Are you hesitant to provide entertaining content for fear of missing the mark or falling flat? In our countdown of the top 10 ways to make your content funny, we demonstrate a wide range of humorous techniques that have stood the test of time.
In fact, if you follow these 4 tested techniques for applying “perceptual discords” to your YouTube videos, you can be assured of boosting audience engagement with your content. The use of perceptual discords comes in at number 3 on our list.
Perceptual discords cause us to laugh as we witness or experience something out of touch. Stemming from the Theory of Incongruity, this concept entertains us by contrasting what we see with what is routinely expected. Mentally, we are asking ourselves: “…Did I see that correctly?..”
This perceptual discord can be realized in the form of visual anomalies (e.g., distortions or impersonations), aberrant behaviors (eccentricity) or conceptual incongruities (e.g., nonsense or unusual settings). In each case, we detect a mismatch with common perceptions.
In general, most viral videos featuring perceptual discords fall under the following four categories:
- Odd Behaviors
- Context Misrepresentation
- Bizarre Substitutions
In the case of odd behaviors, we often laugh at the innocence of children or animals acting as adult humans. Witnessing the character contrast, our laughter is created by a harmless cognitive shift where we often imagine an underdog putting others in their place.
This was a common form of comedy in the 1960’s. Many laughed when Uncle Joe of Petticoat Junction was beaten in checkers by his dog. Similarly, Mister Ed featured a horse who could talk. The owner, Wilbur, was portrayed as a big klutz who inadvertently caused harm around him. Recognizing Mr. Ed’s animal inferiority, we likely laughed at the wiser choice made by the horse.
Throughout the last decade, this concept has been played out with over-performances. Consider the babies in E-Trade and Evian that pose as adults. Several viral videos also feature animals going the extra mile to motivate themselves or their masters. Check out this Nolan Cheddar video where a mouse driven by “Eye of the Tiger” musters up the energy to escape its trap: http://bit.ly/18vLk2b.
At the other extreme of unusual behaviors are depictions of under-performance such as the foolishness exhibited by adults making futile attempts to be profound. Both the over-performance and under-performance approaches to discord work off a similar principle that laughter results when we witness behavioral anomalies.
Our second technique used in perceptual discords relates to our visualizing objects or scenes taken out of context. Some of the top viral videos in our study showed unconventional routines or unusual settings surrounding the highlighted activity.
In other cases, the viral videos make us laugh when we imagine a literal interpretation of idioms or the human depiction of abstract concepts. In each of these cases, the attempt at humor is based on audience detection of a mismatch with what their minds see as a common practice
A concept similar to misrepresentation involves the substitution of animals or objects with a bizarre alternative. One popular technique includes anthropomorphism, where human attributes are ascribed to abstractions. Allstate used this form of humor to depict the concept of “mayhem” through the careless habits of an unruly actor who exemplified the dire consequences of poor insurance coverage.
Some viral YouTube videos portray scenes of animal substitutes such as that found in the herding of cats, performing bulls and squirrels substituted for running bulls. Like sound imitations, these bizarre substitutes allow our imaginations to vicariously live through the substitute actor.
Our final comic device used in perceptual discord relates to nonsense. As a cognitive exercise, this form of humor makes us logically see something off kilter. Humor in this case arises out of our confusion with the relevance or choices made by the actor. Upon witnessing their naiveté or imbecile nature, we then laugh at blaming the confusion on the actor’s ineptness or empty dialogs.
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 7% involved some type of perceptual discord. This form of viral video engagement ranked number four, four and nine 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 perceptual discord as an entertaining content marketing theme?
Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.