Top 10 Ways to Make Your Content Funny: #2 Putdowns

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Are you struggling with the thought of having to entertain your audience with your content? In our countdown of the top 10 ways to make your content funny, the use of putdowns comes in at number 3.

In fact, if you follow these 4 tested techniques for applying “humorous putdowns” to your YouTube videos, you can be assured of entertaining your audience while boosting their engagement as well.

Blonde4 Ways to Boost Viral Video Stats with Put-downs

The use of mockery capitalizes on our emotional reaction to watching others experience a well deserved putdown. Stemming from the Theory of Superiority, we often experience a sudden glory when dethroning others or elevating ourselves at the expense of others’ peculiarities.

In general, most viral videos featuring putdowns exhibit one or more of the following four characteristics:

  1. Mocked Peculiarities
  2. Lofty Conquest
  3. Society Satire
  4. Stereotyping
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Comic Devices Used in Putdowns

Mocked Peculiarities

The use of mockery dates back centuries as audiences watched imbeciles and dwarfs parade on stage. Baby boomers likely recall the inept Deputy Barney Fife of Mayberry, who was oblivious to his idiosyncrasies and quirky nature.

social viral video

The maladroit Barnie Fife with his naïve partner, Gomer Pyle

Seeing himself as a high standing citizen, we often laughed hysterically at his gullibility and delusions of grandeur. In the videos below, this putdown is often felt through background mockery.

Lofty Conquest

Our second technique used in putdowns taps into our desire to dethrone the self-righteous, the popular, the pretentious and the hyper-masculine.  Some of the top viral videos in our study showed scenes of humbled haughtiness featuring those we despise or compete against. A common technique is to use some form of outwitting that literally shames the victim or proves our superiority over them.

Society Satire

Check out some of these top viral videos that feature the sudden glory we feel when our society is mocked. Known as satire, we often relish the opportunity to poke fun of other cultures seen as pretentious or smug. This is often played out by exaggerating the cultural nuances or language peculiarities of audiences targeted by our sarcasm.

Similarly, we poke fun of celebrated life styles with parodies of popular shows, sports events or military operations. This is often done through witty dialogs (e.g., cheeky barbs) where the intent of the sarcasm is to mock a targeted society. 


Our final comic device used in putdowns relates to mimicry and impersonations. One of the most popular ways of doing this is through the stereotyping of blondes and provincial men. The latter is often portrayed as an idiot or hypnotized under the spell of seduction. Another form of mockery includes the stereotyping of professions or positions of power.

Be Aware of Cultures Unreceptive to Putdowns

Although putdowns resonate well in Western Cultures like the US, it has limited appeal in more collectivist cultures. Many nations in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Southern Europe frown upon putdowns. This form of malicious joy runs counter to their relational and group-oriented values.

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 15% involved putdowns. This form of viral video engagement ranked number seven, six and two 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 putdowns as an entertaining content marketing theme?

Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.


36 thoughts on “Top 10 Ways to Make Your Content Funny: #2 Putdowns

  1. I believe that “Putdowns” is an effective content marketing theme. However, marketers should be careful in how far they take certain categories, such as Blondes and Bubbas. Some people are easily offended. Even though I suggested that they should be careful, at the end of the day the people that they may offend may not even be their target market.

  2. “Know your audience” is a great motto to keep in mind when using these types of strategies. It is important for companies to know the audience they are targeting so that they do not offend and end up with opposite results that they set forth to achieve. With this type of humor you should always understand your audience and know the boundaries.

  3. Using Putdowns as a marketing strategy is a risky and bold move. In order for it to be effective you need the right market research on your audience to make sure this humor will fit well with them. The word “putdown” has generally a negative connotation to it, but in marketing it is used in humorous way that relates with the audience and catches their attention. I think when done properly, putdowns can be very effective. Unfortunately, I have never used putdowns to engage the targeted audience but I hope that in the near feature I am able to explore this. I think it will be interesting and fun to use as a tactic in marketing.

