funny emails

Funny Email Examples: How to Use Humor in Marketing

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Humor in marketing can be risky because humor doesn’t always translate on the page the way the writer intends. Writing funny emails isn’t quite the same thing as making a funny TV or radio commercial. 

So, can we use humor strategically in email marketing? Or is it just a waste of time?

National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member Karyn Buxman doesn’t think so. She has charted a career as a self-proclaimed “neurohumorist.”

Buxman has studied humor intensively. She’s found that humor builds trust, in part because it increases positive brain activity. When someone, or some company, makes you laugh, your trust in that person or company increases. Do you want your customers to trust you? Humor may help.

As Buxman put it in one of her live presentations, there are two kinds of people in the world: “Those who bring joy to the room, and those who bring joy when they leave.”

Humor helps your marketing stand out. It gets more attention. It helps create a deeper and more loyal connection with your audience. 

All that said, you need to use humor carefully, at the appropriate times. For instance, if you’re a marketer, you’ll get this joke:

Q: Why did the woman dump her marketer boyfriend? 
A: Lack of engagement.

Of course, if you send that joke out to your email list, and you sell clothing, fitness coaching, pet products, or any number of products and services that aren’t marketing, you’ll get a lot of confused reactions. 

Funny email marketing examples

When you’re aiming for the funny bone, timing matters, audience matters, and of course, having a sense of humor matters, too.

Let’s look at some specific ways you can inject humor into your email marketing. 

Funny email subject lines

The subject line is where you capture attention, so it’s arguably the best place to use humor. Really Good Emails definitely did that with a subject line that pushed the envelope and made us all do a double-take.

Subject line: I shipped my pants

RGE shipping email tips

Now, the content of the email covered shipping and order confirmation messages. So, it wasn’t just for the shock factor. But it certainly does stand out from others in the inbox.

Subject line: Why do melons always have weddings?
Open to reveal: Because they cantaloupe!

Humor in subject lines could also be a tool to boost your email open rates. Just save the punchline for the inside of your message. For example, let’s say you’re a brand targeting newly engaged couples or brides-to-be.

Even if it’s a groaner of a dad joke like that, you spark a sense of curiosity in the subscriber. They have to see the punchline for themself. Just make sure you win them over after you get the open.

Silly and creative CTA buttons

Get rid of “Submit.” Abandon “Learn more.” Ditch “Buy now.” 

Email call-to-action (CTA) buttons are a great place to put some personality into your marketing. Plus, it’s more fun to click on a button that has a funny message — as long as the subscriber still understands where the button will take them.

For example, if you’re crafting an email for a food-related company, you might have a button that says “Get stuffed!” or “Feed me!”

Phrasee gets a little edgy with language and uses a pop culture reference in its CTA button, which encourages subscribers to book a demo.

Funny email CTA button

When Email on Acid promoted Pathwire’s Nightmare at Email Camp event, we used a little humorous storytelling in the copy and closed it out with a funny CTA that harkens back to a popular movie line.

Email Camp email with funny CTA

Love them or hate them — puns work

You can try to talk yourself out of it all you want, but in the end, it’s inescapable: A good pun is funny. Just like ‘dad jokes.’ We all groan at them, but deep down, we secretly like them. 

Creating puns that fit with your products and services, that your subscribers will instantly understand, is a surefire way to lighten someone’s day and deepen your audience connection. 

Inside jokes

Like good product-related puns, you can also use inside jokes that only your audience will get to further strengthen the trust within your community. For B2B, industry humor fits into this category. So would exercise jokes for a fitness email list, or video game jokes on a gamer list. 

Memes are a funny way to insert a little relatable, industry humor into email marketing. For example, you could throw a meme like this into an email targeting dental practices:

fascinating man meme with dental joke

A dash of sarcasm

Sarcasm can be misread if you don’t do it well, especially in writing. So use it sparingly and test the email on a few coworkers to make sure it’s coming across clearly. 

Abandoned cart emails are one good place to write funny emails, including the strategic use of sarcasm. Here’s one that makes light of the subscriber procrastinating on making a purchase. 

abandoned cart funny email

Self-deprecation

Self-deprecating humor makes you seem more relatable and trustworthy because it shows you’re willing to laugh at yourself. Don’t overdo it though, or it could hurt your credibility. 

If there was ever a time to be self-deprecating, it’s when you send an Oops Email admitting to an embarrassing mistake. Just be sure you don’t downplay mistakes that frustrate customers.

Funny email designs

Sometimes, all you need to make someone laugh is a great photo, graphic, or meme. Here’s a funny email example from Olive Garden. The ridiculous amount of scrolling required to get to the email’s offer is clever and probably gave a few hungry subscribers a laugh.

olive garden meatball funny email

Here’s another one from Function of Beauty that uses a funny cat picture. As long as it relates in any way to your email’s content, you can’t really go wrong with funny animal pictures. 

Subject line: dry winter hair goodbye!

crazy hair cat pic email

When to send funny emails

Again, in comedy, timing is everything. The same goes with email marketing. You can effectively use humor in certain types of emails, but should generally avoid it in others. Here’s a quick rundown:

Welcome emails

Here’s an example of a funny welcome email from Magic Spoon. People buying cereal online aren’t expecting 400 words from a welcome email. Magic Spoon keeps it brief, throws in a good pun that also reminds them of a core product benefit, and uses other fun and upbeat language.

