"Company humor" sounds like an oxymoron: For most of us, conjures up images of emcees telling bad jokes at conference dinners.

But for companies that can pull it off, the payoff is huge: A well-crafted humor video, for instance, can engage and entertain an audience; encourage viral, word-of-mouth distribution and press mentions; and build awareness and interest in the brand or product.  The very best ones even directly impact sales.

Well-executed spoofs and parodies work well for a couple of reasons:

  • Visual and viral: Hosting video on a website, or at the very least posting it to YouTube, is easy to do. Barriers to entry are low; homegrown videos compete against slick, highly commercial ones.
  • Budget-friendly: Technology has also slashed the cost of homegrown humor. Videos can be made with hand-held cameras and light editing software; photos and podcasts can be captured by a phone.

Of course, there's a risk here: Bad jokes can misfire and bring on negative backlash, particularly on social media. If you think your company can pull this off, make sure you run your idea past some trusted friends, colleagues ... and maybe an existing client or two.

Business Spoofs Online

Though more challenging for businesses to do spoofs well, they continue to try -- who, after all, doesn't like to make someone laugh? These days many spoofs that start out as TV spots, make it online as well. For the purpose of this article, I'm going to focus primarily on digitally-launched or focused spoofs, and only those specifically used by businesses.

Will It Blend (BlendTec)

Commercial-grade blender manufacturer BlendTec is probably the poster child for creatively using YouTube for infomercial marketing spoofs; videos have tested its blender's capabilities on everything from marbles to Christmas dinner to iPhones.

Go Granny (Network Solutions)

A bawdy but funny spoof on GoDaddy's Super Bowl ads featuring Cloris Leachman. It spread like wildfire through Twitter and other social media.

FourSquare Cops (HubSpot)

An original series by marketing software company HubSpot spoofing the television show Cops.

Dubbed "beervertising," these videos mock many other well-known television beer commercials.

Virtual Vocations is a business matching telecommuting workers with companies offering telecommuting or work-at-home jobs. It spoofed Google’s television commercial with a made-for-YouTube "ad" of its own.

Had fun with these? If I've missed any of your favorites, please be sure to add them to the list by leaving your comments below.