  4. The stereotype method is risky as there will be someone who finds the method offensive. I personally have never used this method, but most definitely would. I think the key to this method being successful is to make sure a positive message emerges. For example, if I wanted to promote a reading software program I may very well depict a student athlete that struggles in this area. However, in the commercial I would show that same student graduating. I believe that a little controversy can be good for a marketing campaign, but a positive outcome must be the result.

  5. I totally agree that putdowns get viewers attention, it makes them laugh and makes the viewer want to pay attention to the video.
    I think that this video, about cadillac is a great example of social satire, where the narrator clearly compares two cultures and ends up making fun of one of them.

    Great videos.

    Martin Tavernier

  6. The putdown tactic is a very interesting concept in my opinion. The use of mockery can evoke a questionable reaction however, it has proven to be successful. Different firms of mockery can potentially make viewers react negatively but in turn the viewer becomes aware of the brand and the product. I believe that the viewers that are most likely to be offended by mockery tactics are those that directly relate to the scenario. In the examples in the videos above, I personally found them to be humorous and a successful way of brand establishment.

    1. I really enjoy seeing the use of “putdowns” in advertisements. Of the four types mentioned above, I enjoy the mocked peculiarities the best. I love the example of the Southern Comfort man- strutting down the beach. He is a sloppy, sweaty mess- yet he is comfortable and confident. He is everybody’s PE coach, and we relate. He is happy in his own skin, and the song played is perfect. Check it out and if you have never seen it- you are guaranteed to enjoy.

  7. The put down of stereotyping specifically seduction through males being conquered by beauty is a very effective marketing theme. I usually resorts to sex sells and this is a great outlet for not going overboard with the theme. It reminds me a lot at how most men will go through a dangerous hunt just to get a simple kill. I have not used this before but can imagine it being very effective for many varying products.

  8. The word “putdown” itself sounds so negative and hurtful. I do not think people want to be put down especially when they are so comfortable and confident in their skin. Although it can be cruel, depending on the content and message, I must admit, some may be able to use it as a tactic in trying to entertain others. For instance, the commercial with Flo being “quirky, I think is perfectly fine. That is her personality and character which brings life to Progressive. Moreover, I do not think I could personally resort to entertaining people by putting someone down.

  9. While putdowns are indeed a risky way of getting the message across to the consumer because of how the consumer may respond to it. I personally think they provide some of the most effective commercial and advertising campaigns because whether or not the consumer necessarily likes it does not stop the advertisement message from getting across. The bad thing is that people might associate the brand with negative feelings and not create profit for said brand. Commercials that apply putdown methods must be very careful to create a balance between humorous and offensive.

  10. Using putdowns in marketing is taking a very serious risk. While you may use a putdown on a group of people in which others will find amusing, others may take it to offense and bring a big problem on your hands. Many times commercials are made at the expense of our entertainment, but in the end some go to far in humor and go about being offensive rather than being funny.

  11. Putdowns seem like a higher risk in marketing. They may make the consumer feel good, but they also run the risk of offending someone. Seems like too much of a gamble as far as marketing goes.

  12. While I do believe that in certain cases commercials that contain put downs are rather humorous and a good way to get your product out there, there is a very thin line between funny and offensive. Those who may be easily offended or view the commercial in a negative light may be less likely to purchase your product or may even discontinue their use of the product due to what they “think you believe is reality”. However in most cases put-downs add a light feeling to a product that would encourage people to pay attention to the commercial and the product.

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

    I think this type of marketing theme can be extremely tricky. It could either be a hit like Geico with the cavemen or a miss like Groupon. I personally would steer away from a put down as it seems to limit your audience in my opinion.

    1. Good point, Chenae. Putdowns can draw too much attention to themselves. In addition, you run the risk of offending those impacted by the putdown.

  14. After watching these videos and reading the blog, I do believe that this is an effective way to market. Although the theme for these videos is putdowns they have a way to catch the attention of the audience. My favorite video was the Dwayne wade with the fave 5 for T mobile (so long ago!) Although it was demising Charles Barkley, it was a funny way to present the commercial. I think that these types of commercial are super effective especially in todays society that we need these types of commercials to keep us wondering or find interesting enough to remember the name of the brand. I have not resorted to this type of entertaining content for marketing but I hope to in the future as these types of commercials interest me as they are more of my sense of humor.

