How to Use Humor in Senior Living Marketing


Knock knock. Who’s there?

Senior Living Marketing Humor. Senior Living Marketing Humor who?

Yeah, exactly.

When it comes to using humor in advertising and marketing, the rules tend to change according to what industry you’re in. Shilling cat food? Amusing. Pushing new cars? Kinda funny. Selling tacos? Hilarious. Promoting senior living? Ummm …

While today’s kids are LOLing their way through text conversations and exchanging memes, GIFs, and TikTok fodder, those of us at the grownups’ table are sometimes deemed out of touch with what’s funny. Sure, the barometer for what’s considered humorous may change with age, but many seniors are still very much in touch with their funny bones. Expressive baby videos, celebrity impersonations on TV, a good play on words in text, and yes poking fun at themselves from time to time can elicit a senior giggle.

Getting laughs may not be the strategy of choice for YOUR community, but there is an argument to be made for a bit of levity when it comes to products and services that directly benefit seniors. Older people do, after all, have a sense of humor. And it’s likely more sophisticated than the pull-my-finger jokes we tend to associate with fourth-grade boys and old men.

For marketers and brands aiming for hilarity and high jinks in their work, the game is twofold: being memorable and being relatable. A study from Oracle found that 90% of people were more likely to remember a brand’s ad if it was funny, while 48% said they didn’t feel they had a relationship with a brand unless it made them smile or laugh. Compelling statistics, but those of us selling a lifestyle (and not cat food) may hesitate to go for the punch line in our marketing efforts.

Why So Serious?

The reasons for staying on the straight and narrow — as opposed to playing it fast, funny, and loose — in senior living messaging tend to center around respect. We in no way want to insult the very consumers we hope to educate and influence. And that’s good reason to avoid even the chance of offending our audience.

Another point of view is the very real need to show results. Many brands may doubt humor’s power to push a sale through to close. We have a job to do, after all. It’s nice to entertain our prospects, but will communication that gets a laugh move someone to conversion? Will they call, click, visit or refer because we’re clever?

Before even considering whether humor will be an effective tool in your marketing bag of tricks, think about both who you are — the realistic aspect of your brand — and who you want to attract — the aspirational direction of your brand.

Boomer Humor

With the enormous group of baby boomers now firmly ensconced on your prospect lists of age- and income-qualified seniors, it’s a good idea to revisit what we know about this diverse generation:

  • They’re online. A lot. This indicates they’ve seen (and most likely laughed at) those cat videos.
  • They’re educated. So what they find amusing is typically nuanced and smart.
  • They’ve worked very hard. They’re proud of their accomplishments and often their stuff.
  • They’re supporting their grown children or even helping grandchildren financially. Greg lives in the basement because he’s saving for a house. He’s probably going to be there a while.
  • They’ve inspired their very own catchphrase/internet meme. “OK, boomer” is millennials’ and Gen Z’s way of good-naturedly dismissing the dad-joking, tattoo-judging, overly careful-driving baby boomer. Seniors are smart enough to be in on the joke. Hey, we recognize ourselves in those Progressive Insurance commercials!

Does Funny Fit Your Brand?

So boomers are smart, they respond to clever, and they’re apt to be somewhat self-deprecating. But does funny business align with your particular community brand — your audience profile, specifically your personas? (Urgent sidenote: If you don’t have personas developed for your community, please stop reading this and get in touch with Angell Marketing. You need them, and we can tell you why.) Your personas are not simply hanging out on Page 27 of your strategic marketing plan; they are important tools when constructing messaging! Take a look at your personas and consider whether Martha, Deanna & Mitch, and Amy’s adult daughter, Leyla, will connect with a lighthearted touch in your next direct mail.

How your brand represents itself across channels doesn’t have to be static, but it does have to be YOU. There is almost always room for fun in marketing materials: a pithy turn of phrase, a compelling headline, a punny CTA. But just like any other marketing message, humor needs to align with the strategy of the tactic being considered and it needs to represent your brand authentically.

Go for the Grin, Not the Guffaw

If there is room in your brand for funny — and we suspect there is — consider humor that’s breezy and amusing. Humor designed to make someone smile, not necessarily slap their knee. Obviously, that’s subjective, much like any other creative messaging your agency partner or community team puts in front of you. But remember that the messaging is targeting your prospect, not you. Go back to your personas. Ask Mitch what he thinks. Spend some time with it. If it ultimately feels too risky, take a pass. If it feels authentic to your brand and would make your personas smile, give levity a chance.

Again, creative content is subjective. Something we really “like” today might feel “blah” tomorrow. Think about your audience. Think about your goals (Capturing eyeballs! Moving people to action!). And think about your approach. Consider putting up some guardrails that help keep your brand on track to endearment. A few things to keep in mind when you’re penning or reviewing content you think is fun or funny:

  • Be nice, not biting. Insults and name-calling are not funny.
  • Be light, not divisive. Steer clear of politics and religion.
  • Be smart, not crude. Leave the bodily function jokes to the 9-year-olds. They’re better at it, anyway.

In the ever-more crowded space in which we are building, marketing, and selling, maybe making grandma grin does put us one step closer to boosting occupancy. At Angell Marketing, we have a good sense of what works. And sometimes that sense is one of humor. Connect with us to see if funny business can work for you.

In the meantime: What did Zero say to Eight? Shoot our Creative Director an email to find out!

Featured Image: Lori Beneteau / Shutterstock