Brands make a beeline for Punjabi rappers

Punjabi rappers like Badshah, Raftaar and Diljit Dosanjh are being signed up by brands to create music videos

A still from Yamaha’s latest campaign featuring rapper Badshah, promoting its recently launched scooter Cygnus Ray-ZR.
A still from Yamaha’s latest campaign featuring rapper Badshah, promoting its recently launched scooter Cygnus Ray-ZR.

New Delhi: Brands are finding their way into the hearts of consumers through Punjabi rap artistes with millions of followers, both online and offline.

Yamaha Motor Pvt. Ltd’s latest campaign, promoting its recently launched scooter Cygnus Ray-ZR, has crossed 4 million views ever since it was uploaded on Sony Music India’s YouTube channel on 24 June. The campaign is a rap song created and sung by popular rapper Badshah, who also features in the video.

The campaign is being promoted on streaming sites like Gaana, Saavn, Hungama, iTunes and Wynk. The video is also being promoted on music channels.

Cygnus Ray-ZR is specifically targeted at youngsters, said Roy Kurian, vice president, sales and marketing, Yamaha Motor India Sales Pvt. Ltd.

“Having Badshah on board will give additional impetus to it, as he has a huge fan following and a majority of them are youngsters,” he added.

This is not the first time Badshah has appeared in a branded music video. In April this year, the consumer durables company Hitachi also roped in the rap artiste to create a music video for the promotion of its I-Clean range of air conditioners. The digital campaign was conceptualized by Dentsu Creative Impact and was executed by Sony Music.

Apart from Yamaha and Hitachi, Badshah has also endorsed Titan and Tuborg in the past. Other artistes who have been signed up by brands include Raftaar by Vodafone and Diljit Dosanjh for Coca-Cola, among others.

While music has always played a role in brand promotion and advertising, branded music content has largely been restricted to liquor brands. The rise of digital streaming platforms like YouTube has created an army of young artistes who share content online.

As their popularity soared, brands started associating with them to lure their young, digitally-savvy fan base. It not only helps them to reach a consumer base which suffers from ad-fatigue but also become a part of the pop-culture.

Typically, brands reach out to either music labels that handle these artistes or digital content creators who help create these videos. In some cases, a brand’s ad agency is also involved in the process.

Kiran D’cruz, national head, Brand Partnerships, Sony Music, who started pitching rappers to brands some years ago, now sees his proposals gaining traction.

“The attitude of the brands towards music content has become positive. With the rising popularity of digital medium and streaming platforms, brands can now reach out to their target audience using music,” he said.

While Badshah may seem to be grabbing the lion’s share of the business, Raftaar signed up with Vodafone India for its prepaid pack ‘U’ in May this year.

The telecom firm roped in Raftaar along with YouTube star Kanan Gill and digital content company The Viral Fever (TVF) to promote the new prepaid pack. The singer has so far appeared in two music videos (Cute Vol I and Instagram Love ) for the company.

Coca-Cola roped in Punjabi singer and actor Diljit Dosanjh last year for the Punjab market. Apart from appearing in regional campaigns, the singer appeared in the Independence Day special episode of Coke Studio Season 4.

“Regional protagonists like Diljit Dosanjh bring in a very personal and local connect. Diljit brings in the added dimension of being a popular singer and our first association with him was to create a song on Coke Studio,” said Debabrata Mukherjee, vice-president, marketing and commercial, Coca-Cola India and South West Asia.

Coke Studio is a television series telecast on MTV featuring live studio-recorded music performances by various artistes.

Targeted primarily at digital natives, the template of a branded music rap video creates an original soundtrack with lyrical word play of the brand’s name or by simply placing the brand logo or message at the end. It is a two-fold approach when it comes to distribution where a music video is created as a digital campaign and then spots are cut from it to be used as a television campaign. These songs can be pushed across streaming platforms and social media for at least three to four weeks.

Pratik Gupta, co-founder of digital agency FoxyMoron, believes that the rap videos work because rappers like Badshah are influencers with a huge fan following. However, he is quick to add that not all brands are willing to invest a chunk of their digital budgets in a music video.

The budget for creating such branded music videos varies between Rs.10 lakh to Rs.60 lakh.

At this cost, the returns for brands could be significant. Sample this: Raftaar’s Instagram Love video for Vodafone has garnered over 5.2 million YouTube views in a month while Badshah’s Hitachi anthem has received over 1.9 million YouTube views since April. These videos are also amplified on rap artistes’ social media handles which further pushes the content and is widely shared as well as downloaded by fans.

To be sure, Badshah seems to be most popular face in terms of social media presence with 4.7 million Facebook fans and close to two lakh Twitter followers. He is followed by Diljit Dosanjh who has 4.6 million Facebook fans and six lakh Twitter followers. Raftaar has 3.4 million Facebook fans and 67,000 Twitter followers.

Although these videos tend to do well on the digital platforms, experts feel that they need a greater commitment and right approach from the advertisers. Brands tend to take a short-term and return-on-investment-driven approach when it comes to branded music content. Many also feel that while an increasing number of advertisers are open to creating music content, effectiveness is still an issue.

“Brands need to partner artistes for commercial tracks with subtle brand integration which does not seem plugged. Only then can they get the reach; consumers are never going to share a brand jingle,” said Gurpreet Singh Bhasin, COO and co-founder, One Digital Entertainment, which handles Raftaar’s digital portfolio.

Besides brands have to be consistently invested in the music for it to eventually pay off, said D’Cruz. “It cannot be a two-week process,” he added.

Echoing a similar sentiment, Arunabh Kumar, founder and creative experiment officer (CEO) of TVF, feels that one viral video will not take a brand anywhere. At TVF, Kumar said, the minimum engagement brand activity lasts for three to six months.

“Branded content in general is in a nascent stage. Music is a palatable format but conceiving brands into it is not easy. Brands need to not just take a music content piece seriously but also use media wisely to promote it,” he said.

The biggest advantage of digital content over a television commercial is that content on digital is for perpetuity. “A user can access branded entertainment anytime which is a great value proposition for brands,” he added.

TVF had first created branded music video for Bajaj Allianz back in October 2014. After which the company executed a music video for fashion social network Roposo with Badshah last year. The most recent addition to this list is the Vodafone U videos rolled out in May this year.

Noting that globally advertisers have been associated with rap and hip-hop genres, Sameer Pitalwalla, chief executive officer and co-founder, Culture Machine, feels that branded music content will become bigger with time and move to genres other than Punjabi rap.

While content creators and digital networks are gung ho about branded rap videos, advertising experts feel that the branded music content landscape is much wider.

“Coke Studio, to my mind, is a stellar example of branded music content and so is Bacardi Mixes,” said Rajiv Dingra, founder and chief executive of WATConsult, the digital and social media agency of Dentsu Aegis Network. He feels that these rappers are the flavour of the season and are being leveraged by mass brands.

“India is in a rudimentary stage when it comes to branded music content. The brands have not been able to create a balance between great content and integrated advertising,” he said. “A good piece of branded video must create similar recall value which iconic jingles like Cadbury’s ‘kucch khaas hai zindagi mei’ have,” he said

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