    1. I believe the key to a putdown’s effectiveness, Shivani, is the target of the putdown. Who doesn’t want to drop an egomaniac down a notch (e.g., Charles Barkley). I love watching macho moments gone bad. Maybe it’s payback for seeing them mock us in the past. It does seem to work well on our memory of the commercial, thereby supporting the theory that emotionally driven humor works the best on recall.

  15. Initially, I never thought of putdowns as an effective way of boosting viral video stats. However, after watching some of the commercials I think that they are hilarious. It is important to remember, like other students mentioned, that they are a risky tactic. Putdowns target a specific audience. The macho gone sour technique focuses more on the sports fan. Someone that doesn’t understand who the athlete wouldn’t think that the commercial is as funny. All-in-all I find putdowns as a very effective technique.

  16. Effective? Possibly! I believe if a company is going to use put-downs in their commercials they need to do it in a way that is not offensive. That seems pretty hard to do. I think companies need to know who their customers are and direct their advertisements based on them. Although if the point of a commercial is to gain new customers than a put-down might not be the best route to take because that viewpoint might offend someone and turn away potential clientele. There is also the point of views understanding the commercial. The point of the commercial needs to be understood by people so that it does not allow for confusion or misrepresentation of the brand. I would say if a company is going to place a stereotype or put-down on one type of person that might not be as effective as placing a stereotype on a population in general, because that way it is not pinpointing one group of people which could possibly turn them off towards your product.

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

    This form of advertising can be interpreted in a form of humor for some viewers or as a form of insult for other viewers. One who has an open-minded personality type and does not take offense to commercials that utilize this form of advertising would laugh and see the humor in these commercials. However, there are others who take offense to advertisements that utilize “putdowns” as their form of advertising and therefore may not be likely to buy any products from this company. Unfortunately, there are still people in today’s society that are truly extremist and may take offense to commercials that use the technique of society satire, for example, culture isolation commercials. It is a risky route to take when choosing this technique as a form of advertisement for a company’s product. On the contrary, I do agree that it is an effective way of advertising because it does involve a sense of humor for those who enjoy watching commercials like this (I myself do enjoy these commercials). In addition, it is an effective technique of advertising because those who do laugh while watching these commercials will share the humor with their friends and will tell them to watch the commercial on Youtube or to look out for it when it comes on. To conclude, I personally have never utilized this technique as a form of advertisement.

  18. I do think the use of putdowns can be useful when marketing. I think stereotypes and illusory superiority are used a lot in commercials. I found the illusory superiority technique to be the most successful. The Geico commercials are a great example of this by using the “It’s so easy a caveman can do it” slogan. They use illusory superiority to make it seem like cavemen are inferior to everyone else. I think this technique is successful because it adds humor to the commercial and makes it memorable to the audience.

  19. I have never really thought of resorting to the put down method of marketing. I think it is a very risky tactic since it can be very offensive to different people and cultures. Although I do think it is an effective route to choose because I particularly do not get offended from TV Ads, and they actually really capture my attention and I am able to get a good laugh out of them. But this is not the same for everyone, so it is a little riskier.

    1. Good point, Maegan. We have to be very careful who is targeted by our putdowns. There is also a fine line between witty sarcasm and outright condescension. I think it works best when it involves a lofty conquest of someone who really deserves to be humbled (e.g., public figures, actors and others in the limelight). Thank you for sharing.

  20. I think that businesses try to be very strategic when planning their “putdown” commercials. Although these type of commercials are quick to grab the viewer’s attention and keep them hooked, sometimes people can become offended when using putdowns such as stereotypes and cultural nuances. Personally I enjoyed the commercial advertising the NFL game between the Saints and Colts because in the commercial Peyton Manning and Reggie Bush are “putting down” one another which not only creates hype for the game but also doesn’t offend any person specifically.

