Top 10 Ways to Make Your Content Funny: #6 Unruliness

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Are you hesitant to adopt humorous content into your social media strategies for fear it may ruin your professional image or fall flat on its face? 

With social media communities clamoring for entertaining and video-based content, humor can break the mold of otherwise dull videos. Just consider what AFLAC, Geico, Allstate, Statefarm and Nationwide did to serious insurance commercials. They all eventually took the comic route.

Adopting humor may not be as daunting as you think. There are less than a dozen basic techniques that work well even for low budget productions.

Follow these 4 tested techniques for applying unruliness to your YouTube videos, and you will be well on your way towards engaging your audience. In fact, our study of the top viral videos demonstrated that the use of unruliness is the eighth most effective technique used by advertisers to boost their viral video statistics.

unruliness4 Ways to Boost Viral Video Stats with Unruliness

By unruliness, we mean behaviors showing resistance to control. The fact that we laugh at unruly behaviors is best explained by the Relief Theory of Humor. This theory contends that laughter is a mechanism by which psychological tension is reduced.

So we tend to laugh when we release tension or nervous energy such as when we unleash our suppressed desires. Consequently, we love watching others act out uncontrollably or violate some social order. In effect, we are likely enjoying the observation of others acting out our own inhibitions.

Arguably, most viral videos featuring unruliness fall under the following four categories:

  1. Hysteria
  2. Impulsive Outbursts
  3. Displaced Irritation
  4. Exercising Improprieties

Social Viral YouTube Video


A popular technique for entertaining audiences with humor is to show people unleashing their anxiety through uncontrollable screaming and yelling. In the 1950’s, the popular sitcom, The Honeymooners, featured a bellowing, short-tempered Ralph Kramden who would easily spin out of control. Audiences laughed at his infamous “BANG, ZOOM! Straight to the Moon!” The Relief Theory would attribute these fits of laughter to our own desires to let out steam.

social video humor

The Bellowing Ralph Kramden in the “The Honeymooners”

Other examples of hysteria in viral YouTube videos include scenes of angry bosses losing their control or folks experiencing nervous breakdowns. Similarly, many of the popular sports-related commercials show scenes of fanatics going over the edge to support their teams.

Impulsive Outbursts

Another successful way to get laughter from unruliness is through scenes of impulsive outbursts. Some viral YouTube videos reached views in the millions as audiences witnessed forceful demonstrations, body explosions or outright belligerence. The tension relief can be explained as an innate desire we may all have to act out our aggression.

Displaced Irritation

A third technique used in unruliness involves our desire to express deep irritation. This is often accomplished by having us share the irritation and the subsequent desire to fiercely lash out at others’ facing annoying habits.

Consider the commercial where an annoying pig continually utters “Wee! Wee! Wee!” or the vexatious camel in Geico’s hump day commercial who repeatedly asks “Guess what day it is?” Our own laughter comes from the expression of irritation shown on the faces of those annoyed.

This can also be accomplished by showing scenes of those irritated by incessant talkers. In effect, we are sharing the desires of the irritated actors to berate or strike the annoying subjects.

Exercising Improprieties

Another common way to release suppressed desires is to display scenes of wishful naughtiness. Who doesn’t want to disobey society rules on stature, proper behavior or appropriate demeanor?

Consider how audiences laugh when Mr. T acts out on our behalf or the rebels displayed by Harley Davidson to attract the recalcitrant. Besides aggression and disobedience, these improprieties could include forbidden behaviors such as invasive peeking. 

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 2% involved some type of unruliness. This form of viral video engagement ranked number thirteen, three and seven 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 unruliness as an entertaining content marketing theme?

Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

35 thoughts on “Top 10 Ways to Make Your Content Funny: #6 Unruliness

  1. Although I do not care too much for some of the subcategories within “Unruliness”, I do think that it is a good content marketing theme. My favorite is the incessant talker.

  2. I think Unruliness is a great way to market a product. It is a modern and fun way to draw attention to your company and I think it could increase sales. And, I think the fact that this type of marketing has been around for such a long time is a good indication that it is working.

  3. I think that unruliness is an effective way to capture the audience’s attention through commercials. These kind of commercials will definitely reach the audience faster than your ordinary commercial. Also, it is more likely that they will remember these commercials rather than standard commercials as well.

  4. I think that using portraying some type of “unruliness” in commercials are a good way to capture people’s attention. It is definitely a way to grab them and engage them. Some of these commercials spark some laughter and some are just flat out ridiculous. These types of commercials portray exaggeration, which often times are a good way of getting a point across. Viewers will understand the point trying to be made right off the bat and it will funny most times. I think it is an effective way of marketing and company’s that use unruliness can stand out from the rest sometimes. I have never used this type of marketing but it be something consider for the future.

