You are here

Online Humor: a Positive or Negative Tool for Brands?

la pertinence d’une réponse humoristique face à l’expression du mécontentement des clients sur les médias sociaux -c -Tero Vesalainen
Published on
17 November 2021

Mathieu Béal, Professor and Researcher in Marketing at Grenoble Ecole de Management, and Yany Grégoire, a Professor at HEC Montréal, analyzed how customers perceive humorous responses from companies when they express their dissatisfaction on social media. This research provides information not only on the appropriateness of a humorous response to customers' expressions of dissatisfaction, but also on the form of humor to be used according to the brand's identity. Let's take a look.

Mathieu Béal, Specialist in Services Marketing, analyzes customers' expressions of dissatisfaction on social media as a specific field of research. "We know how much the customers expressing dissatisfaction online can tarnish a company's reputation. When a customer complains, a whole community of Internet users sees the company's responses. In this context, a website has identified the best humorous online responses from companies. It turns out that when the company has fun with the situation, humor can generate a positive image of the company, because it will seem offbeat," says Mathieu Béal. The research conducted by the two Professors and Researchers, and published in the Journal of Service Research in February 2021, however, identified some significant points.

Benevolent Humor or Aggressive Humor?

To carry out their study, the authors based their research, on the one hand, on a field survey by analyzing companies' humorous responses on social media and, on the other hand, on two experiments based on different scenarios. The objective was to simultaneously capture the adverse effect - i.e. the negative effects induced by humor - and the favorable effects produced by humor when it is used on social media. 

"We therefore collected humorous tweets in response to online complaints and analyzed the reaction of other Internet users and customers. "Two types of humor were identified: affiliative, or benevolent humor (laughing with the complainant), and aggressive humor, which involves laughing at someone's expense - in this case, the complainant. "The results show that online users respond more favorably (in terms of likes, retweets, and purchase intent) when companies use affiliate humor rather than aggressive humor. "

Why? "Affiliate humor works best because it is 'abuse' that is perceived as benign by Internet users (Benign Violation Theory). It is a violation that is not serious in the eyes of the complainants. Hence its positive perception," notes Mathieu Béal.

An Inverse Effect According to Brand Identity

However, the last experiment carried out by the authors shows an inverse effect depending on the brand personality: while some brands should always favor affiliative humor, aggressive humor generates higher purchase intentions when linked to brands with an offbeat identity. 

For example, a brand like Disney, which has a traditional and good-natured image, will be better off opting for a humorous, affiliative tone. Whereas a brand like Burger King, with a young, dynamic, and "spicy" image, will be able to use aggressive humor to good effect.

In summary, the humorous tone used by a brand in its responses to customer complaints on the Internet should remain consistent with the brand identity. "When in doubt," concludes Mathieu Béal, "it is best to use affiliate humor. "

Read the study

On the same subject

  • Comportement des consommateurs : quelle influence a le sens des couleurs ?
    Published on 16 November 2021

    Comportement des consommateurs : quelle influence a le sens des couleurs ?

    Une étude récente a démontré comment le sens moral, associé à l’achat de produits de couleurs noir et blanc, peut influencer les comportements prosociaux des consommateurs, en générant un impact potentiel significatif sur le bien-être de la société.

  • Comportement des consommateurs : quelle influence a le sens des couleurs ?
    Published on 18 November 2021

    Color me moral: how the meaning of colors influence consumer behavior

    A recent study published in the scientific journal Psychology...

  • la pertinence d’une réponse humoristique face à l’expression du mécontentement des clients sur les médias sociaux -c -Tero Vesalainen
    Published on 16 November 2021

    Réseaux sociaux et insatisfaction client : misez sur l’humour

    Une recherche récente renseigne sur la pertinence d’une réponse humoristique face à l’expression du mécontentement des clients sur les médias sociaux, et sur la forme d’humour à employer selon l’identité de la marque.

  • Comment construire (et préserver) son réseau professionnel en télétravail ?
    Published on 12 July 2021

    How can you build (and maintain) your professional network while working from home?

    Barthelemy Chollet, a professor at Grenoble Ecole de Management and a specialist in interpersonal networks, gives his recommendations for maintaining professional relationships when working remotely.

  • la majorité des personnes qui opte pour un plat froid sous-estime sa valeur réelle en calories
    Published on 09 July 2021

    When eating cold food means eating more food

    International research shows that the temperature of a dish, depending on whether it is served hot or cold, can potentially change our perception of its objective calorie content.

