From Britannia, Taco Bell to Nykaa, brands jump on the comedy bandwagon

Britannia has stand-up comedy artists Mallika Dua and Abish Mathew promoting the brand
An ad for a biscuit talks about eating octopus (among other things); a stand-up comic artist holds forth on the ennui of married couples while promoting a mosquito repellent brand, a make-up portal’s promotional video talks about the travails of spending a day without food — increasingly, advertisers are using humour to turn the wheels of the communication juggernaut. The aim: Penetrate the wide circle of influence that stand-up comics have built among the youth in the country.  


Brands that have clambered on to the comedy trail include not only digital natives like Nykaa and Netflix, but more traditional advertisers like Britannia (Bourbon), and Godrej Hit as well. For Britannia, stand-up comics Mallika Dua and Abish Mathew have put together a series of videos around friendship for a campaign labelled Bourbon Friends Forever (BFF). While #BFF plays into the popular use of the term as ‘Best Friends Forever’, it also moves the advertising away from a product hard sell to a more emotional branding track say experts. Dua has also collaborated with beauty e-tailer Nykaa to promote its private label products.


Taco Bell, the popular American fast food brand has AIB’s Tanmay Bhat for a digital only campaign. Bhat was earlier used by Netflix for promoting the second season of Narcos, an original show from the streaming platform.


Comedy stars are harbingers of the age of influencers and a sign of the rising power of the digital medium. “You can’t call these people endorsers. No. They are content drivers. Digital is a storytelling medium and the digital consumer is discerning about the content he/she consumes. So the comic artist builds the content, and the brand is embedded in the most relevant way possible in that content. It is very different from the usual celebrity endorsement because digital cannot be used the way TV or print is used,” says Harish Bijoor, founder of brand consultancy Harish Bijoor Consults.

A global survey titled ‘Global survey of trust in advertising’ by Nielsen back in 2013 had revealed that the majority of respondents (47 per cent) found humourous ads resonated with them the most, while celebrity (entertainment) endorsements (12 per cent) and athlete endorsements (8 per cent) were the last on the list. Five years down the line, Indian brands appear to be buying in to this trend.


“You can’t call Tanmay (Bhat) or Abish (Mathew) celebrities in the traditional sense. They are influencers, yes. They are content creators. The campaigns we have seen featuring them are a classic example of influencer marketing. It (humour) works when the brand wants to take a lighter tone in its communication, maybe even have some jokes at its cost, though not disparaging ones,” says Ambi Parmeswaran, founder


Using comedy stars as influencers helps create a more credible communication platform. According to several consumer behaviour reports, the young consumer is particularly sceptical about conventional product-led advertisements. A report in December 2017 by Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute titled ‘Loyalty deciphered— How emotions drive genuine engagement,’ found that emotions have the strongest impact in driving consumer loyalty.


Parameswaran says that all brands, big and small, can benefit from generating a few laughs in their audience. “It is not the category, but the brand that matters,” he says. However not all comic artists are up to the task. The younger, more contemporary ones would be a better choice feel experts. In other words, those born to the digital age, or who have seen their popularity grow in the times of YouTube along with TV, would make for good collaborators for brands, if the brands wanted to use humour as their medium of marketing.