10 Brands That Show How to Use Humor on Instagram

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Looking around on social media these days, it can seem that everybody is trying to be a comedian. The vast majority of shared content seems to be jokes, parodies, skits, silly images and memes. Even brands are joining in.

And why wouldn’t they? In a recent study, 49% of Americans said they are likely to share content they find funny. This was notably higher than the 43% who tended to share “important” or serious things. Furthermore, 56% of Americans surveyed preferred online advertisements that went for humor, while only 44% wanted them to be purely informative. In other words, being funny results in higher engagement rates.

What makes humor such an effective marketing tool? The answer lies in its ability to provoke emotion. Humor is one of the quickest ways to elicit positive feelings in a viewer. Jokes either tend to land instantly or fizzle from memory within seconds. However, when they do connect, they can make a strong impression.

People like to spread the joy around, so you’ll often see humorous content go viral in a short amount of time.

Instagram is the same as any other platform when it comes to this. To help demonstrate how to effectively generate laughs and smiles, here are 10 of the funniest brands on Instagram:

1. Arby’s

Known for their roast-beef sandwiches, the fast-food chain Arby’s has been making a splash on the internet lately.

Initially, the company struggled to find its footing on social media. Like many other restaurants, their attempts at humor mostly included lame puns and generic food jokes.

This changed when they homed in on a more specific audience.

It’s been 25 years and he’s still hungry

A post shared by Arby’s (@arbys) on

Arby’s has found surprising success in courting geek audiences. Using mixtures of food and paper craft, they create artful odes to pop culture from a variety of video games, anime, television and film properties.

The humor emerges from recognition of the cultural references, as well as from the creative and skillful ways in which the content is constructed. Fan communities are especially appreciative if the content incorporates their own in-jokes.

Time to conquer the legend

A post shared by Arby’s (@arbys) on

By targeting a specific demographic, Arby’s has benefited from having their content shared by a greater audience of passionate fans who appreciate these tributes.

2. The Honest Company

The Honest Company specializes in baby products that are ethically made and environmentally friendly. As the name implies, their brand image is based on their honest nature.

This can be seen in the brand’s sense of humor that it displays on Instagram:

Tired? Yes. Worth it? Also yes. ❤️

A post shared by The Honest Company (@honest) on

The Honest Company creates amusing text-based images with quotes and relatable musings about parenthood and the struggles of raising children. Not only do these inspire chuckles; they also communicate the brand’s personality. They give followers something to connect to and identify with.

3. Denny’s

Instagram is highly visual in nature. Users flock to it for the eye-catching photos and videos.

Denny’s delivers on that front. A majority of their content uses photoshopped images, usually involving food and utensils in unusual contexts.


This is the sort of content that will make a viewer pause, do a double take or scroll back to check if they saw what they thought they did.

cute AND functional. #nailart

A post shared by dennysdiner (@dennysdiner) on


Going for weirdness can be an effective strategy. It can lead to the creation of imagery that sticks in people’s minds.

Be careful, though. Go a little too far into the uncomfortably surreal and you might alienate your audience. You want to make them grin and guffaw, not freak out.

4. Pabst Blue Ribbon

Pabst Blue Ribbon isn’t exactly known as the most prestigious, high-quality beer around. The brand doesn’t have any delusions about this fact. In fact, they have learned to embrace their reputation as a cheap beer beloved by hipsters.

Primal instincts #Pabst #PBRart 📸: @toddbratrud

A post shared by Pabst Blue Ribbon (@pabstblueribbon) on

They don’t do this through self-deprecation or by being blatant about it. Instead, Pabst Blue Ribbon promotes content geared toward their niche following.

Their Instagram is filled with images featuring underground art, heavily tattooed people, rock concerts and all sorts of random visual gags involving beer cans.

The Earth provides #Pabst #🌎 🎥: @kaptenbroden

A post shared by Pabst Blue Ribbon (@pabstblueribbon) on

Rather than ignore their cult following, Pabst Blue Ribbon caters to its sensibilities and puts effort into emulating its irreverent attitude.

5. Taco Bell

Images aren’t the only area where you can slip in some humor. Captions are also a prime outlet to tickle funny bones. If you can coordinate the two, even better.

Taco Bell is a brand that understands this. Their use of captions often perfectly complements and enhances their content.

The way he looks at her. ❤️ *TAG SOMEONE* #RelationshipGoals

A post shared by Taco Bell (@tacobell) on

Even if the images aren’t amusing in themselves, Taco Bell will typically include a witty caption to spice them up. Sometimes they’ll even get their community involved in their jokes, such as when they asked their followers to “annoy” their friends by tagging them with a cheese cup:

Annoy a friend by tagging them in this photo of Nacho Cheese Sauce.

