The Importance of Humour in Business and Communication

The penultimate episode of Alan Sugar’s BBC reality series, The Apprentice, highlights the understanding of humour to achieve successful advertising. Both teams designed and created an online dating concept backed up by an original advertising campaign.

Although the outcome had you squirming in your seat, the basic understanding of using humour was key. It also helped the team to win and spend the afternoon at The Mayfair sampling caviar.

…So it must be good.

It seems that the aim of modern advertising is no longer to inform, but to entertain. If the idea of an advert is to make a product memorable, then humour definitely works.

Humour has the ability to break down language barriers – humorous advertising in particular will have lasting effects, be memorable and require little explanation.

Since the introduction of humour in TV advertising in the 1960s, there have been so many great examples of successful advertising campaigns using humour as the magic ingredient. Drum-playing gorillas, shopping-mall flash mobs, and that heavily parodied Budweiser ad from 1999 are some of the more modern examples.

We can certainly take business lessons from this.

Involving humour with the things we do professionally both as a company and as individuals will have a direct effect on the way we are portrayed.

Humour in business can lead to learning, productivity and communication – it goes without saying that people are more likely to be happy in their work environment if it is a positive one.

In fact, it is proven that humour with leadership helps people to get along and get things done. Though, my advice to you… don’t take any lessons from David Brent. No one, and I repeat, no one wants to be a David Brent.

One thing you can’t knock some of TV’s business characters for, however, is communication. Nev Wilshire in particular. Communication is key for both internal and external business relationships and building a sense of company persona.

In an attempt to improve communications across all offices within the company, I asked the marketing team to create an internal company newsletter to accompany our intranet site, ‘JO’.

The idea of this is to keep GDS staff up-to-date with the lighter side of business, using a familiar and relaxed format. The newsletter is published weekly and sent via email with company news, employee announcements, charity fundraising stories, and upcoming events.

As a global company, the newsletter will hopefully be a step in the right direction to bringing the offices closer, despite the distance.

One thing that we need to remember is; keeping things fun and engaging will make people happy. Something that we often forget is that work is work but it doesn’t have to be dull.


About Spencer Green

Spencer Green founded GDS Publishing Ltd in October 1993 to specialise in industrial, government-led publications for the burgeoning Chinese market. The company launched over forty business-to-business titles, was name-checked alongside Tony Blair on China’s national news as ‘best for Chinese business’, and – following a move into India – deemed to be ‘of national importance’ by the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. In 1998, GDS Publishing became GDS International and launched its first conference, Enterprise China. The hugely successful Enterprise series of conferences was rolled out across China and Latin America in the next two years. In 2000, GDS International launched its first Senior Executive Summit under the ‘Next Generation’ banner. This became the catalyst for nine years of 25% year-on-year growth... and 40% growth in 2010. In 2011, GDS held over 70 Summits for C-level Executives from a wide range of industries and across the globe, and eight digital marketing conferences. Today, GDS International is determined to become the world’s no. 1 business-to-business media and services company. It’s going to be an exciting journey! Spencer is married to Emily. They have two children, Finlay and Maya, and live in Bristol, UK.
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