It’s undoubtedly true that investors’ financial security is no laughing matter, and this is reflected in the stolid, dour, reliable imagery and branding that is, by and large, the industry standard. This is hardly surprising—investors need to believe they’re placing their hard-earned money in the hands of experienced, trustworthy professionals. But before an investor makes the important decision of who and what to invest in, they have to like and identify with the spokesperson or brand behind the investment product, and this is where humor comes into play.
What’s So Funny?
In order to truly connect with investors, investment professionals would do well to have a relevant quip or two up their sleeve. It can serve as an important tool to disarm neutral or hostile audiences while personalizing the spokesperson or brand in question. What sorts of quips? While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, jokes in a professional setting work best when they convey expertise and comfort with the given subject matter while also being slightly self-deprecating. By pre-empting or defusing potential criticism right off the bat, self-deprecation can be especially effective with skeptical audiences.
In a marketing context—for example in an ad or in messaging—it’s essential to keep the medium in mind as well. For example, a quip that gets an easy laugh in meetings may not translate well to a banner ad and vice-versa.
Grab their attention
Along with defusing potentially hostile audiences, humor offers the additional benefit of helping us cope with the effects of boredom and stress. This can be key when you’re facing an audience that has already been subject to a number of presentations, or has been in meetings all day. Drawing a smile from a worn-out, distracted, or skeptical audience can be a great way to build rapport while also gathering attention for the details of your pitch, which, as with most financial products and services, is unlikely to be particularly funny (nor should it be).
Of course, the potential pitfalls of utilizing humor are numerous, and worth taking into account as well. Although it should go without saying, it’s worth mentioning that the butt of the joke should never be the prospective investor—likewise, off-color jokes (whether sexist, racist, or otherwise) are other obvious no-nos. In a professional setting, the best jokes work by telling a short story about a relevant experience that might provoke a chuckle while also establishing expertise. This places you in a better position to dive into the details of your investment product from a more friendly position. In a marketing context, short, humorous one-liners tend to be more effective.
Harnessing the power of humor in communications with prospective customers can be challenging in any industry—it is doubly so in financial services, where credibility, trustworthiness, and expertise are highly valued. But with careful thought and a light touch, it can go a long way towards breaking the ice with skeptical or even hostile audiences, and reconnecting with existing customers. It should come as no surprise that once investors like you, they’ll be much more likely to give your pitches the attention they deserve, and invest in your products.