Read Time: 5 min

Using humor in email marketing: webinar recording + Q&A


Everyone loves a funny email. But a lot of companies fall flat when trying to use humor in their own campaigns, leaving their subscribers groaning and their metrics tanking. That’s why we asked two of the funniest people in email—Mike Nelson from Really Good Emails and Lianna Patch from Punchline Conversion Copywriting—to chat through how to successfully incorporate humor into your own email campaigns. And vegetables sending emails, naturally.

Didn’t have a chance to watch the webinar live? Don’t worry. You can access the full recording at any time and read the Q&A below.


Thank you to everyone who chimed in during the webinar with a question! Here’s a recap of our answers to the most popular questions, along with our take on some of the questions we didn’t get to during the live webinar.

I create content for a global brand and want to make sure the humor works for as wide of an audience as possible. What are some things to keep in mind as we’re planning content?

Mike: RGE casts a pretty wide net of email marketers in every industry (charities to banks to politicians to whatever else you can think of) all over the world. First thing to do is to consult your major markets’ holidays and keep an eye on global news. You never want to say something like “this content is fire” when someone is dealing with the largest wildfires in history. You won’t always get it right, but doing a quick scan and being nimble with your content (i.e. having a backup) can help a lot. Also, stick to things that are globally recognizable, such as Nicholas Cage or Pizza. It will make the joke land easier than having to explain what that thing is to people who are not familiar with it.

Lianna: I’m 100% with Mike here. I like to say that there are some humor topics or approaches that are more “universal”— think cute babies, people falling but NOT getting hurt, and cute animals. When in doubt, go for visual humor over written jokes. Also, before publishing, do a quick “idiom scan” to make sure you’re not using country- or culture-specific phrases (for example, “think outside the box”).

I feel like it’s easier for us to be humorous on our social channels than it is in email. How can we “sell” this idea internally?

Mike: Would it be easier to add some of your social media posts into your emails? It is content that has already been created and would reinforce your audience following you on social (if that is a metric you want to improve). Also, social media usually allows for things to be more “rough around the edges” so you may want to see what concepts you can apply from your social media strategy that can be converted to a more buttoned-up experience in your email. Showing a few tests / concepts of what that would look like is likely to get you closer to breaking down that barrier.

Lianna: Email is the BEST place for humor because it’s the one place you’re talking directly with your readers!! It’s the closest thing you’re gonna get to a one-on-one conversation (unless you get reeeeaaal stalkery). Plus, you can elicit feedback with a simple reply. What’s not to love?? Also, remember you don’t have to go full Borat. Try adding humor into a few small places first, like subject lines, preview copy, unsubscribe copy, photo captions, and even alt text.

We have a lot of opinions on our team about content (both written and visuals). How can we make sure we’re gathering diverse feedback but not running into a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation?

Lianna: The chucklebuck has to stop somewhere. By which I mean: somebody needs to be the ultimate brand voice decider. It’s better to have these conversations up-front before starting to publish funn(y/ier) copy. As folks’ opinions become known, start putting together a reference-able, living document that gives specific examples of what the brand does and doesn’t say.

Are there any issues with copyright using gifs?

Lianna: If there are, I’m f****d.

How do you balance providing subscribers some humor, without it being too try-hard? Is there a line to know if you’re doing too much?

Mike: My rule of thumb is to not do more than one joke per content block. If you find an angle where you want to add more, just be subtle about it. We showed off a couple examples in the Webinar where some brands put easter eggs throughout the content which kept people reading on because they were looking for that next laugh.

Lianna: Lol Mike that was my rule. OK fine we can both have the same rule. Also, if you’re worried about overdoing it, be like Coco Chanel and take off (out) the last thing you put on (in). That’s pretty clear, right?

Any recommendations for more reading on humor theory?

Lianna: Why soitenly! That’s what I do: