The Pet Frog Effect: Using Humor in your Brand Strategy

November 18, 2015 Zach Saul

Humor in brand strategy

As a young employee, I remember how nervous I felt before job interviews; I would rehearse responses in my head, try to envision scenarios in which i was stumped by tough questioning and plan a reply. In no way am I diminishing the importance of practicing for interviews, but after a few interviews I realized something important: Companies might not be people, but they’re made up of people, who enjoy a good laugh just like me.  


Humor is an appropriate, and often underrated, means of boosting morale and achieving your business goals.

Because they interact so closely with your customers your salespeople are in a great position to use humor as part of the brand strategy. A group of buyers were sent to bid on a precious piece art hoping to get the best deal possible from what they thought was a straightforward negotiation. What they didn’t know was that half the salespeople told buyers they would ‘throw in their pet frog’, as part of the deal and half did not. The group of buyers that was told about the pet frog bought the art piece at a final price significantly higher that the group that wasn’t, and were more receptive to negotiation on price. Customers in the pet frog group felt that the salespeople were more down to earth appreciated their candor, and opened their wallets accordingly.

Advertising is a prime example of an area where well placed jokes, and ‘tongue and cheek’ taglines benefit your bottom line. In the information age, getting noticed has become extremely difficult for marketers and adding a seventh exclamation point is only going to do so much for your viewership. Some fear humor detracts from the message you’re trying to convey: but this isn’t always true. Below is an excellent example of a funny, effective and relevant print ad that Volkswagen released to demonstrate the parking accuracy of their cars, and is a great example of incorporating humor into the brand strategy.  


“Customers don’t want to interact with a company, they want to interact with people —funny people.” -

Peter McGraw, Behavioral Economics Expert, Director of the Humor Research Lab

When people interact with companies, or even when employees interact with their managers it's worth remembering that although companies can feel like entities at times, they're comprised of people not so different from you or me. Millions of Americans read the ‘Dilbert’ comics each Sunday, which is a great example of office humor managers and employees alike can appreciate. Creator Scott Adams says Dilbert is so impactful because it acknowledges “the strangeness of the power dynamic between managers and employees”. Hierarchy is necessary in every organization, but it does create some bizarre, unnatural feeling scenarios for those involved.  

Acknowledging and communicating about real human experiences, even the seemingly uncomfortable ones is cornerstone to successful engagement strategy. Companies can often feel intimidating for those outside (and even inside) of them, and humor is as good a method as any to humanize your company, and reach your end customers.


Remember that your employee engagement strategy is a subset of your brand strategy, and the two must align to create a strong brand experience.

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About the Author

Zach Saul

Zach Saul is a Graphic Designer, Content Writer, and Marketer for

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