Laughing at Cyber Security is Possible

Phishing is a serious business, laughing is the key. So are identity theft, data breaches, and WiFi security. Cyber crimes cost businesses, individuals and governments billions of dollars, and have put people’s private data and livelihoods at risk.

But when I first started this gig, I didn’t know much about it. I wasn’t “into” cyber security. I mean, I do my best with my passwords. And I’ve never used a USB drive that I found in a parking lot.

Who watches adverts?

What I know is people. Humans. The softest of software. And I know quite a bit about how to get their attention, how to persuade them, and how to get them to change behaviour.

I’ve spent almost two decades in advertising. One thing that’s abundantly clear is that, for the most part, people don’t even notice things they don’t care about.

For instance, we’ve all seen loads of ads in our lives. The common claim that we’re each exposed to 4,000 commercial messages a day might be an overstatement. But even if the real number is 400 and not 4,000, that adds up to 146,000 a year and, uh, kerjillions over a lifetime.

Most of these ads aren’t just forgotten: they weren’t even noticed in the first place. And this is true even though many of them are about important things – your child’s safety, vacations, your health and hospitals, or retirement and insurance.

How to sell cyber security to your staff

The error advertisers often make is thinking that these are things people do care about, all the time. But when ads come up, most people are focused on making dinner, or doing homework, or just enjoying the show or the game. In those moments, these serious topics are merely things people should care about but don’t.

That sounds just like cyber security. It’s serious. It’s something people should care about. But moment to moment, they don’t really care about it and don’t really notice it.

So how have advertisers figured out how to get people to notice things, to pay attention, to make a decision (usually involving your hard earned dollars!) and maybe even care about them? A simple thought experiment works here: what ads do you actually remember from your lifetime? Go on: think. Remember. Got one or two?

Here are a few guesses:

Where’s the beef?!


“Keeps going and going and….”

“I can’t believe I ate the whooooole thing.”

Hello ladies. Look at your man….

“Are you Dr Galewickez? Yes I am.”

While there are several ways to get people to care about ads, the easiest, and perhaps the most successful, is humour.

Sprinkle comedy on something boring or trivial, like deodorant or burgers, and people will care and notice. Take a topic that’s a snoozer like insurance, and add some laughs, and lo! Thou shall notice thine ads, and ye shall be amused, and ye shall care.

This is why Cyber Maniacs is so serious about being funny. Humour makes people notice things. It makes people care. And it helps people remember.

How get people laughing at cyber security

Here are 4 Things that we use to create unforgettable cyber awareness learning. You can use it too for any topic that you would like to get attention, memory recall, or awareness of.

  1. Bizarreness Effect – It’s been contentested from a research standpoint, but there are studies which show using strange, unusual, and extraordinary information could actually easier for our brains to retain. This is all about harnessing the power of the unexpected.
  2. Humour Effect – It helps in so many ways! Humour activates the brain’s dopamine reward system, stimulating goal-oriented motivation and long-term memory, which means that humour can improve retention in students of all ages. Numerous studies have shown that using humour enhances memory, regardless of the mood you were in before you saw the joke!
  3. Evolutionary TheoryAccording to evolutionary theory, positive emotions encourage the uptake of behaviours (like feeling pride for carrying a reusable water bottle), whereas negative emotions promote withdrawal behaviours (like feeling guilty for forgetting to refuse a plastic straw). Cyber awareness is not merely knowledge acquisition (We always say that being able to define the term malware won’t keep you safe!), but is about behavioural change and building a security minded culture.
  4. Picture Superiority Effect – the phenomenon in which pictures and images are more likely to be remembered than words.

There’s a plethora of research to back this up, but for now I’ll spare you the details. They’re not that funny.