Tom Levers

Humor in Marketing and Sales – We all enjoy a laugh… so why do we not do it enough?

According to Andrew Carnegie, “There’s little success where there’s little laughter.” That would seem to suggest that most presentations, marketing projects, and sales conversations are not very successful.

Humor is one of the most influential and non-threatening modes of communication available. It is a communication and leadership tool that:

1.       Makes you and your message memorable

2.       Makes you approachable

3.       Reduces stress and enables people to have more fun

4.       Engenders an attitude of openness and positive possibilities

5.       Is associated with intellect, creativity and performance

6.       Can create a sustainable, supportive, and empowering culture

Often the creative use of humor is non-existant in Business to Business Product Marketing and Sales. It may be because humor is a “Craft” and it does not translate to Analytic Performance Metrics on a website or direct response campaign.

Different types of humor work best in different contexts. Many speakers begin with a joke or quote to put the audience at ease, or a story about ‘a funny thing that happened on the way to the meeting.’

Quotes and Jokes are good, but jokes and stories are less appropriate for written communications. Jokes can be misinterpreted and depend on delivery and timing for their effectiveness. Stories can take too long to tell.

With this in mind everyone should work to have a few quotes, jokes and comics that work for a lot of their marketing and sales efforts.  Here are some techniques in the Tech industry for using humor.


– The nice thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from. – Andrew S. Tannenbaum ( )

 – 640K ought to be enough for anybody. – Bill Gates, 1981

– For years there has been a theory that millions of monkeys typing at random on millions of typewriters would reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. The Internet has proven this theory to be untrue. – Anonymous

– I think there is a world market for maybe five computers. – IBM Chairman Thomas Watson, 1943

– Those parts of the system that you can hit with a hammer are called hardware; those program instructions that you can only curse at are called software. – Anonymous

– Everything that can be invented has been invented. – Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents,1899

– Get your feet off my desk, get out of here, you stink, and we’re not going to buy your product. – Joe Keenan, President of Atari (1976), responding to Steve Jobs’ offer to sell him rights to the new personal computer he and Steve Wozniak developed.

– There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home. – Ken Olson (President of Digital Equipment Corporation) at the Convention of the World Future Society in Boston in 1977.



If you’ve been in the information technology industry for a number of years, certain jokes tend to pop up again and again. It’s because their underlying premises, the things that make them applicable and funny, continue to occur. So even if you’ve heard these before (and that’s probably the case), it’s worth taking a few moments and consider what makes them timeless. Even jokes have morals to the story. Sometimes especially jokes. Such as…

A Software Engineer and a Departmental Manager were on their way to a meeting. They were driving down a steep mountain road when suddenly the brakes on their car failed. The car careened almost out of control down the road, bouncing off the crash barriers, until it miraculously ground to a halt scraping along the mountainside. The car’s occupants, shaken but unhurt, now had a problem: they were stuck halfway down a mountain in a car with no brakes. What were they to do?


“I know,” said the Departmental Manager, “Let’s have a meeting, propose a Vision, formulate a Mission Statement, define some Goals, and by a process of Continuous Improvement find a solution to the Critical Problems, and we can be on our way.”


“Well,” said the Software Engineer, “Before we do anything, I think we should push the car back up the road and see if it happens again.”


OR here is a quick One Liner for a Software Company…

“If at first you don’t succeed, call it version 1.0”


IT people (like all people who spend a lot of time building a specific expertise) tend to focus on one solution to solve many problems. They latch onto a particular technical approach (Agile, Cloud, Virtualization, whatever…). But somewhere it often becomes the solution to all problems.  This tunnel vision that lacks introspection creates a rigidity that’s almost always detrimental… but can be funny! So humor always has an underlying moral. Here is my weak attempt at using IT humor while promoting a product solution called “System Center”

 A “CIO”, a “Virtualization Mgr”, and “Microsoft System Center Admin” walk into a bar.

The CIO says “See this empty room? I can blink and fill this bar room with people who want to drink  … just by using “ Virtualization Software”.

The Virtualization Mgr says to the CIO, “Watch this!” He snaps his fingers and every person has 2 drinks.

The CIO and the Virtualization Mgr gives each other high fives and they turn to Admin, who has been quietly standing, watching the bravado. Then the Virtualization  Mgr says, “I bet you can’t beat that one!”

The MS Admin slowly looks at the CIO and the Virtualization Mgr…  then he claps his hand and nothing happens… and the two others laugh!!

So he turns to the CIO and the Virtualization Guy and says…“Don’t laugh too hard, as the bartender I am the only one who can take your car keys away if you don’t “Virtualize” responsibly!”


But Cartoons work best in Print

Humor operates on an emotional level, driving home your message in a far more memorable way than words alone. It summarizes and reinforces points that would otherwise be lost.  Often it is the illustration that is the first thing you look at on a page. So Marketing and Cartoons can only be created by a process of  “Build”, “Buy” or “Pay to Reuse” approach. “Build” can be expensive, “Buy” costs and can vary have gone down due to the stock photo industry business model, so with a small budget you can have the choice of “Buying” the art and “Adding the Joke”.  I try to use the The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Approach

System Center Consulting Opportunity

Often abbreviated as MST3K it is an Americancult television comedy series created by Joel Hodgson and produced by Best Brains, Inc., that ran in the 90s. The series features a man and his robot sidekicks who add their commentary to existing movies ie creative good and bad! So look for illustrations (always get IP rights) and put your custom captions into the Cartoon. I have used this approach  here. So enjoy and try it yourself… you will see the results.



Humor can add a visual dimension to your marketing, differentiating your message from your competitor’s. It really encourages readers to look at concepts and topics they might otherwise skip.

Many marketers feel the risk is too great and often too hard. So remember why you should attempt to use humor, too…. Marketing Humor







Famous Software Cartoon