“Change is the only constant in the world” – it might be a cliché but it does not makes it less true. Bollywood industry has entertained India (and the world for past 10 – 15 years) for more than 100 years. From the days when movies were silent and black-and-white, to today when they are colored (and 3D too) and full with music and sound effects, they have served only three purposes: entertainment, entertainment and entertainment. Bollywood has now become an industry, with yearly revenues crossing $3 billion1 in 2011 and expected to reach a record $4.5 billion in 2016 according to DI International Business Development (DIBD), a consulting unit of the Confederation of Danish Industry.
The success of Bollywood off course lies in its stars, superstars, directors, singers, lyricists and everyone who is involved in production of movies, but another subtle factor which has increased its reach beyond limits is its continuously evolving marketing strategies.
Gone are the days when the information of movie listing was available through newspapers or road side posters and banners only. The technology has changed and so does the marketing trends of Bollywood. Information as which movie is running in which hall, which one is doing better than other are just a click away. And Bollywood has left no stones unturned in leveraging the technology to tap the generation Y. We remember the movie “RA.ONE”, its genre was child fiction, and thus to promote the movie, a prequel game was launched to introduce the key characters in the movie. The game was launched across the platforms which includes console gaming (Sony’s PS2), personal computers and notebooks. Who can forget the blockbuster “3 Idiots”? It indeed was a movie to cherish for, but there was something more subtle in it – the innovative, bold and aggressive marketing. This movie was the first of a kind in Bollywood to use digital marketing for promotion. The makers of the movie made a tie-up with Zapak Digital Entertainment Ltd, India’s largest gaming portal, to handle and execute the digital marketing of the movie. And Zapak did a new thing by designing a website dedicated for the film prior to the release. The website offered digital content in sync with the theme of the movie, targeting the youth. The website took the users to different rooms of Idiots Academy like Director's Office, Lab, Hostel, Canteen, Class Room and also the Toilets and each had something interesting to offer. The website was highly interactive and it strongly leveraged on gaming, social networking and innovative digital applications. To go further, the website launched a game “Track Amir”, when Amir went missing and users were asked to find him. Users were kept updated and given clues during this game through social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, and as expected, the movie did capture widespread attention by using these relatively unexplored marketing avenues. It would not be incorrect to say that “digital and social networking” is the new black of marketing in Bollywood.
Bollywood is making headways in one more area of marketing which is loosely inspired from Hollywood’s merchandise marketing. Who doesn’t want to dress as a hero or heroine in a new Bollywood blockbuster movie? There was Pantaloons’ special clothing line launched in the market before the release of the movie 3 Idiots. The 10 t-shirts launched as a part of this event were reported to be designed by Amir Khan himself during the making of the film. Here Bollywood targeted the sweet spot of the current generation – the wish to be stylish and follow favorite actors or actresses. The t-shirts were priced at nominal price of INR 399, thus targeting the general youth as opposed to the niche and sophisticated upper class. Other movies as “Om Shanti Om”, “Welcome”, “Race” and “Kai Po Che” have also adopted the clothing line strategy for marketing and earning profit.
Digital marketing and merchandise marketing are still perceivable marketing strategy, but who could have imagined that a Bollywood movie could use an insurance company for marketing and an insurance company could use a Bollywood movie? The answer is again the makers of 3 Idiots. They tied up with Reliance Life Insurance. This joint campaign got the main message of the movie – All is Well - engraved in the mind of people by showing it on over 50 main stream television channels, almost 40 radio channels covering 250 cities and outdoor hoardings in over 500 towns. It indeed was a win-win situation for both the parties – the message “All is Well” may be one of the best tag lines for a company in an insurance business while the movie gained wide publicity courtesy of Reliance.
