OPINION28 January 2015

Humour is a serious business for kids

Opinion Youth

If you want to have a conversation with young people, then you need to know how to speak their language. At the moment one of their most favourite techniques is that of humour explains Emma Worrollo.

Humour has always been an important part of children’s entertainment, but lately it’s gone beyond important. Over the past few years it’s shifted from being desired and enjoyed to integral, a key factor of engagement and a marker of engagement success. As a generation raised on YouTube, young people have enjoyed unique access to titillating and sharable bursts of comedy.

After a boring day at school YouTube cheered them up. It treated them to uncensored humorous content when they were fan-girling over their favourite artist and when they needed to impress their mates with something cool and new.

But it’s not just the access that’s placed a greater demand and significance on humour. A glance in the direction of a child’s weekly schedule will assure you that they need it too. Over the past few years we’ve seen an increase in the over-scheduling of kids’ lives. There’s a lot to fit in; play is more structured, less spontaneous and free, and homework and school pressure is greater. Many experience a 24/7 learning culture encouraged by parents. It’s unsurprising that kids today just want to kick back, switch off, and laugh their heads off at cats trying to get into small boxes.

So if humour is everywhere and kids want more, if marketers and researchers aren’t making them laugh, are you talking to them at all?

In a recent workshop a nine year old told me candidly: “If it makes you laugh you like it, if you like it, you buy it.” She seemed so assured and at ease with this simple process. I was envious of her reality check on the complex marketing process, but is it really that simple?

After digging into this a bit further, including conducting an entire study on ‘the meaning of random’ for a client, I can confirm that while it might look like kids are laughing at random things to the untrained eye, it’s not quite that simple.

Humour needs to be effortless. It needs to be integrated into what’s happening. Kids are looking for the humour embedded in the story – and the story can now be 15 minutes or 15 seconds long. Humour needs to be part of the action, not the action, which all adds to the randomness and spontaneity they enjoy.

This advice applies directly to brands. If you are going to start adopting the language of humour, then you better make sure you know how to speak it. As the same nine year old later informed me: “You can tell when adults have sat down and gone – hmmm, what do kids find funny, a panda in a cowboy hat. Ugh, that’s just so not cool.” Back to the drawing board then.

Emma Worrollo is managing director at The Pineapple Lounge