It’s April Fools’ Day but the world is facing a deadly serious challenge in Covid-19. Yet around the world, the outbreak has proved to be a fertile source of humour, as coronavirus memes, jokes and satirical songs spread like wildfire across social media.

From fatalist tragi-comic musings, comedic dissections of the absurdity of lock-down reality, and self-deprecating accounts of life in isolation – to more inane jokes around toilet paper shortages and DIY protective gear – it’s clear that humour is an important and resonant communication tool for coping and connecting with others in this time of isolation and uncertainty. In its myriad forms, humour can diffuse the gravitas of what seems like an apocalyptic world, while GIFs and memes provide a cathartic means to express feelings and experiences that are often difficult to put into words.

Clearly, the present cultural landscape points to a universal need for comedic relief and respite in a time of difficulty. Yet the question arises – in times of crisis, how appropriate is it for brands (even if they have a humorous heritage) to adhere to this desire to uplift, and how can they do so in a sensitive and impactful manner, without appearing crass or off-the mark? As the current situation continues to play out, marketers will have to tread carefully and learn to navigate a fine balance between sombre sensitivity and light-hearted cheer. Tone of voice will be key, while an in-depth understanding of different cultural attitudes towards humour, and national crises more broadly, will be crucial in order to resonate effectively across different markets. Laughter may be the best medicine but brands should prescribe with care.


Maria Victoria O’Hana, Semiotician


Is Laughter the Best Medicine?: This April Fools' Day brands must prescribe with care