Humour Is Tricky But These Indian Brands Got It Right

A look at when Indian brands went wrong with humour and which campaigns made great use of humour

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Humour is the quickest way to make an impression. Brands often indulge in humour in their communication pieces in a bid to make that lasting impression. Most content items that go viral on the social web are humorous, the ones that have got audiences to share a laugh with their network connections.

But, humour is a tricky thing. A hilarious joke to one could be of severe offense to another. The art of using humour is finding the right balance, especially for brands who cannot afford to regret it later in the ‘internet-never-forgets’ age. Last year, quite a few brands in India were forced to pull down their funny ads, as consumers did not find them funny at all – instead petitions were filed against these brands for aiding ‘gender stereotype’, sexism, and more. Read Can Social Media Force Brands To Rethink Their Ads?

This year, Scoopwhoop, India’s most popular listicle site that survives on cooking up some really hilarious compilations, went overboard in defining funny. When a massive earthquake devastated Nepal and some parts of India, the listicle site published ‘16 Thoughts That Went Through Everyone’s Mind When The Earthquake Happened’. Massive outrage ensued and the article was taken down, with an apology from the editor.

A recent example is online job search portal, that tried to bank on humour for its campaign #LagGayiVaat. One of its TVCs was taken off air and off its YouTube channel too, after it was accused of portraying sexual harassment at work as funny. The protagonist, comedian Jaaved Jaffery was caught ogling at his female colleague and making ‘kissy’ faces at her. Read Why’s #LagGayiVaat TVCs Need A Complete Rethink?

Humour, if done right, can really help brands reflect their cool personality. For brands that are in boring industries like BFSI, humour could be a great way to catch consumer attention. While humour is indigenous to iconic brands like Cadbury 5 Star, Oreo, Mentos, Center Fresh and others, now we have other brands joining the bandwagon of funny.

While most life insurance companies took to long format storytelling to bring their messages across this tax saving season, HDFC Life, one of India’s leading private life insurance companies, chose stand up comedy on Twitter. It teamed up with three stand-up comedians who made jokes on ‘Bad investments’ and while at it generated a massive social media buzz for the comedy act, using a variety of creative, engaging contests on social media.

The insurance brand managed to carve a niche in the BFSI sector, while making a connect with youngsters looking to make investments for the financial year-end. This is a funny response on one of the user questions posed:

Aegon Religare Life Insurance is another brand that believes insurance can be marketed with humour, and need not be a preachy message at all. The brand teamed up with Atul Khatri, a popular stand-up comedian to tell us that we are not immortal and that we need to be covered in a humourous manner.

In its digital campaign, a cool and calm Atul in seemingly fatal situations offers a satirical take on people who think they are immortal. A series of four video films called the ‘Immortals of India’ see him doing scary stunts with such nonchalance that is worthy only of an immortal being. For instance, this film titled ‘Fuse Off’, the funniest of the lot has been dedicated to all those who firmly believe that ‘nothing will happen’.

Financial marketplace, that provides instant customized rate quotes on loans, credit cards and insurance products, also chose to employ humour in its digital initiative. The idea was to connect with a young audience scared of complex terminologies in financial planning.

BankBazaar launched a digital series called ‘Let’s Talk About Money’ with popular YouTube personalities. This ‘Mumbai on Life insurance’ video is one in the series of funny videos created for the campaign.

For the launch of its New Body Deodoriser that claimed to control the formation of body odour, Nivea Men came out with a hilarious appeal video called ‘Ban Body Odour’ featuring the likes of comedians Suresh Menon, Jose Covaco and others. The video was much appreciated and led to a decent pre-launch buzz on social media.

Online recharge company, MobiKwik’s TVCs used humour to demonstrate how easy, fast, and safe it is to pay using its Wallet. A hilarious ad film was created for each of the transactions on Mobikwik - recharge, transfer money, pay bills and shopping, as part of the #MoreThanAWallet campaign.

This one on payments is my personal favourite, a thief steals a wallet and is left utterly confused after a long chase and being caught but left with the owner’s wallet.

When the latest season of India’s Got Talent was set to launch on Colors TV, the reality show sought to create a one-of-a-kind digital engagement strategy through a funny character named ‘Pappu’. Pappu was designed as the smartass who thinks he can do everything and does not snap a finger while claiming to be the best.

Pappu made claims to win the IGT this year, and challenged folks on social media to prove him wrong. Executed in three phases: Pappu’s introduction, fans challenging Pappu, and Pappu dropping out of IGT, the campaign ensured engagement with hilarious videos and visuals of Pappu.

During IPL8, Royal Challengers Bangalore had launched a hilarious web-only weekly series featuring the funny RJ Danish Sait as #RCBInsider. He played the character of Nags or Nagaraju who thinks that he has been roped in this show for his super star quotient, something which is lacking in RCB.

The web series was designed as if he is the superstar who has access to the entire RCB team. Each of the videos saw him taking a jibe at the RCB players. This one is on Virat Kohli.

The unique engagement strategy worked in the favour of the IPL franchise team that not only got cricket fans to identify with Nags, his accent and dressing, but also the RCB players.

When taxi aggregator TaxiForSure wanted to build awareness about safe driving and promote its #PickNow feature, the app company embarked on a humorous route. It roped in Danish Sait, as the utterly funny ‘Constable Chowriappah’ in a series of six educative films, that highlighted the positive side effects of using TaxiForSure.

This one talks about why you should not waste your precious time in parking, because as he puts it, in his brilliant south Indian accent, ‘Taime and aanions, very much in expensive”.

Humour could be a great weapon to fight clutter for young companies. While humour does help create a cool brand recall, brands cannot go out of context with respect to their ‘image’. Be it a young audience or brands in the BFSI sector, humorous content does find a consumer connect. However, it needs to be worked through to fit with the brand voice and not be offensive to any set of consumers.

We look forward to your views on Indian brands doing humour right.