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  • jrrajan06

A marketer’s perspective of Alex in Wonderland

Updated: Jul 11, 2023


Introduction

Alexander Babu Arulanthu (Alex) is a popular Chennai-based stand-up comedian. He has done a lot of stand-up shows and has many videos as well on his channel Alexander Babu - YouTube (you should check it for a few laughs!).


The focus of my article is on the show, Alex in Wonderland, which catapulted him to the limelight. This show has always left me marveling at the way in which it was a culmination of a 3 year (at least) journey of introspection, branding, brand positioning, and marketing.


Alex in Wonderland is an amalgam of stand-up acts, music, and storytelling. Alex performed Alex in Wonderland on stage between mid-2017 till 2019. There is also an Amazon Prime Video recorded in 2019, aptly on World Laughter Day which falls on May 5th.


The Story…

Alex turned into a full-time stand-up comedian in 2014, at a time when the stand-up comedy across the country and specifically Tamilnadu was on the rise. He started, like the others of his ilk, making fun of day-to-day bustles and the experiences from his life. However, over time he quickly started leveraging his other major talent, singing. He experimented and innovated on his shows by singing Tamil movie songs (both as is and with a twist). All the while, taking the viewer on a happily nostalgic journey powered by his imaginative storytelling. Be it talking about Doordarshan or about Church Going on Sundays and Harris Jeyaraj, or about Mamas, Minorities, and Music. In all, these videos have garnered more than 3 million likes.


Having prototyped, tested, and gathered audience feedback, Alex launched Alex in Wonderland- a full-fledged 100 minutes show that covered dedicated segments on quite a few popular stalwarts of the Tamil Film World, from Seergazhi Govindarajan and MS Vishwanathan (1950s) to Ilayaraja and AR Rahman (till date). Every segment is a story on the artist’s mastery, told in a fun and engaging way, interspersed with singing, making the audience sing along, and Alex’s imaginative take on how things could have transpired as each of these legends went about their works. There is a tinge of philosophy and some life lessons thrown into the mix as well. Alex also showcases his talent and love for not just singing but also playing percussion instruments. This show always leaves the audience mesmerized while taking them on a trip down the wonderland of movies, music, laughter, nostalgia, and sometimes, introspection.


Through the looking glass of branding and marketing…

From a marketer’s perspective, Alex in Wonderland is a joyful insightful case study. When he started, Alex did the same thing that his competition was doing. He was good at it but quickly pivoted to create a differentiator. A good example of understanding the market dynamics. Viewing from a microeconomic perspective, his field and competition were monopolistic, and what Alex did in continuously experimenting to add to his product differentiation would have pleased Michael Porter and have him mention Alex in Wonderland as an example of gaining competitive advantage through differentiation.


On one hand, while he was creating brand differentiation and positioning his shows as a fun trip- through a mix of stories, music, and comedy, on the other hand, his message of what his show stands for was consistent and continuous. Brand association and recall were always high. Additionally, community building happened seamlessly. He used nostalgia and music to make people both forget their hustles while watching him and also help them realize at some subconscious level the importance of music and laughter in one’s life. Educating the audience on the brand’s value instead of pushing information on the face is always a classic way of building a loyal online community, a fan base in his case.


The marketing efforts before the launch of Alex in Wonderland evoked interest and the audience went in knowing in parts about what was on offer. Of course, Alex exceeded audience (customer) expectations by leaps and bounds, ensuring not only happy audiences but repeat buyers. Ensuing AMAs even during the lockdowns have been a classic case of seeking customer feedback and using it to improve both what is on offer, and the client relationship.


Interestingly, when he started his experiments, perhaps the ideal client profile (ICP) would have been a Kollywood fan with ages between 25- 55. By the time Alex in Wonderland happened, the ICP dramatically expanded to anyone who knows about Kollywood, from the ages 8 and above- given the versatility and range of legends covered.


Some numbers


This show has been performed about 125 times across multiple geographies. Over a million people have viewed the full video as well as the many videos of the individual segments of the legends.


Let me know your thoughts and feedback in the comments. Until next time, keep laughing and keep learning!


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