The Comedy

Click here for the complete article showcasing “The Seven Basic Plots Applied to Branding.

First up, we delve into Plot #1 – 

“The Comedy”

Stories hold immense significance for us, permeating every aspect of our lives and maintaining their relevance. Now, the question arises: How can you ensure that your story stands out?

The key lies in establishing an emotional bond. Information resonates more profoundly when accompanied by emotional engagement. At the core of all impactful content, regardless of its form, lies a well-crafted story. There are seven storytelling archetypes, and it’s fascinating to consider their application in the realm of branding.

You've had it wrong all along

One narrative archetype that stands out as familiar is the universally cherished plot of Comedy. Originally, far from the traditional understanding of the term, the Comedy plot in storytelling was less about just humour, it encompasses a broader spectrum of characteristics; misunderstandings, confusion, it always something that let to a “happy ending”.

In ancient Greece all dramas were categorised mainly into these two types; tragedy and comedy. Originally comedy was simply just a narrative play or poem that ended well, as opposed to tragedy which ended badly, hence the two dramatic masks.

“Comedy” derives from the Greek verb κῶμος [Komos] meaning “to revel” or “to celebrate”. 

Although it is good to know its origins that doesn’t mean what it has become is not important, but it will inform the break-down of what structure the comedy plot involves.

This article explores the key characteristics that define the Comedy plot and what remains from how it has evolved, delving into its timeless appeal and its seamless integration into the dynamic world of advertising and branding.

Structure

The term “Comedy” refers to a story that’s not only humorous, but that also follows a specific structure. Similar to the Tragedy plot there are some parallels with the structure, but it is seen through a different lens.Characters in this plot experience a series of increasingly bizarre events, mistakes, or problems. Then, at last, the misunderstandings of the story are resolved in one final clarifying moment.

Motivation: The protagonist usually starts from a generally positive point where everything would be fine if it stayed like this, but of course this is not how things work, our protagonist wants something extra. 

Obstacle: The turning point for the protagonist is ‘fate’ however it manifests itself around the protagonist in the story intervenes and jeopardises that extra thing from being easy to obtain. The protagonist suffers increasingly being hurled into chaos initiated by a mistake or misunderstanding.

Resolution: The protagonist inevitably survives the chaos and confusion and achieves a new equilibrium.

Comedy plots should end in a resolution that clears up the confusion and chaos that has preceded. However, while these stories are generally lighthearted, remember that challenges and conflict are as important here as with any other narrative.

Key Characteristics of Comedy Plot:

The Comedy plot is defined by key elements that set it apart from other narrative structures. These features provide a foundation for recognizing and comprehending stories that fall within the Comedy archetypal plot.

Mistaken Identity or Confusion:

Mistaken identity or confusion is an important theme within the Comedy plot. Characters may find themselves in humorous predicaments due to misunderstandings or misinterpretations, contributing to the overall comedic tone.

Chaos:

Often the narrative will plunge into chaos past its midpoint once the protagonist has made a decision that they cannot go back from, usually involving mistaken identity, misunderstandings, or confusion. These events lead to a series of situations that tend to result in these chaotic but entertaining outcomes where it is imperative that the protagonist must navigate through before it gets worse (if they didn’t it would become a tragedy).

Resolution Through Laughter:

Unlike other plots that may end in triumph or tragedy, Comedy resolves through laughter. The challenges and chaos presented throughout the narrative are often resolved through humour, leaving audiences with a sense of joy and amusement.

Challenging Assumptions or Stereotypes:

Comedy in advertising is frequently used to challenge assumptions or stereotypes associated with a brand or product. By employing humour, brands can subvert expectations, portraying an alternative and amusing perspective that engages the audience.

Universal Applicability of Humour:

Comedy transcends cultural and linguistic barriers, making it universally appealing. Brands that incorporate comedic elements into their narratives can connect with diverse audiences through the shared language of laughter.

The Essence of Comedy:

At its core, the Comedy plot revolves around events that induce laughter, joy, and a light-hearted atmosphere. Whether it’s mistaken identity, humorous misunderstandings, or chaotic scenarios, the narrative unfolds to entertain and uplift the audience through the power of laughter.

Mistaken identity

Here is an example of how the comedy plot can still be achieved even in a still image:

The Advertising Alchemy:

In the realm of advertising, brands leverage the Comedy plot by infusing humour into their narratives. Comedic elements become tools for engaging audiences, challenging assumptions, and creating memorable, light-hearted connections. By aligning themselves with the humorous journey of their target demographic, brands can foster a positive and joyful association with their products or services.

 

Example: SpecSavers – A Vision of Humorous Clarity

An illustrative example is the advertising campaign by SpecSavers, where mistaken identity becomes the focal point of the comedic narrative. The commercial humorously portrays the consequences of not using the brand’s service, highlighting the alternative situation if the product is not part of the hero’s life.

Who Does This Speak To?

The Comedy plot, with its focus on humour, mistaken identity, and chaos, can appeal to a diverse range of demographic types. Here are some examples and explanations of who and what demographic types the Comedy plot might appeal to in advertising:

40-50s Audiences:

Example: Taco Bell’s “Viva Young” Super Bowl Commercial

Explanation: Taco Bell’s “Viva Young” Super Bowl commercial is a prime example of using Comedy to connect with audiences between 40 and 50 because not only have they likely had the experiences in the advert but have ahead of them the assumed identity that is being mistaken in it. The narrative follows a group of elderly individuals who break free from their assisted living facility for a night of mischief and adventure. The commercial challenges stereotypes associated with ageing and injects humour into the idea of staying young at heart and mistaking the assumed identity of the elderl

Professionals:

Example: GEICO’s “Happier Than a Camel on Hump Day” Campaign

Explanation: Based on jargon of the esoteric experiences had in an office this speaks to professionals. GEICO’s use of talking animals and ‘inside joke’ of the professionals’ environment in their commercials creates a positive and entertaining association with the brand.

20-40s Audiences:

Example: Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” Campaign

Explanation:  The character, played by actor Isaiah Mustafa, exudes confidence and charm while delivering humorous lines, playing with the theme that the “ladies’” he is addressing could have men that smell like him. The over-the-top confidence creates a humorous exaggeration of the idealised man, leading to a playful misunderstanding of what men could aspire to be if they use Old Spice and depicting absurd versions of the stereotypes.

Conclusion:

The timeless allure of the Comedy plot lies in its ability to elicit laughter and the use of the outsiders perspective of a personal experience of misunderstanding or mistaking an identity or situation from a third person perspective, this can transcend cultural and linguistic boundaries to create a shared experience of joy. From classic literature to contemporary advertising, the Comedy archetypal narrative continues to captivate audiences, offering a delightful blueprint for crafting engaging and memorable stories.

As brands embrace the power of humour, they not only align themselves with a narrative structure ingrained in the human psyche but also become architects of laughter, forging a connection that goes beyond commerce and becomes a shared journey of comedic exploration. Understanding the comedic narrative that resonates with your target audience is the key to not only achieving marketing goals but also creating a lasting and positive emotional impact. After all, in the world of Comedy, the punchline is a universal language that brings people together.

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