Now let us see a few more brave and brand-new marketing moves. Consider you enter a washroom of a shopping mall and a message awaits you there saying something as “The Fourth Idiot” or “You are an idiot”. You have every right to get offended, but think harder, shopping malls have tight administration and such a thing won’t be allowed there, and then, you get the Eureka moment, the message is for the promotion of the upcoming movie “3 Idiots”. Won’t you be telling this story to everyone you would meet later? Probably yes, and that is when you become a marketer of “3 Idiots” unconsciously. Consider you are in a shopping mall (with no intention of watching a movie), yet you find that many workers of the multiplex have got a strange hair cut – a Ghajini hair cut – you are curious and asks someone about it, and arrives the moment of alas!– it is the hairstyle of Amir Khan in Ghajini. You would be tempted to share this incident to your friends, colleagues, relatives and who not? You might end up sharing this on Facebook or Twitter, and that’s when you again become the marketer for Ghajini. Consider that one get to know that Sunny Leone – the actress of Murder 3 – is on the other side of the ticket counter of a multiplex, will that person be able to stop his or her feet moving towards the ticket counter – indeed no; and this is what we may call as direct marketing. Such moves are bold and risky, but one must have to agree, these were risks worth taking.
Now let us focus on new marketing strategies of Bollywood crafted for traditional media – tv and radio. To promote a movie on mainstream television channels - Sony, Star Plus, Zee tv etc. - at prime time would be an obvious marketing strategy, isn’t it? But, consider that viewers from whole country are watching a prime time daily soap (Afsar Bitiya broadcasted on Zee tv) and suddenly a few new characters storm into the program flaunting guns. The characters look somewhat familiar but one could not remember who they are and why have they come into the daily soap, and wait, the characters are Faisal Khan and Mohsina of the upcoming movie Gangs of Wasseypur 2. The popularity and brand recall the movie would have gained by this act would be far more than that of showing the teaser 20 times. Appearance of Ajay Devgan and Abhishek Bachchan in “Ek Hazaaron Mein Meri Behna Hai” on Star Plus for promotion of upcoming movie Bol Bachchan, Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha in “CID” on Sony for promotion of Rowdy Rathore etc are similar examples. A similar smart move that Bollywood has devised is to get the protagonist of a daily soap yearning for the upcoming movie. Movie “RA.ONE” brought one more marketing idea for Bollywood – co advertisement. Its advertisement with Volkswagen Touareg and Nerolac was a making it popular.
Radio is popular more in suburbs and rural areas than metro cities, and this could not escape the minds of the makers of “3 Idiots”. Consider the (promotional) hunt for the “Sabse Big Idiot” by Big 92.7 FM radio channel. They got the movie on minds of villagers too using this old far reaching medium. Nowadays, stars and superstars make sporadic appearances on radio to promote their movie.
A new trend that has become popular in Bollywood is to release the movie coinciding with a festival or a celebration. For example, release of movie “Ek Tha Tiger” on 15 August (Independence Day of India), release of “DON 2” on 25 December (Christmas) and release of “3 Idiots” on 23 December (Christmas week). Bollywood taps the festive mood of the public and enjoys better attendance in cinemas due to holidays on such days, simply by coinciding the release dates.
One more thing to note these days is the free marketing the movies get by news channels. News channels have the trend of reporting how much a movie has earned on the first day, and if a channel reports that xyz movie has broken all previous records of first day earning, it gets into the mind of a potential movie goer and works in favor of the movie. Same is the case with the 100 crore mark. These days, if a movie earns 100 crore, it becomes a news which in turn helps the movie to earn even more by urging others to watch a “100 crore” movie.
Actor centered marketing is not new in Bollywood, but it has reached new heights these days. Salman Khan Lucknow visit for promotion of “Ek Tha Tiger” and Shahrukh Khan’s 10 city “promotional” tour for “Don 2” are a few examples. If this trend picks up, we may have movie campaigns similar to election campaigns.
Bollywood has made each one of us laugh or cry or love or ponder at one point of time or another, by one movie or the other, each one of us do owe some respect to Bollywood. It did surprise many of us by its new and aggressive marketing strategies, and let us hope that this industry grows beyond limits and keep surprising us, entertaining us using still new ideas. Long Live Bollywood!
[The article has been written by Amit Kumar. He has completed his MBA from IIM Trichy, prior to which he has worked with ISRO and Freescale semiconductor.][/sociallocker]