When I first moved to Melbourne, I spent a lot of Sundays at small comedy clubs that showcased up-and-coming comedians.

I would often occupy the front seat and laugh out loud at almost every performer because (a) I am easily amused, and (b) their comedy called out some Aussie nuances that I had noticed in my short time here.

A good comic is someone who nails everyday human behaviour and creates his or her bit around it. We find this funny because it’s true and someone has called it out in the most articulate way.

If you think about it, it’s not that different from what we do as marketers. What makes a good marketer or a good campaign is one that nails the consumer’s insight and delivers something that the audience can relate to.

I love stand-up and I have spent the better part of my adult life at comedy festivals, following local and international acts that gave me an insight into different cultures. Along the way, I have picked up some valuable lessons that help me do my job better.

So, what can a strategist learn from comedians?

Find a provocative insight

Often when we plan campaigns we are happy reporting on some key observations in data movements and making decisions off the back of them. Most comedians develop their sets based on everyday observations, things they overhear, behaviours that amuse/annoy them. These data points and their powerful storytelling usually leaves us in bits.

“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information you can give her.”
– Confessions of an Advertising Man, p. 96 (Ballantine Books)

However, as marketers, we don’t spend nearly as much time observing or speaking to our target audience before we develop a campaign. When was the last time you spoke to a real consumer to understand why they prefer one brand over another?

Incorporating simple steps to do so can help us find that provocative insight that will then lead to relatable and creative ideas for campaigns.

Understand your audience and cater your solutions to them

When a comedian tours the world, we often see that they tweak their set as they go, based on the different audience groups they are talking to. The seasoned and experienced comedians are agile in how they play the crowd and develop their set based on the receptivity of their jokes.

Often strategy planners make the mistake of thinking that their job is done once they deliver the first half of the presentation deck, leaving the execution to another team. However, a strategy is only as good as it’s execution. It is crucial to constantly tweak a campaign as you go, based on performance.

Don’t retrofit an insight into your brand

I love Aly Wong. All of her sets are based on behavioural realities that are also her realities. She uses her life as the base for her sets and as a result, comes across as genuine and relatable.

When planning a brand campaign, it is important to see if a certain cultural insight really fits with your brand. When the answer is yes, you get impactful campaigns like “Like a girl” and Dove Real Beauty Sketches.

When the answer is “no, but let’s fit it in anyway”, you get campaigns like the Pepsi Kendall Jenner ad and the Huggies Dad’s test fail which received much backlash.

If at first you don’t succeed…

When watching a comedy set, we are constantly amazed at how effortlessly they come up with jokes on the spot which make us laugh. We all know that the truth behind these jokes, is countless hours of prep, multiple iterations, breaking existing norms and reinventing the wheel.

One can argue the same about writing a good strategy. Ask yourself, when was the last time I spent time outside to observe real customers and spoke to people that are not in our media world to get their perspective on the brands we market for? The more sources of information you seek, the more dimensions you can add to your thinking.

We’re lucky that we have some great tools to bring structure to this kind of thinking (apology for the shameless plug but it wouldn’t be an article written by me if I did not add this in here!) – use them wisely!

Comedians are great at distilling all the information they are fed to create a condensed set that matches our attention span. Let’s take a leaf out of their book and create some great campaigns!

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Divya Voleti

Divya Voleti is a Strategy Director at iProspect. In her current role, she drives consumer first thinking and works with clients to co-create customer engagement strategies. She is also one of our Innovation Champions, driving collaboration and client success using the widely recognised design thinking framework.