Someone once said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people”. If your job is to try and make connections with consumers, then that thought has to make you sit up and take notice. We start to laugh when we are around four months old – and (most of us) don’t stop. What an amazing human quality laughter is. Contagious, relaxing, sociable. There’s even academic research that reveals that laughter is how we show we want to be friendly. With all that running in its favor, who’s surprised that advertising has always used the power of laughter? Check out for recent examples from around the world.

I’m thinking about laughter right now because I suspect that what makes us laugh, like everything else, is changing. It is no longer enough for advertising to throw funny lines out to an audience like a desperate stand-up comic. At best that becomes boring, and at worst it alienates people altogether. From what I see, humor today is becoming more interactive. Now, that does not mean you put a funny story up on the Web and we all vote for the punch-line that makes us laugh most. What it does mean is that the tone of humor is shifting. It’s tending to become more ambiguous, more random, and to me, more emotional. Those emotions often play with our embarrassment or simple confusion (TV shows like The Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm have got it absolutely right) on behalf of the characters.

We are more like participants in the action rather than observers, and the emotion of empathy is absolutely central. This is why YouTube thrives on people sharing what makes them laugh with their friends. Humor brings us together, allows us to drop our guard and open up to new ideas. If you want to make connections with people, what better place to start?

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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