Wake up, dream merchants

With back to back film releases and stars promoting their movies passionately, film producers are waking up to the potential of merchandising tools as in the West. TWF correspondent Anuradha Dutta explores the new trends in Bollywood.

Critics might dismiss Dhoom: 3 as lacking logic but the marketing strategy taken up by Yash Raj Films (YRF) to promote its Rs. 1.5 billion extravaganza is a clever step to make the cash box jingling. YRF, which is associated with 20 brands to bring exclusive Dhoom:3 merchandise and electronic gadgets in the market is clear that it means business beyond the box office sales.

The film’s franchise has introduced many ‘first-evers’ in film marketing in India with the launch of gaming tablets D:3 Ultra and D:3 Spectra under its brand.YRF. Licensing also includes smart phones, motorcycle accessories inspired by the film, Mi-Fi cloud routers, mobile games and high-end gadgets. With 200 products ranging from Rs 69 to Rs 9,000, it ensures that there is something for each segment of the audience.

Hot Wheels replica of Sahir (Aamir), the protagonist’s bike, greeting cards , gift wraps, calendars, UNO cards and men and women fashion accessories and many other items produced and designed by leading companies can be found under the brand at more than 22,000 retail touch points. Limited edition Collector dolls inspired by Aamir and Katrina’s character (Aliya) by Mattel, perhaps is a big attraction for the star-struck.

With the launch of the Collector dolls Mattel makes Dhoom 3 enter the league of famous Collector dolls created by Mattel for hit movies like Twilight and Pirates of the Caribbean and celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Johnny Depp, etc.

In a country obsessed with films and stars, it is no surprise that an estimated 15 million visit theatre every day. Film marketing gurus have caught on to the potential of catching their attention.

The Katrina Kaif Collector Doll by Mattel Toys

“Creating a buzz and hype around a movie release is indispensable to pulling the biggest crowd. We have come to a time when conventional marketing tools can’t work in isolation,” observes Nitin N Sethi who owns online enfotainment magazine

“There’s too much clutter, with so many big releases happening all at once and there’s a race to hog as much public attention as possible. Here comes branding which plays an important role in creating a unique image to a film,” opines Nitin.

Attracting viewership, preferably within the first week of release of a big budget film makes sense.

Says Rudrarup Datta, head of marketing and production, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, “With three to four films releasing in one weekend and more big releases due in the weeks ahead, there’s fairly little time to attract viewership through word of mouth.”

Hence, raising awareness and engaging with potential audience through various promotional activities is imperative to inspire them to come to theaters or select one film over another, Datta observes.

Movies like Ra One have proved what savvy marketing strategies can do. The film which was promoted as a brand successfully introduced exclusive movie merchandise for the first time in India. The concept was a runaway success as it captured the imagination of children who felt connected with the super hero instantly by owning a piece of the merchandise.

“Movie merchandising brings three fold benefits to the producers,” says Datta. First, it helps to promote the film, second, it establishes the characters in memory extending a film’s life span with the possibility of a sequel; lastly the all- important factor: “it brings revenue which is over and above the box office sales.”

While Krrish 3 dolls inspired by the characters of Hritik Roshan and Kangana Ranaut, jewellery and a host of other items have hit the market, makers of Bullet Raja have chosen to come up with a graphic novel based on the protagonist months before its release; now a comic-book is likely to be on the stands soon.

Earlier in the year, Shahrukh Khan-Rohit Shetty flick Chennai Express used saris, snacks and on-line games for promotions. The ‘Lungi Dance’ song was created to use the southern superstar Rajinikanth's brand, which works so well in the southern states.

Companies too have realised that co-branding is a great way to reach the audience. They are able to sell their products using the star’s image for a much lesser price than having to sign them up as brand ambassadors. It is a win-win situation for both the stakeholders of the film as well as the associated companies. While the companies use both the image of the star and the popularity of the character in the movie, producers get to reap benefits on their investment for a much longer time.

Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif at the launch of the Dhoom 3 collector dolls by Mattel

Market watchers are coming up with new and interesting ideas everyday to create the right kind of noise to stimulate the audience. Viacom 18 recently decided to popularise the tokras of machchiwalis of Mumbai by placing fish branded with the title ‘What the fish’ to promote the Dimple Kapadia starrer with the same name. The activity instantly created a buzz.

However, the market makers also know that there is nothing called marketing magic.

“Clever marketing can ensure optimum realisation of a movie’s worth even if it is average. It can work to get a good opening, but if the film is a complete let down, even the best marketing strategies cannot make it work,” says Datta.

Suman Sen of ‘Fame Per Second’ which did the marketing of two recent Bengali releases, Tasher Desh and Ashchorjyo Prodeep agrees, “There has been a tectonic shift the way films are now being promoted owing to the change in the socio-economic conditions and rising aspiration levels, especially among the middle class and lower middle class. Packaging and branding of a movie goes a long way in capturing people’s attention.”

“However, the product has to be kick ass. Marketing can only ensure initial success,” he adds.

So, what is it that has brought this phenomenal shift in the ways film industry worked several years back? Is it the rising expectation levels of the generation raised in the post-globalisation period, or Bollywood has realised that time has come to replictate the way films are marketed in Hollywood?

“Indian cinema is changing not because of outside pressure but because of inside pressure. Society is changing. Obviously, ideas change because of globalisation, because of the huge middle class that is mostly first generation. [The change has been spurred by] Western influences and culture, industrialisation, and the joint family system breaking up. People are becoming more individualistic. That is reflected in cinema,” says Javed Akhtar, poet and lyricist, who has witnessed many changes in the Hindi film industry over the last decades.

“Then, with multiplexes, the game has changed because a film has become viable now even if it is appreciated or patronised by one segment of society. So the lowest common denominator is a segment of society, not the whole society,” adds Akhtar in an interview given to Knowledge@Wharton, the online business analysis journal of Wharton school of the University of Pennsylvania.

In the current scenario, marketing initiatives will be more up-market and innovative to stimulate the audience which is young, aware and modern, affirm the marketing experts. Though the main focus is on pre-release promotions, merchandising and sale of satellite rights help in multiplying the profits post-release. The more professional and well planned strategies are allowing producers to earn maximum profits this way.

As long as it churns money, no one is complaining. After all, mullah matters.

--IBNS (Posted on 02-01-2014)

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