory.

  8. I feel as though this is a kind of marketing technique that a certain audience will either absolutely love, or just downright hate. The marketers must keep in mind who exactly their target market is when using awkwardness in their advertisements. Personally, I love this technique and I get a kick out of awkward situations. But you have to keep in mind that there are many people out there that may be disgusted, insulted, or turned off with the use of awkwardness.

  9. Awkwardness is a different way in which to market a product. Sometimes when people are too comfortable, they tend to not listen and ignore your pitch. But if you were to take them out of their comfort zone and make them feel different, it has a better chance to move people in the other direction. This is why it is better sometimes to sell a product using an awkward method than using a conventional one.

  10. I do believe awkwardness is a great content marketing strategy or technique to use. I see these commercials as funny/humorous and entertaining. One of the largest reasons I believe awkwardness to be as successful as it is in marketing is because it is relatable to the general public. We all find ourselves in awkward situations every day, with our boss, or maybe a coworker, or parents, and even friends or significant others. I believe watching awkwardness through commercials relieves some of the stress we feel from our own personal awkward situations and allows us to realize it happens to everyone. I also believe that allowing awkwardness to relate to a product could allow viewers to remember the product more when they are in a store or need that type of item. I think it is a very successful technique and unoffensive which does tend to land advertisers in negative situations. Whereas awkwardness is normally humorous and fun.

  11. Awkwardness is, well… Awkward. I think it is a hilarious thing to see in a commercial, especially since I am awkward myself. I find humor in watching other people be awkward. However, there is a fine line between awkward and uncomfortable. For example, I stumbled upon an incredibly uncomfortable Burlington commercial. The little boy asked his mom “to sock him” (meaning put his socks on) but because of his accent, well you can imagine what it sounded like. This was just awkward beyond compare and made me feel more uncomfortable rather than hilarious.

  12. Awkwardness is a great way to grab the attention of an audience. Companies utilize this tactic because they are able to relate to the situations. Even if they are situations that do not occur in their lives, people are able to view the commercial and think “I hope that never happens to me” or they can laugh it off. Since they are situation based, a person can refer back to it on a daily basis and think of the company who produced the commercial. It’s a great marketing tactic that should be utilized more often.

  13. I think that awkwardness is an excellent marking method and will defiantly be used in the new future. It keeps the audience on their toes and they don’t know what to expect what is going to happen next so they just continue to watch it. I use this method quite often.

  14. I found these examples to be humorous. I think awkwardness is an effective marketing technique. It is a relatable topic, as everyone has experienced an embarrassing moment or have been in some type of an uncomfortable situation before. By being able to associate with similar moments, the audience can better remember the product being advertised when they tie it to the awkward scenarios being presented. As the blog post states, we also take pleasure in seeing others fail or suffer misfortune. I have used this technique before, and found it effective when applied because people typically found it entertaining and memorable.

  15. I think awkwardness is a great attention grabber and can bring attention to a company positively . Most people can relate to being in a awkward sitiuation. The most memorable to me are those including regretted statements, uncomfortable conversations, revealed deceptions, and being caught off guard.

  16. I think awkwardness is a great attention grabber and can bring attention to a company. Most people can relate to being in a awkward sitiuation. The most memorable to me are those including regretted statements, uncomfortable conversations, revealed deceptions, and being caught off guard.

  17. I do believe that these commercials are effective, because they use humor and situations that people often find themselves in. It is always amusing to see how the people in commercials handle awkward situations or even saying things they probably shouldn’t have said or wished they would have said differently. It brings a sense of normality to ads.

  18. I really think these commercials are effective, because most people can relate to these situations. Especially the situations with regret, and awkwardness. The more relatable your ad is, the more attraction it will get.

  19. Revealed secret commercials are good commercials to market with. This is because it makes people infer that one things is happening and then completely changes the viewer’s entire thought process when it reveals the true step by step.

  20. These commercials were hilarious. I think awkwardness is a great way to grab the attention of the viewer, and in turn boost viral video statistics. I think that awkwardness can’t help but be funny. That is why it is so effective. I love the ESPN commercials at the end with the showing true colors. I believe that a commercial or video that can make you laugh is an effective one. It leaves an imprint on your mind. The only counter argument to awkwardness’ effectiveness would be the group of people that do not understand awkward humor. Some people could, infact, feel uncomfortable with the awkward situations. However, a well designed video will tip-toe the tightrope between hilarious awkwardness and too awkward. A well crafted viral video or commercial will make optimal use of the potential awkwardness has.