  • Réseaux sociaux : doit-on encadrer les filtres de beauté ?
    Published on 13 April 2021

    Should beauty filters on social media be regulated?

    The "ETIC" research program is investigating the adverse effects that digital images can potentially cause, with specific focus on the impact that beauty filters can have on users who are most exposed to the pressures of today's beauty ideals.

  • Messages publicitaires : s’adapter aux valeurs culturelles. L’exemple de la Corée du sud
    Published on 15 March 2021

    Advertising messages: adapting to cultural values. The example of South Korea.

    A study conducted in South Korea examined the effectiveness of advertising messages broadcast in this rapidly growing market with Confucian cultural traditions, in comparison to globalized advertisements based on more individualistic values.

  • Nom de marques. Comment communiquer l’action par la sonorité ? copy metamorworks
    Published on 13 January 2021

    Brand names: How and why does sonority impact perception?

    How can the sound of a brand name influence a customer’s perception? New research explains that occlusive consonants (b, d, p, t) suggest greater action and therefore positively impact customer perceptions.

  • Accroître la valeur d'un produit de masse via la co-conception  c oksana nazarchuk
    Published on 10 January 2021

    The advantages of co-creating with customers

    Co-creation programs such as the massive online personalization program “Design your own Converse” offer interesting marketing advantages. Recent study results help us better understand the impact on customer experience and loyalty.

  • Service Freemium : lorsque la qualité fait la différence
    Published on 20 January 2020

    Freemium offers: quality the key to converting free users?

    Free digital services have become so commonplace that converting users to premium offers has become a major challenge for many digital companies. New research highlights quality as a key factor in successfully implementing a freemium strategy.

  • Service Freemium : lorsque la qualité fait la différence
    Published on 20 January 2020

    Service Freemium : lorsque la qualité fait la différence

    Des recherches récentes soulignent l’importance de la perception des consommateurs dans le succès d’une stratégie de service « Freemium » (gratuit + premium).

  • Le dilemme des achats responsables à Noël
    Published on 16 December 2019

    Trending: buying an ethical Christmas gift...

    Christmas is a time for giving…” or maybe a time for shopping should we say. How can Christmas shopping and sustainable consumerism join paths?

  • Le dilemme des achats responsables à Noël
    Published on 16 December 2019

    Achats responsables : le dilemme de Noël

    A Noël, quels sont les arbitrages entre une consommation responsable et l’offre pléthorique de biens de consommation ? Le point avec Aurélie Merle, professeure associée de marketing à Grenoble Ecole de Management

  • Marcos Barros
    Published on 18 November 2019

    Social media: creating a virtual environment that fosters democratic debate

    Social media has revolutionized how information is shared. Whereas mass media and companies used to have relatively strong control over how ideas were communicated, social networks have created a virtual environment in which individuals can freely...

  • Energie. La régulation des prix décourage la concurrence
    Published on 20 October 2019

    Energy: price regulation discourages competition

    A new European study analyzes the impact of price regulation on competitiveness in the European energy market. After 20 years of moving towards a liberalized energy market, the study notes that many countries report limited motivation by customers...

  • Des catalogues digitaux enrichis… Pour quoi faire ?
    Published on 16 September 2019

    Digitally enhanced catalogs… A winning promise?

    3D images, videos, detailed product files… Digitally enhanced catalogs offer a new, trendy marketing tool. Yet research confirms that such enhancements aren’t necessarily a worthy investment.

  • L’Art peut-il avoir une influence positive sur la perception d’une marque, d’un produit ou d’un service
    Published on 21 July 2019

    Research and art: nourishing a virtuous cycle at GEM

    Can art positively influence our perception of a brand? WIth the cooperation of a local artist, GEM researchers explore the impact of art on GEM customers.

  • La recherche prospective : épicentre de l’innovation
    Published on 22 July 2019

    Forward-looking search: encouraging cutting-edge innovation

    Innovation is at the heart of business growth, in particular for dynamic sectors such as the high tech industry. To encourage radical innovation, it’s essential to integrate a future-oriented search and analysis process throughout an innovation...

  • Comment réhabiliter les sens dans un environnement numérique ?
    Published on 24 May 2019

    How to re-integrate our senses in a digital environment?

    The 90s brought sensorial experiences to physical shops. With the digital revolution, how can we bring the same experiences to digital environments?

  • Caroline Cuny, GEM
    Published on 24 January 2019

    How can you encourage the success of a new product?

