To use humor in healthcare marketing creative, you must be sensitive to the category.

With Halloween just around the corner, you may have seen this timely commercial making the rounds on social media because of its creative and hilarious promotion of Geico insurance. Which brings to light an interesting question about the category in which we work—if this is what breaks through the clutter, can humor be used in healthcare marketing?

The answer is yes. But not in the same way as other categories, which have more freedom to be humorous. Humor in healthcare marketing shouldn’t be stomach clutching, teary-eyed laughter. It’s easy to accomplish that kind of humor when you’re advertising a candy bar or beer. Healthcare is a more serious topic no matter how you portray it and too much humor can be offensive or off-putting. However, if you know when, how and how much humor is appropriate for the specific client, brand and issue you are addressing, humor can be used with amazing success.

Humor in healthcare marketing is done best when it produces a smile, or when it relates to the human condition and reflects a human truth. It should introduce something down to earth and real to which the consumer can relate on a deeper level. Take, for example, the following ads for Palos Community Hospital where SPM found a creative way to add some light humor to serious subjects:

As much as we’d like to use humor more than we do, it’s not always appropriate for the message. So much needs to be taken into account when building creative executions, including the brand, target audience, tone of the campaign and strategy.

If you are able to establish that humor can be used with the campaign message, there are some important things to keep in mind:

Be sensitive to service lines.

Some service lines are more appropriate for light humor than others. Here is an example from University Hospital where humor is used appropriately with the service line:

The maternity service line led the message with humor, and, while it isn’t the fall-out-of-your-chair hilarity, it certainly begs a smile.

Be singularly focused.

Most humor in healthcare creative is used in ads that have this in common: they are focused on one thing. You cannot advertise the whole kitchen sink while trying to add that extra dimension of humor. Doing too much in one ad can confuse the consumer, so always strive to be singularly focused in your messaging.

Every day it becomes more and more important to break through the clutter in the healthcare category. If you don’t have a way to hook consumers, your creative becomes nothing more than wallpaper and background noise. In some cases, humor may be the way to stand out. In others, a nice story with just enough charm will peak your target’s interest. Either way, the need to be memorable is a constant pressure.

Do you have any examples of successful humor in healthcare marketing? Let us know in the comments!


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