  21. I truly enjoy watching these commercials because they display real-life scenarios twisted with humor. Many of us have watched these commercials and been able to remember a time or moment when we have felt “awkward” and at the moment we are embarrassed and humiliated but after we think about the situation we laugh. Therefore, these types of commercials are a great and effective way to go because many viewers can relate to these commercials. When a company markets their brand, product, and/or service it is important for the viewer to connect with the commercial during the first few seconds that the commercial begins playing if not then the viewer will simply change the channel or not pay attention to it at all. Furthermore, I have not resorted to this type of marketing technique but I would utilize it because of the commonality of the scenarios that these commercials display and the connection that the viewer can easily make.

  22. Awkwardness is a great way to advertise a product. It is somewhat embarrassing but it also makes people laugh a lot, especially about themselves. Scenes that show i.e. unmanliness may remind men of some of their own personal similar moments and experiences. People with a good sense of humor will probably like this type of commercial best.

  23. I, personally, LOVE the use of awkwardness in commercials and other advertisements. I just find this approach to be so comical that it is hard not to enjoy. However, I know some people feel uncomfortable when watching awkward scenes so this may not be the best way to market products or ideas. If people are looking for a good laugh though, awkwardness is definitely an option. Viewers will remember the product because their commercials were just so…awkward!

  24. I would place Digg in the RIPs or definitely soon to be. Digg has become dated as a source media tool because of its format, it’s news integration and its appeal to the audiences. Although it attempts to cover a large array of social media, news, viral feeds, and motivational; it does come off as a little cluttered. Unlike its competitors reddit, who currently ranks as the top for viral feeds, have a dominating presence on the likes of Tumblr, Facebook, and other supported media giants. As well as Buzz feed who’s internet presence goes unparalleled with its claim of being the “hottest, most social content on the web” makes Digg’s recent revival as a fizzle rather than a big boom.

    Groupon probably fits best among the rebounds. Having recently recovered from a slew of accounting issues back in 2011, and with no barriers to entry, its 383 rivals made the competitive environment relatively difficult to maneuver. Not to mention groupon at the time did not have any major funding like say Living Social – Amazon, or Google with its Google Offers. They still have the hold on the “motivated customer base” model, their time limitations on deals, and their promise of constant customer flow has continued to keep them up in stock as of the end of 2013.

    Foursquare is possibly in the Marginals. A lack of mobile attention might be the cause for this grouping. There is talk of “gamification” or a lack thereof in the foursquare app. The user interface has abandoned the gimmicky, flashy, virtual reality aspect of current apps, in hopes of emphasizing more on how navigation is handled. There are also complaints of misdirection as to what the app is actually supposed to do. Is it a reviewer, is a log book for locations, does it share your location information, can you submit reviews? Are all of these included as basic functions or have they entertained them over time? How do they hope to compete with Yelp, that does all of the aforementioned and offers for more user driven content.

  25. I am placing social fingerprinting under rebounds for the following reason because it simplifies and expedites the social media search process making it fast, easy, and affordable. Social fingerprinting is a program of training, rating, and tools designed to assist businesses in measures and improving social performances. It gives a company tools to manage the business overall online brand and reputation. It also searches different social media and public internet for information related to the business and there are specialists who assist in removing results that do not pertain to the brand or business and it helps ensure accuracy on the reports provide to the company to show links and locations that can be view for hits and take actions to promote a business.

    I am placing foursquare under rebounds for the following reason it bridges gap between offline and online audience with a reasonably price and scalable way. It offers a wide variety of opportunities for big and small businesses. Foursquare have over 40 million users that use it to check into locations and share with friends on different social networking like facebook and twitter. Foursquare also launched a new self service advertising product for businesses that want to reach users that are in the neighborhood. A business benefits from the platform because the users friends will see where they check in to shop, work, eat, and more, which could influence them to do the same base off the user’s recommendation. And if users check into business locations the business owner will know giving them a return on their advertising dollars.

