Cisco's marketing manager, Tim Washer, on why B-to-B marketing needs more humor.

We recently came across an article explaining how Cisco's marketing manager, Tim Washer, says B-to-B marketing needs more humor. Naturally, we're inclined to agree. Here's an article we wrote a couple of years ago on how to achieve higher social engagement by adding humor.


What catches your attention when you’re surfing a dizzying amount of information, while doing ten things at once? Unless you’re one of the few people who can search a specific topic, click only on completely relevant links, and maintain focus for several minutes at a time, chances are it will a headline or photo that triggers an emotion.

What causes an emotional response differs significantly from one person to the next. However the most universal trigger is laughter. Laughter sounds the same in every language. While it can be risky to use humor when promoting a serious product, it’s never risky to use as a way to connect with people.


1. Self Deprecation- This may seem counter-intuitive in business if the key to effective marketing is to communicate the value of your product or service, and the definition of self deprecation is to belittle or undervalue oneself. However, the reason so many comedians use self deprecating humor, is to gain empathy. There’s no reason a company can’t use it for the same purpose, as long as you don’t undermine the value of your product or service. The beauty of social media is the ability to connect with every one of your customers and potential customers individually. Here’s an example for a cleaning service;

We won’t make you skinnier, or help you find your soul mate, but we will make sure your house is clean.

2. Poke fun at your Industry – It will help you stand out if it’s clear that working with you or buying your product will be fun. Take the business of social media for example. Why would someone want to work with you, when there are so many companies doing the same thing? Sure you’ve produced a host of successful campaigns, but so have a hundred others. It’s no secret that plenty of people are overwhelmed and confused by Social Media. The only thing they know is they have to be in it. Here’s an example;

There’s a fine line between social media marketing, and wasting your life away.

3. Have Fun with a News Story- One way to drive engagement is to curate content that already exists. Link to, or reference a funny news story, and relate it back to what your product or service. Show that your company is fun. For a gym or personal trainer;

 Caffeinated Pants; They may not help you lose weight, but they will help if your leg falls asleep.

Caffeinated Pants; They may not help you lose weight, but they will help if your leg falls asleep.

4. Write, or Re-purpose a Joke – that relates to your product or service. Here’s one for a company that makes dog food;

Food that’s so good, you’ll be saying to your dog, Stop Eating Like an Animal 

5. Use Dark Humor to Make a Point  Sometimes you need an edge. When there’s a topic that makes you angry, or is of such importance, it may fall short to make a lighthearted joke. Sometimes cynicism, or a caustic take on a subject can help to get people’s attention, and perhaps spark action, or debate.

 Remember when people used to deny that smoking was bad for you.

Remember when people used to deny that smoking was bad for you.

Whether it’s through tweets, blog, or Facebook posts, captions for a picture on Instagram,  These techniques can all help to spark engagement with your target audience.

What do you think about using humor for social media marketing? Do you think the potential risk is worth the potential reward?