    1. I agree, Kelsey. When the putdown is focused on elite athletes, I think we laugh at the humbled haughtiness. There is nothing funnier than having multi-million dollar stars brought down to our level.

  21. I think putdowns, especially mocked peculiarities, are a very good way of attracting attention to a product or service. In fact, I spent some time watching commercials, so I could find a link for my discussion and I realized that those commercials involving humor and fun captured my attention right away. I do not think I have ever used putdowns as a marketing strategy, but I recognize they very effective now days. However it is always important to remember that we live in a multicultural society, so we should be careful with how we use putdowns.

    1. Ivonne, I agree with your concern for multicultural sensitivity. An exception would be the country-to-country bantering some us love to retain our bragging rights. I love, for example, when we bash the French for pretentiousness or the Aussies for their funny accent. What I don’t like is when commercials, or jokes for that matter, focus on a sensitive political topic or an oppressed culture. Thank you for the comment.

  22. Putdowns always make me laugh, and its a reminder to me to not be cocky, because the tables could turn! Seeing some else’s pain gives us the feeling of superiority, so we always enjoy watching it. I think this is an effective way to go. I never looked at it like that until reading this blog, but it is very interesting. I wonder why putdowns don’t have the same effect in other cultures…

    1. David, I believe the reasons for other cultures not embracing putdowns relates to their group values. For example, countries in Latin America and Asia are more relational and cohesive. They pride themselves in caring for the group. Consequently, putdowns are likely seen as alienating some group members. Thank you for sharing.

  23. I never really thought about the idea of put downs in commercials until reading this. I can say that being a blonde myself it does bother me a little when I see commercials that makes fun of our intelligence but then I just shrug it off and think “It was pretty funny”. The use of putdowns in commercials are effective but like you said, it is mostly effective in the Western Cultures. I think that is because again we are looking for ways to be more cool or witty so we can relate more with what we are viewing. Most Americans don’t stop to think about how the other person feels, again it is self fulfillment.
    I work for a company where I have to be very careful with what I say so I don’t think that I have used putdowns in any content but the reality is I could have and maybe didn’t notice it. This really gives me something to think about.

    1. Cyenne, some attribute the high use of putdowns in western cultures to our lack of power distance. i.e., We don’t recognize power structures like countries throughout Asia. Consequently, we take little offense from exposing the inferiority of others. On the other hand, cultures high on power distance are very sensitive to their class position. So those in lower society positions would see putdowns as further testimony of their perceived oppression.

  24. Putdowns are a very successful way to entertain the viewers of commercials. By using stereotypes, parody’s, and background mockeries companies can construct advertisements that get the viewer sucked into the commercial and affiliate it with the new product or company. Even if the commercial doesn’t seem to have anything to do with what the ad is trying to promote, the viewer is still thinking about the ad and affiliating it with the company, sometimes I can’t get these songs or images out of my head for the whole day!

  25. In the stereo type commercials, attacking blondes is quite often. However, what is more interesting is that when someone says a blonde joke or the phrase “silly blonde”, why do we think of females. According to an extensive search in various publications and on the Internet, about 63% of dumb blonde jokes are directed exclusively at females.

    1. You bring up a good point, Gavindra. We do know that putdowns, as well as released repression forms of humor, resonate better with men. i.e., Men are generally more receptive to seeing putdowns. Consequently, the many beer commercials that use putdowns are likely appealing to men who enjoy seeing their female counterparts diminished. We uncovered many viral YouTube videos that featured putdowns in the form of “outwitting the opposite sex.” If this suggests that men and women like to compete with each other, ads targeted at men may appeal to the male wanting to assert his perceived dominance as the alpha dog. Lol.

  26. Yes, putdowns are a very effective way or marketing, however, marketers must ensure that the audience “gets it” because sometimes these types of commercials tend to “go over” the average person’s head.

    1. I believe you are right, Nicola. Sometimes, the butt of a putdown is a political figure or celebrity that only a select few recognize. In other cases, the nature of the putdown (e.g., personality quirk) is lost in translation. Thank you for sharing this.

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