    I am placing radian 6 under marginal for the following reason it’s a monitoring tool that helps monitor brand mentions across the social landscape. Businesses are moving from traditional campaigns to more customer controlled conversations on social media. In order for a business to gain action from monitoring through radian 6 it has to keep in mind industries and brands that are target for spammers and find meaningful conversation amongst an audience. It’s a tool that provides a one stop shop for engagement on social network channels. It offers business owners a comprehensive coverage of discussions from social web, blogs, comments, facebook API, and twitter firehose. Radian 6 also allows online comments to be assigned within a business, customer service, marketing, sales, and etc. Radian 6 is a great platform for a big business because it gives the ability to engage in meaningful conversations with potential customers while filtering out spammers’ information.

  26. Foursquare (Rising Star)
    Foursquare is a Rising Star. It is a perfect geo-social app to research particular items of item by the customer, plus it provide reviews and customer experience on location; that is why it is at the top of my list. I see continued interest from users in the field of social plus location plus mobile (SoLoMo) information. We are pressed for time and want the latest reviews and feedbacks from people to people communication. I trust someone who has eaten at a restaurant or attended a venue to provide unbiased reviews than I do for an agent of a company that may have a hidden agenda. I don’t want to waste time or money; Foursquare is a perfect application to get real time information I need to save time and money while making very informed decisions on venues or products. Bonus is I can even share it with my social media family.

    Augmented Reality (Rising Star)
    Augmented Reality is another Rising Star. Users want artificial information (I like to think of it as enhanced information) regarding the location or venue to make better informed decisions; and data from augmented reality is critical. Let’s use a concert for example, I am thinking about selecting a seat for the concert. I want to get a perspective of what the concert will look and sound like from the seat I am interested in. Augmented Reality can place the band on stage with artificial sound coming from the speakers and provide me with a point of view from that seat to give me the most interactive experience possible without being live at the concert. That experience/reality is what I feel users want before they decide to spend their hard earned money on a venue or product. Now if Augmented reality can one day replicated smells, then It will be the most realistic experience users can have, because it aint a reggae concert if you can’t smell the ubiquitous aroma of cannabis in the air.

    DIGG (marginal) DIGG is in a very competitive market as a news aggregator; competing with the likes of Reddit (which I personal feel has a better layout and I like the ability to vote), Google News and the likes. I don’t see much from DIGG that I can’t get from the plethora of similar sites on the web. I see DIGG being overtaken by the likes of the two companies mentioned above; because you can tailor your likes/interest better than DIGG, and for that I mark DIGG as marginal.

  27. Awkward humor is definitely a good technique when conducting an advertisement campaign. It shows things in life that are common and people can relate to in kinds of situations we don’t like to be in. It’s always funny though when its not you in the situation and can laugh at the expense of another. I would definitely use this technique in the future.

    1. In conducting this study, Paul, I found an interesting and significant finding on the receptiveness of this humor. Women are far more receptive to awkward moments than men. It may have something to do with our taking ourselves too seriously. Personally, I often struggle with this form of humor as there is nothing worse than getting caught in deception or have our secrets revealed. I find myself pondering over what would I do in the same situation.

  28. Awkward moments seem to be a bit weird but at the same time they can be funny. The commercials used here seem to catch the viewers attention because even though they may be awkward they are funny at the same time and this is something people may find to be humorous. This is also an effective way of marketing the products or brands because somehow it will catch the viewer’s attention.

  29. Awkwardness is definitely the way to go because seeing other people in awkward situations not only elicits laughter, but it also makes us cringe a bit and wonder what we would do in a similiar situation. I was kind of surprised that awkwardness is actually number 15 on the list. Thought it would rank higher.

    1. I was surprised, too, Nicole that awkwardness was not rated higher. It turns out that many men have difficulties with awkwardness. It might be that we shudder at the thought of getting caught with hidden secrets. Thank you for sharing.

  30. I really liked all of the awkward humor that these commercials had to offer. I think they bring out funny qualities that we may find ourselves in at some point in time. Matching a relatable topic when marketing may help people remember a product better which is one of the main reasons why I like this technique. Although I have never used this marketing theme I believe it is very effective.

    1. I think it is especially effective, Maegan, when the moment of awkwardness relates to a product benefit. One of my favorite series of commercials includes those “wanna getaway moments” offered by Southwest. I think it is perfect for this airline whose target audience may be seeking last minute, short length vacations. Thank you for the comment.

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