A post shared by Taco Bell (@tacobell) on

When it comes to humor, the best captions tend to be concise. You don’t want to overexplain the idea or make it too complicated. It should be brief, snappy and clear.

6. Letterfolk

Some brands’ products are ideally suited for Instagram’s format. Just take a look at Letterfolk.

Letterfolk is a small business run by a husband-and-wife team. They produce handmade letter boards, which come with a full set of letters to personalize them as you wish.

Anything can be salad if you just believe. 📷: @_sarapward_ #WriterGrey

A post shared by Letterfolk (@letterfolk) on

All of their Instagram posts feature their letter boards presented in a multitude of locations. While some have inspirational and motivational phrases, Letterfolk’s content predominantly showcases letter boards with comical text.

Beauty and the Feast, amiright? 📷: @rireboutique

A post shared by Letterfolk (@letterfolk) on

The genius of this approach is that it puts their products front and center, and demonstrates the versatility of the letter boards. Letterfolk’s Instagram account helps customers generate ideas for their own inventive uses of the product.

7. Totino’s

Memes dominate the social media landscape. The reason that memes catch on is that they’re iterative. A meme can become a shorthand for a universal idea, which means it can evolve and be adapted in endless ways.

Totino’s shamelessly indulges in memes on Instagram. It’s a decision that makes sense, as their pizza rolls have achieved a meme status in their own right.

Before Totino’s got on board the social network train, a common meme was an image macro of somebody expressing excitement, accompanied with text about their parents making pizza rolls.

Here’s Totino’s giving a direct nod to that:

CANNOT DEAL.

A post shared by Pete Zaroll (@totinos) on

Memes can get a bad rap at times. Some people find them cringeworthy, or get easily tired of them when they’ve worn out their welcome.

The secret to using memes is to follow trends and pick up on the current consensus toward specific memes. In other words, you need to stay fresh.

Once a meme is considered dead, drop it and move on. You don’t want to be seen as an out-of-touch slowpoke.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

A post shared by Pete Zaroll (@totinos) on

Totino’s has the right attitude when it comes to memes. They stay flexible and don’t overdo it, and they even create their own unique memes.

8. Old Spice

Few brands have completely reinvented their image like Old Spice. Their absurdist commercials featuring the talents of Isaiah Mustafa and Terry Crews were overnight sensations. Now the brand is synonymous with silly, high-octane advertising.

Old Spice brings a lot of the same trademark energy to their Instagram account.

A hard working man’s work is never done working hard, man.

A post shared by Old Spice (@oldspice) on

The brand is admirable for its go-for-broke approach to humor. Nothing is considered too corny or over the top. It gives them an element of surprise that viewers find refreshing. You’re never sure what you’ll get when you view an Old Spice post.

Old Spice makes extensive use of Instagram video, and undertakes clever and ambitious experiments with form. For example, they used Instagram’s tagging system to embed links and make a Choose Your Own Adventure story.

Their unconventional approach to marketing proves that inhibition is the greatest enemy of humor. Don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild.

9. Dollar Shave Club

Having an ongoing theme can pay off when it comes to comedy. On Instagram, it can give your content cohesion and consistency.

The Dollar Shave Club’s posts have many unifying elements. They usually contain puns and “dad humor,” often conveyed through fun cartoons.

It’s this summer’s hottest workout.

A post shared by Dollar Shave Club (@dollarshaveclub) on

Their jokes tend to revolve around the same topics: grooming, shaving and excessive hair. Thus, most of their content, barring the occasional goofy tangent, is relevant to the products that they sell.

Dollar Shave Club shows that not all brands need to be zany and unexpected to be successful. It’s totally fine to stick with what you know. Go with what feels natural.

10. Frooti

First introduced in India in 1985, the mango drink Frooti can now be found worldwide. A few years ago they underwent an overhaul of their visual identity. Their delicious new aesthetic can be seen throughout their Instagram content.

A brilliant likeness. #TheFrootiLife

A post shared by Frooti (@thefrootilife) on

Frooti, with the help of the creative agency Sagmeister & Walsh, has developed a distinctive style based on miniatures and stop motion.

Their Instagram page contains a mixture of short animations and images. These candy-colored creations are pleasing to look at, charming and filled with lighthearted glee.

Who’s looking forward to getting some sun this summer? #thefrootilife #frooti #sunburn

A post shared by Frooti (@thefrootilife) on

What can be learned from Frooti’s reinvention? Humor can be cute, friendly and welcoming to all viewers. It can also be fused with a tasteful visual touch.

About the author

Neal Hallenbeck

Neal Hallenbeck is a graduate of Adrian College. He is a freelance writer, media critic and computer game designer.

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