The comic path to customers’ hearts

LAVANYA NARAYAN | Updated on January 24, 2018

Raising some laughs: Appealing to the funny bone can make your advertising memorable. Voltas’ Murthy

Constable Chowriappah.

A few brands are using comedians to connect with their target market

What is that grabs your attention in an advertisement or promotional campaign these days? Is it the much talked about Bollywood celebrity who seems to be endorsing every single product known to mankind? Is it the relatable situation being played out in the ad? Or is it the humour element?

In a phenomenon associated with the latter, of late a few brands in India have chosen to market themselves through a technique which is not as common as the others, but is still proving to be popular with the masses; humour that represents the ideals of the brand being promoted, while entertaining audiences and making it memorable.

Murthy and his journey

Voltas is a name synonymous with air conditioners in India. In 2012, along with the launch of its Voltas All-Weather AC, it introduced everyman Madurai native Murthy (played by South Indian television actor DV Vivek).

Murthy, whose boss constantly transfers him to extreme climate zones, remains calm about the situation thanks to his All-Weather AC. Murthy was first featured in Mukteshwar, followed by Cherrapunji and Kota, all in the same year. The character continues to move across India to this day, followed by his wife who joined in his travels in 2013.

The product was improved, and so Murthy had to become smarter. In 2014, Murthy met his match in a battle of wits when his father-in-law, played by popular Tamil film actor Delhi Ganesh, decided to visit him wherever he was transferred.

Fast forward to the present day. With the introduction of Voltas All-Weather Smart AC, Murthy becomes smarter to tackle his father-in-law, thanks to his ‘smart’ air conditioner.

According to Deba Ghoshal, Head of Marketing at Voltas, Murthy represents their real consumer.

“The whole chemistry of Murthy and his boss, Mr. and Mrs. Murthy, and now Murthy and his father-in-law, is very consumer centric, and the target audience can easily relate to this. We have always believed that consumers are our biggest ambassadors, and with Murthy, our customer is right up there – right in the middle of action and gratification. The character of Murthy cuts across multiple segments, entry, mid-, and high-end, and appeals to a broad spectrum of customers.” Industry experts appear positive about Murthy as well. Ramanujam Sridhar, Founder and CEO of Brand-Comm, a communications consultancy, says that while humour is not a universal emotion, it has been successful in the case of Voltas.

“Humour only works in select categories. Brands keep changing strategy, and for a character like this to work and have the desired effect on audiences, it must be long-term, because it takes time to develop. The reason I like what Voltas is doing with the character of Murthy is that it continues to develop him year after year, bringing in new elements and characters to support his appearance.”

So how has Murthy translated into tangible monetary results for Voltas? According to Ghoshal, since the summer of 2012, Voltas has had the highest market share in the AC category.

“This success can be attributed to a combination of factors, such as our evolving product range, our revamped distribution network, increasing conversion and extraction from our point of sale, a distinct brand positioning, and our clutter-breaking campaign. Our market share stands at a high of 20.8 per cent, and as of FY 2014-15, it remains the highest in the category.”

A policeman’s advice

Ordering a cab is easy. Simply download an app, tap at your smartphone’s screen, and you’re off! Taxi for Sure is one such relatively new player. Its latest campaign came in the form of traffic police inspector Constable Chowriappah, played by popular Bangalore-based radio jockey Danish Sait. (Sait also plays the role of Mr Nags, the RCB Insider in IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore’s videos.)

Chowriappah features in YouTube videos made for the cab company, and sees himself as a crusader for the public good, advising the public to not drink and drive, speed or give into road rage.

“We have always used humour to connect with our customers across all our communications, right from our first mass media campaign to our recent communications. Constable Chowriappah is a natural extension and execution of this strategy, where our brand spoke about the several advantages of taking a taxi, in a fun manner,” said Arvind Singhal, CEO of Taxi for Sure.

What impact has Constable Chowriappah had? “The campaign’s prime objective was to engage with our customers online and it did pretty well for us. The campaign showed fantastic results with the video reaching over 13 lakh viewers and having 2,500+ shares on Facebook. Business also experienced healthy growth across parameters during the time of this campaign,” said Singhal.

Today, stand-up comedy in India is becoming all the rage, be it to influence public opinion or to entertain. One prominent example of comedy the current generation of youth identifies with is the series Pretentious Movie Reviews, a YouTube series helmed by Bangalore-based stand-up comics Kanan Gill and Biswa Kalyan. In October last year, Channel [V] India collaborated with Gill and Kalyan as part of the promotional campaign for their show Dare 2 Date.

Gill and Kalyan reviewed the show by mocking several aspects of it, thereby taking the road of ‘even bad press is good press’.

Lure of comedy

Sridhar believes that this kind of branding is ideal for Channel [V]. “Channel [V] in itself is aimed at a younger audience, which is why such content works. The channel keeps making fun of itself and its customers, which is what makes it stay true to its character,” he said.

Brand strategy expert Harish Bijoor says there is both a good side and a bad side to having comics promote brands. “Comedians add allure to brands that desperately need it. However, the downside is that the comedian draws much more from this exposure than the brand. The moment a comedian is up endorsing a brand, customers expect the comic act and content. That is really a diversion from the brand, and so lesser known comics work better,” he says.

Published on May 28, 2015

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