Subject line: Welcome to the world of Magic Spoon

funny welcome email example

Oops emails

The notorious Oops email is an ideal time to poke fun at your brand and make it the butt of the joke.

Rather than pretend a mistake didn’t happen, generally, it’s best to send a correction — especially if you’re fixing an incorrect link. Using humor here is especially appropriate because it’s an easy time to use that self-deprecating humor. 

When MeUndies’ website went down after a line of Star Wars briefs went viral, they took the opportunity to make fun of themselves and crack a few Star Wars jokes.

Subject line: The Death Star crashed our site … but we fixed it

meundies star wars email

Abandoned cart emails

Remember, email marketing needs to stand out. Abandoned cart emails need to do this more than almost anything because a completed sale is still within your grasp! 

So, find a way to make this email a little more creative. Here’s one from Food52 that makes use of a popular joke format and humanizes the online cart. 

Food52 your cart called email

Birthday and anniversary emails

Recognizing someone’s birthday, for certain types of businesses, shows you pay attention to your subscribers and want them to keep coming back. Customer anniversary emails do the same and are a great chance to show your appreciation and maybe even give out loyalty rewards. These emails can always be enhanced with a dash of humor.

Wemo’s simple but lighthearted play on words keeps the subscriber smiling and the good vibes flowing. It’s not over-the-top hilarious, but the combination of thoughtfulness and positivity serves as a way to strengthen customer relationships without feeling salesy. 

wemo anniversary email example

Product review/feedback emails

You want customers to be in a really good mood before you ask them to leave a review on a recent purchase, right? What better way than making them laugh?

Patagonia does it quite well with nothing but a funny little girl and a funny-looking mustache!

patagonia funny email showing little girl with a mustache

Lighthearted newsletters

When humor is at the core of a brand’s voice, funny email newsletters are the perfect time to put it on display. The award-winning and often hilarious newsletter from Phrasee consistently delivers (they’ve got jokes). Here’s a sample from a 2019 email that’s chock full of Seinfeld references and GIFs.

Phrasee seinfeld themed newsletter

You get bonus points if your newsletter signup form is also funny. That will set the tone for the emails that will follow, beginning with the welcome email. From there, you’re positioned to use humor in future emails.

Reactivation and re-engagement emails

Here again, getting attention is key. This is your attempt to re-engage subscribers who haven’t opened any emails for an extended period of time. Be funny, and you’re more likely to catch them.

Here’s a great reactivation email sent out around Halloween, from Blue Apron. The image is funny, and the copy adheres to the same theme and offers a discount for coming back.

Subject line: Forget the candy, this deal is the sweetest one yet!

blue apron email with gravestone cookies

Promotional emails

When you have a sale it’s always good to have a ‘reason’ for it. If you can use some humor to explain that reason, all the better. 

Here’s an example of this from Everlane. There’s a little bit of sarcasm in this email promoting a sale on summer denim shorts.

Subject line: Your butt has summer plans

everlane summer butt email

Not-so-good times for funny email marketing

Generally, you should avoid using humor in these and similar situations:

  • Transactional emails like receipts, shipping notices, and password resets
  • Customer service emails
  • Delivering sensitive news like a price increase, product recall, or somber holidays

In these situations, subscribers just want emails to be sincere, honest, and to the point. And if a customer is frustrated, the last thing they want is for you to make light of it, which humor tends to do. They don’t want to laugh. They want solutions. 

And remember that with humor, you don’t want the jokes to be so funny that subscribers remember the jokes but forget the company or the deal that was offered. This is a major failure of many Super Bowl commercials. Don’t sacrifice clarity for comedy. 

But don’t avoid it out of fear either. Humor is usually worth the risk, because it gets attention, builds trust, and deepens connection. Start small. Try out a few jokes and puns and A/B test funny emails against humorless versions to find out how they perform with your list. If you get a lift in engagement, you can start sprinkling more funny emails into your strategy.

Email testing: no laughing matter

Funny emails are all well and good, but if your email doesn’t get delivered, or has other errors in it that prevent engagement or cause confusion, that’s kind of like taking too long to deliver the punchline. It will reduce engagement with your emails.

Email on Acid exists to deliver email perfection every time — all your emails get delivered, and they all look and work correctly, on every device, for every subscriber. 

We can’t pre-test your jokes, but we can ensure that many other aspects of your email marketing are working as you intended. 

This article was last update in October of 2021 and was first published in April of 2020.

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Author: Laura Horkey

As Email on Acid’s email marketing specialist, Laura is slightly obsessed with email strategy and is often geeking out on A/B testing, behavioral patterns of subscribers, and the occasional pop culture reference in email copy. Outside of work, she can be found on a baseball field or at a backyard bonfire with her husband, two kids, and poodle-mix puppers somewhere in Northwest Arkansas.

Author: Laura Horkey

As Email on Acid’s email marketing specialist, Laura is slightly obsessed with email strategy and is often geeking out on A/B testing, behavioral patterns of subscribers, and the occasional pop culture reference in email copy. Outside of work, she can be found on a baseball field or at a backyard bonfire with her husband, two kids, and poodle-mix puppers somewhere in Northwest Arkansas.

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