The Power of Funny Faces :-) :-) :-)

Trends / Realness
Rebecca Rom-Frank & Sandra Michalska
Apr 21, 2023
Looking more authentic sometimes means getting less serious! Internet humor has had its own logic and ironic in‑jokes since its inception, but today,  8 in 10 people globally are craving a reason to laugh and smile more now than ever before, and are turning to social media for entertainment.
Brands of all sizes try to make funny ads, but getting comedy right is still seen as a challenge. Data from Oracle shows that even though 91% of global consumers prefer brands to be funny, 95% of business leaders fear using humor in consumer interactions. Our own survey provides a clue as to why: consumers are divided over whether it's ok to make light of serious topics, and in the ecosystem of social media—our newest form of mass media—what is considered serious may differ depending on who is looking, and can potentially suffer instant backlash if done wrong. But this is also a missed opportunity, because 8 in 10 consumers say they are more likely to remember something if it made them laugh.

So, how can brands choose visuals that are funny, but uncontroversial? At Getty Images, user searches for "meme" have risen +5% year‑over‑year, indicating that brands of all sizes want to communicate in the language of the internet and become part of the online entertainment ecosystem. Case in point: the number of most‑used videos showing people dancing has increased +30% since TikTok blew up in 2019. However, amongst the most‑used still images and video overall, just 2% shows humorous topics. Of those, nearly half show weird or "bizarre" concepts, 1 in 3 show cute animals, and babies, children and seniors feature prominently in ironic scenarios. But internet humor has come a long way (...sort of) since the early circulation of LOL Cats and fail videos; it seems like any image can become a meme with the right context, and dancing isn't even the main type of content circulating on TikTok anymore.

The impact of TikTok on internet culture has meant a bigger shift towards funny or surprising personalities, and more candid forms of entertainment—away from the comparatively polished personas that people project on Facebook, to the looser, less polished images that circulate on TikTok or even BeReal. On social media, visuals don't need to look polished; in fact, it's better that they don't—even giant legacy brands hire TikTok influencers, and shoot original social content on iPhones so that it fits in with the "poor‑quality" images generated on regular user accounts.

More video content online allows brands to show a broader spectrum of self‑expression, including humor. Viral content often shows something surprising, unique, and unexpected, so consider the same in depicting fun across its many states. Rather than simply showing an image of a person smiling or laughing, think about the image will impact your audience—what will they see that will make them pause, smile, and maybe even laugh? Consider visuals that show a broader range of facial expressions that may not be posed or “pretty” per se, but that capture a candid moment of irreverence.
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