  5. This subject does make for a lot of laughter when watching people argue or act outrageous. Another example to add to the angry yelling for hysteria is this Haagen Daz gelato commercial: Although the man enters lovingly, he is immediately thrown into the whirlwind madness that the woman is creating. There’s brief reprieve when she discovers he brought home gelato, but they go right back to the yelling almost immediately.

  6. I feel like unruliness can be a great way to market. Some people may view this way as “extra and unncessary”, but it can leave an impression on viewers. The commercials I have seen that have used unruliness did a great example, and always leave me laughing. It’s good to use different ways to market products, and depending on the product, some ways could be better than others and work best for a particular company. Hopefully, this tactic can grab customers to use the brand and build it up. Brands should be known for their products, not just their marketing.

  7. I believe this video too is part of the impulsive outburst, in the body explosion category.
    I most definetly agree with this blog, it is true that when creating unexpected behavior, explosion, or situation, viewer pay more attention, it is not anymore assimilated to common “advertising noise”, it goes out of the ordinary.
    I think it is an excellent method of advertising.

    Martin Tavernier,

  8. While unruliness may be the #8 top engager it’s one of my favorites. I think this category displays a little social disorder we all want to enact sometimes, whether screaming or having outburst or even being a little improper. I feel we easily connect with this engager because of its ability to portray the things we sometimes feel like doing but don’t.

  9. Unruliness has been used for a while and it is an effective method to get laughter from most individuals. Unruliness used and loud yelling may be annoying to some but while watching this in a commercial will make for laughter and make a good sticking point when wanting to market a product to a potential consumer.

  10. I think this method is effective and funny. People like to laugh and be able to relate to things. Although some ways to grab the audience’s attention is thru extreme yelling and impulsive outbursts, it is effective.

  11. I think the use of unruliness is a clever way to advertise a product. I’ve always been amused to see how far they can push the envelope before it is considered too much, but often they draw attention and often provoke the question of ” Am I seeing this correctly”? By drawing attention, while it may not be the most conventional way, I do enjoy the fact unruliness being out of what is considered the norm.

  12. I’m not a fan of the tactic of unruliness. I think it has more of a chance of going wrong than going right. The commercials in my opinion come off as a bit tacky and tasteless.

  13. For better or worse, brand communications—from building awareness at the treetops via advertising, and websites are all the way to your direct sales efforts through events, pitches and proposals—are rooted in technology. Although I find it an effective way of marketing I do not think it’s the best way to. You have to manage your brand as best as you can.

  14. Personally, these types of commercials almost never work on me. I guess I just have a low tolerance for the sort of behavior that goes on in these commercials, especially when its so irrational and obnoxious as shown above, and although I may laugh at awkward situations in person, I find myself annoyed by these types of commercials. I find the characters to be so far from human, that I am entirely disinterested.

  15. I do not find this to be a very effective technique. This may be a matter of taste, but I feel that these types of commercials are more bothersome than appealing. I tend to change the channel when these types of commercials come on while others may have their attention grabbed. The majority of the time the antics shown do not seem to relate to the product being advertised. I have personally never used this method as I dislike it, but I know many people who not only enjoy watching it but have found it a useful technique to use on their own as well.

  16. Hello everyone!
    After seeing these videos, I have mixed opinions on whether it is an effective way to go. Depending on how the commercial is set up it can be successful or it can be straight annoying. On the other hand there are some topics that can work to some advantage due to its weirdness. That sort of stuff grabs the attention of the public but at the same time it can be positive or negative towards the product they are marketing. I have never resorted to using unruliness, and I do not think I would because I did not really like the structures of the commercials. There was one that I found funny which was the Dwayne Wade and Charles Barkley T-mobile commercial and I thought it was pretty clever but no other commercial really caught my eye.

  17. I believe that there are several pros and cons in these commercials. Unruliness grabs the viewers attention so that they question “Why are they fighting? Why are they yelling? What is going on?” They go over and beyond with these tactics so that instead of anger or annoyance, the consumer should just buy the product. I won’t lie, it does grab attention but for some of these commercials, the fighting doesn’t go hand in hand with the product.

  18. With the use of unruliness, you are able to blow things out of proportion, and market your product effectively. Once again humor is utilized in these commercials, in order to appeal to most people. Hysteria, when used to market a product makes the product more important, and can thus convince the audience to buy such product.

  19. Many commercials from all types of company feature commercials with these “attention getters” like yelling, loud noises, hysteria, unruliness, etc. I believe that this type of advertising is very attractive to some people and very unattractive to others. It becomes opposite ends of the spectrum. I personally am not a fan of over the top commercials, especially loud yelling types. This is because commercials are loud enough as it is, and everyone knows they turn up the volume to begin with. So for me these are most likely my least favorite types of advertisements, but I do believe some people enjoy them. I also believe these commercials that provide hysteria and unruliness can be more effective at certain times. If there is a football game on, or a attention grabbing sport on I believe that these commercials can be effective. But if someone is watching a romantic movie and then this comes on I do not believe they are as effective, I think some people might hit the mute button and be turned off by the level of intensity that is being portrayed in these commercials.