    Despite great design, some new products still bomb. New research highlights that such failures could be due to a lack of harmony between product design and market position.

  • Comment l’expérience patient peut-elle revitaliser notre système de soin ?
    Published on 27 September 2018

    How can the patient experience revitalize our healthcare system?

    Renewed interest in patient feedback and improving the patient experience could mark the beginning of a patient-oriented culture. Thanks to a recent workshop, more than 60 players in the healthcare industry were able to discuss and exchange about...

  • les fondamentaux pour bien gérer son marketing personnel.
    Published on 12 July 2018

    The fundamentals of personal marketing

    Successful personal marketing is an art. How can you go beyond compulsive tweeting or an excessive use of social networks in order to create a solid strategy to build and maintain your e-reputation?

  • David Gotteland est professeur de marketing à Grenoble Ecole de Management
    Published on 21 June 2018

    How Can You Create a Reliable Innovation Process?

    Formatted, creative methods with a framework enable scientifically proven increases in innovation processes. The stakes are high as only 15% of innovative ideas at a company end up as financial and commercial successes.

  • Comment les primes influent la vente de produits neufs ou recyclés ?
    Published on 19 June 2018

    Sales Incentives: Balancing New and Remanufactured Goods

    Remanufactured goods can provide companies with higher profit margins. But, it’s essential for companies to implement a strategy that adequately balances the sale of new and remanufactured products.

  • Can TV Characters Teach Us About Management?
    Published on 14 September 2017

    Can TV Characters Teach Us About Management?

    From Mad Men to The Sopranos or The Walking Dead, discover the management wisdom of characters in popular TV series.

  • fornerino-marianela
    Published on 19 April 2017

    Sensory Marketing: Reinventing the Customer Experience

    How can images, sounds, smells, touch and taste impact a customer’s intention to purchase?

  • research on Contextual Television Advertising
    Published on 28 February 2017

    Research: Questioning the Effectiveness of Contextual Television Advertising

    As businesses and marketing go digital, companies have to track the effectiveness of their advertising across many channels. The growth of online transactions has made website conversions an essential factor for many businesses. Thanks to detailed...

  • research on Contextual Television Advertising
    Published on 28 February 2017

    Recherche : Quelle efficacité pour la publicité contextuelle à la télévision ?

    Du fait de la digitalisation de leurs activités économiques et marketing, les entreprises se préoccupent de plus en plus de l’efficacité de leurs campagnes publicitaires. Le taux de conversion, mesuré comme le nombre de transactions en ligne par...

  • research on logo makeover perception
    Published on 18 October 2016

    Time for a Logo Makeover? Make it a Hit!

    A logo represents a brand’s image. It highlights its values and market position. Changing your logo can be a delicate transition. How can you ensure a smooth change? In January 2014, Grenoble Ecole de Management unveiled its new logo. Caroline Cuny...

  • research on logo makeover perception
    Published on 18 October 2016

    A nouveau logo, nouvelle image : comment réussir la transition ?

    En janvier 2014, Grenoble Ecole de Management affichait un nouveau logo, aux couleurs de ses performances et de ses orientations. Caroline Cuny et Marianela Fornerino, professeurs au département marketing à GEM, et Julien Grobert, ancien assistant...

  • Published on 19 March 2017

    Easy-to-Read Food Labels Increase Intention to Purchase

    The battle for healthy food has become a worldwide concern. Public health agencies have invested energy and resources in fighting health risks such as obesity. In this battle, food labels that indicate nutritional facts have come to play a vital...

  • Published on 19 March 2017

    Recherche : Informations nutritionnelles, gare à l’effet boomerang des efforts de clarté

    Plus la fiche d'informations nutritionnelles d'un produit est lisible et facile à assimiler, plus les intentions d'achat des consommateurs augmentent. Y compris si le produit est mauvais pour la santé ! Un éclairage inédit sur les efforts de...

  • Published on 22 June 2015

    Research: Microeconomic Degrowth, Community Supported Agriculture

    Economic growth is the cornerstone of mainstream macroeconomics. In the face of economic crises and unemployment, growth has long been the only acceptable solution. Yet many issues have started to challenge this dominant economic model. As a result...

  • Published on 16 January 2015

    Nostalgia makes consumers more likely to spend or donate money

    The use of nostalgia has been a top trend in marketing in the last few years, in commercials, product lines and even TV shows. The present study demonstrates that feeling nostalgic weakens the desire to hold on to money, and makes it easier to part...