Budget hotel accommodation startup Treebo is getting into a subtle advertising mode for its brand by organising comedy shows across the country and then pushing that content online.
Instead of thrusting the name of the brand again and again on the audience or overbearing product placements, Treebo will focus on banner branding via the content and entertainment channel.
Treebo organised its first 'Comedy Trip' in Bangalore which was attended by about 300 people. For its first show, it roped in stand-up comedian Varun Thakur. It is in talks with others such as Atul Khatri and plans to organise at least 10-12 shows this year.
"Increasingly, nobody really wants to hear brands shouting in their faces or have brand integration which will just look very abrupt. There is a reason why marketing dollars from TV ads are coming off. It is because people have become fairly passive," Rahul Chaudhary, co-founder of Treebo Hotels, told Moneycontrol.
According to Chaudhary, the company is trying to be on consumers mind by attaching itself to the "right kind of things".
"There will be enough presence out there for the brand to showcase that this is a Treebo initiative but we are going to be in the background. We would people to enjoy the comedy, have a good time and know that we are associated with this," he said adding that while it was too early to dictate what exactly will be the physical manifestation of the brand through out the rest of the shows. "But suffice to say that we will act as enablers for this platform rather than being in the forefront of it," he said.
Treebo says that the cost of organising such shows varies depending upon the artists and can range between Rs 2 to 20 lakh. The expense can be divided into three parts -- fee of the artist (which is the major cost), organisation and the logistics cost and the distribution cost.
"If the content is great, the distribution cost is largely zero because it gets organic traction. Also while we spend something for organising the show, there is a ticketing fee that we receive," said Chaudhary.
This is a fraction of what an advertisement for the television would cost.
Conventionally the production of a television advertisement would be five to 10 times as compared to the cost of the production of such a show. Then comes distribution, which would be further about 10 times the cost of production.
"To market you really have to buy a lot of spots and that distribution cost can be 5 to 10 times of the production value itself. So this is very expensive compared to producing good quality content online," said Chaudhary.
According to a recent report by Hotstar, online video consumption grew almost five times in India in 2017. The report also said that about 96 per cent of the usage focused on long-form videos.
"We are very bullish on the growth in the consumption of videos. It is powerful than the physical shows which can only have by default a certain amount of reach, given that it is only in one city and only a limited number of people can go there," said Chaudhary.
"Video content is growing at an impressive pace. So it is not like we are creating a new behaviour. We are just giving what our customers anyway want to see," he said adding that plan is to build a digital property.
Treebo will, however, not just stick to the metro cities and plans to roam around the country doing shows.
"One of our big motivation is to take this level of entertainment to a lot of people who otherwise don't have an access to it. Whenever an event happens, it gives an opportunity to the local talent to actually come and participate. We are a natural travel association ans I think it's is a very natural thing to try and take comedy to places it hasn't been before," he said.
However while experts agree that this is a strong way of leaving impact on the consumers mind, they assert that it has limited reach in India for now.
Harish Bijoor, brand strategist and founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, terms it as subliminal brand communication.
"The idea is a simple. One society grows through generation of advertisements. In the beginning what was best was overt and then when society was tired, covert came into play. Now when we move in to the third generation of consumers who have been into too much of overt and who had started recognising covert as well then you would get subliminal. This will be like beneath the skin of the consumers and into his psyche," said Bijoor.
Such advertisements make the brand very friendly to the consumer because when a consumer comes to the point of decision making, he will feel softer towards the brand.
He feels that such experiments are a little too early for the Indian market.
"If you actually segment the country into a pyramid. You will find that the top of the segment is quite ready for it but not necessarily the middle and the bottom segments of the pyramid. The middle and the bottom of the pyramid still wants the in the face brand communication," he said, adding that brands should have multi-prong approach for different consumer segments. "It is good to have a portfolio approach. Different strokes for different folks," he said.
Treebo that last year signed up actor Irrfan Khan for its 360 degree brand campaign agrees.
"Absolutely there are different purposes being served. There is performance marketing that will probably be serving the need to drive transaction everyday. There are impact properties like outdoor that are serving the need to get the brand out there to more people who are not necessarily in the online world. And this is probably serving a very different need. We are creating content for folks who are already consuming content online. Indeed they are very complimentary efforts," said Chaudhary.