A new study from UCLA researchers has found that humor can help smokers get more customers.
The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, found that smokers were more likely to take advantage of funny advertisements when the ads showed an emotional connection with the brand.
“It’s a way of showing the brand that the smoker is an important and loved part of the family, the smoker can be a part of it and that it’s important for the brand to reach out to the smoker,” said Dr. Richard Hines, one of the authors of the study and a professor of consumer science at UCLA.
Hines said that the study’s findings were particularly surprising because humor was often overlooked in cigarette ads.
“In the past, cigarettes and tobacco were often the subject of commercials that used a lot of humor, and there was this assumption that cigarettes were just more addictive,” Hines said.
“This study is saying that cigarettes are more addictive than cigarettes, but they’re more interesting to the consumer because they have a more emotional connection to the brand and the brand is more likely, by this study, to show that they’re attractive to the public.”
The study looked at more than 1,000 cigarette advertisements across 30 countries.
In all, nearly 40 percent of the advertisements were made with humor, ranging from “I don’t smoke but I love it” to “We’re a team of good guys and we’ll smoke with you” to a simple image of the cigarette being lit.
The researchers found that the more humor in the cigarette ads, the higher the rate of smokers taking advantage of the ad.
“We found that people were more willing to take part in the advertisements if they were funnier, which means that the humor was a little more powerful in terms of how many people were willing to participate,” Hine said.
While the study found that humorous advertisements helped smokers get a higher share of their money back, it also found that it was not a reliable indicator of success.
“We think that we need to be more aware of how the advertising and the content is intended,” Hains said.
“In general, we’re trying to be cognizant of the brand messages, but we’re also aware of the content, and we need the ability to know which way the message is leaning.”
Hines and his co-authors plan to look at the ads for the next few years and see if there is any other type of humor that smokers can take advantage with.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.