    1. It is amazing, Juliet, how many commercials today resort to rebellious characters and letting loose. I often feel we act this way as a mechanism to release tension.

  20. I have witnessed that many commercials have resorted to this type of marketing technique because of the humor that it entails. However, this technique is a tricky one to rely on because it can cause a gap between viewers as well as annoyance to other viewers. I do not agree that these commercials are intended for all audiences and that could be a problem for a company that utilizes this technique for marketing because viewers will end up changing the channel or simply not paying attention to it. For example, there are people who are older and are not too familiar with current pop culture artists so if they are watching a commercial that utilizes “disorderly pop culture lexicons” they will not be interested in watching the commercial, therefore, this can cause a gap between who will be the one’s interested in watching the commercial. Furthermore, it can be an effective way to go because of the humor and creative story line but annoyance can be easily drawn up, especially from commercials that utilize “displaced irritation.” Lastly, I have never resorted to this technique as an entertaining content marketing theme.

  21. Personally, I find the use of unruliness for marketing to be hit or miss in commercials. Although some of these commercials grab attention with loud noises, crazy reactions, or funny scenes, they can also come across as stupid. Some of the commercials (like the Old Spice one) do not appeal to me and I find them pointless. However, unruliness can make me laugh and grab my attention like the Geico commercial with the basketball player, Mutombo, blocking and hitting objects in the commercial as an example of forceful demonstrations.

    1. I agree they are attention grabbing, but it imitates behaviors that small children will see. With these commercials it gives children the preconceived notion that the actions in the commercials are normal. With that being said, yes these commercials are funny, but what is the impact on the children that watch these commercials?

  22. By using unruliness, things like screaming and shouting along with loud noises are involved which are good attention getters. It’s natural for these types of things to grab peoples attention draw them into the advertisement from the start. I think these types of ads are good because they get people to laugh and imply humor especially with things contrary to social norms.

    1. It is interesting to note, Paul, that this form of humor often reaches over 1M hits. However, engagement is rather low. This might suggest that it serves more as an attention getter than brand engager. Thank you for the comment.

  23. This concept of unruliness is probably the most entertaining type of commercials. The methods immediately catches the attention of the audience, unlike other methods which eases slowly to capture the attention of the audience. In my opinion it is very important to get the attention as fast as an ad can so that the audience will be engaged from the start.

    1. Good point, Justine. There probably is no better way to capture your attention than to witness someone slapped in the face or hear someone screaming hysterically. A real challenge, however, in applying this type of humor is tying the impulsive outburst to the primary brand message. i.e., the attention getter may distract you from understanding the message. Thank you for sharing.

  24. Unruliness is always entertaining because as human beings we sometimes want to act on our innate desires even though it may be contrary to the norms of society. Therefore, watching others act out, especially when it results in dire consequences helps us to temper the need or desire to do the same.

    1. I so agree, Nicola. More than exaggeration, putdowns and irony, I find myself laughing the hardest when I FEEL the putdown. This is best accomplished when we witness someone taking our place with their rebellious or naughty behavior. In effect, I believe we are acting vicariously through those letting loose on our behalf. Thank you for the comment.

  25. I enjoyed watching the different commercials. They were definitely different and even though some had the screaming or outbursts they were funny. It is true that a lot of the major brands have turned their commercials from serious to funny ones and it seems to have worked for them. It is true that one should have fun when trying to sell your products and should use some comic when doing the marketing side of it. This seems to be very successful.

  26. I really loved all the different styles of unruliness marketing. I think it is so exaggeratedly funny and is a great way to catch the eye of the viewer. If I had to describe this style of marketing in one word, I would use the word Fun. It looks like fun to make and it is definitely fun to watch. I have never personally used this in a presentation but it is absolutely an effective technique of marketing.

    1. I think it scores high, Maegan, because it’s one of the only humorous techniques that physically acts out the mockery or behavior. Although it is fun to use, I often hesitate taking this route – it takes some guts to show folks out of control. Thank you for sharing.

  27. I personally love these type of commercials. As you stated it is sort of an escape from reality and who doesn’t want to just scream our heads off from time to time.
    I personally have not used unruliness for any themes but if the right opportunity presented its self I sure would.

    1. I think Freud was right, Cyenne, in attributing this laughter to our innate desire to release repressions. As much as we delight in comic wit and putdowns; at most, we likely laugh at the cleverness. But with unruliness, however, we can literally let go of those boiling urges to slap someone or yell at our boss. What a relief! Thank you for the comment.

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