It amazes me how much time people spend trying to figure out what I’m buying (which is very little) and what my Internet habits are, when I could just tell you.
Most would argue that it started with the extremely catchy ad campaign for the VW bug in the 1960s (See image at left) and I would go as far as to say that self effacing humor as a means for selling your product is only going to increase in effectiveness, because apparently it’s the only thing I trust.
One of the best examples comes from Microsoft’s 2012 campaign that read “The browser you love[d] to hate”.
HA! It’s great! It’s catchy! But most importantly it makes fun of itself, innately creating a bond between Microsoft and me. I don’t even own a Microsoft computer and I haven’t used Internet explorer since 2006, and although I may not know it, I trust Microsoft.
In a study about language it was found that “speakers often self-deprecate in order to be on the same interactional plane, to be in equilibrium with each other”, so in other words, thanks for coming down to my level Microsoft.
This is how the phenomenon works: Microsoft’s ability to poke fun at itself makes them vulnerable, giving me the upper hand in the situation and in turn creates trust. So yeah, I’m not using IE9 or running out and buying a Microsoft computer, but at the very least it got people under the age of 46 talking about them again.
Let’s take it even further and analyze why you want to use self-effacing humor to target the ever elusive millennial.
Although it isn’t an ad, an example that cannot be ignored is Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. Yes, The Daily Show is a satire but the amount of people who consume, and trust Jon Stewart is amazing. It was found in 2009 that “56% of young people get their news from [Jon Stewart]”. That’s a lot. BUT WHY?? So some guys at Springer Science did this study and they figured out that “humor in general has persuasive power”.
It’s probably the reason why Tina Fey sells Garnier Fructis hair color, Bill Cosby sold Jello, and Ellen Degeneres sells makeup.
I don’t know about you, but when I think about pretty hair color, I don’t think about Tina Fey (sorry Tina), but there’s a reason they endorse - we trust them.
“It’s been shown that when an information source frequently defames its own credibility in a humorous style, it ironically gains credibility among viewers, thus increasing its persuasive power.”
If you put these pieces together you might have figured out that what the majority of young people want to consume is humor and humor makes us trust you.
So next time you’re trying to sell the millennial on your product, just tell us a knock-knock joke or something, we seem to trust that.
Sources:  Morris, Jonathan. “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Audience Attitude Change During the 2004 Party Conventions.” Http://electra.lmu.edu/. Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008, 06 May 2008. Web. 21 Aug. 2014;  Kim, Myung H. “William H. Hannon Library Proxy Server Authentication.”William H. Hannon Library Proxy Server Authentication. Journal of Pragmatics, 0 Aug. 2014. Web. 20 Aug. 2014.