Mumbai: You might be hard-pressed to find a high degree of commonality between Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah and the Smurfs. For those who aren’t familiar with either of these, the first is SAB channel’s top-rated comedy show, the second is a bunch of small blue animated mushroom-dwellers who had Hollywood outings in 2011 with The Smurfs and this year with The Smurfs 2.
In 2011, they made an appearance in the Hindi serial as part of promotions for the film. The association continued with the second film that released on Friday—the serial’s Champak Lal and grandson Tappu wore bright blue paint to become Smurf ambassadors.
Some experts are wondering about whether the two brands suit each other, given the seemingly disparate nature of their audiences. Others look at them as counter-intuitive in more ways than one.
Raindrops basmati rice recently tied up with the film Ghanchakkar, featuring actors Emraan Hashmi and Vidya Balan, in which the latter plays a woman with poor dress sense and is a terrible cook.
WeChat, the mobile messaging application, tied up with the film Lootera, which is set in the 1950s, when mobile phones didn’t exist.
Recently, clothing brand Monte Carlo tied up with the biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. The label was launched in 1984.
And even more recently, Jalandhar-based Lovely Professional University tied up with the Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone starrer Chennai Express, an action comedy about two people who meet on a train and fall in love. Needless to say, the association was a bit of a stretch.
Disney UTV had an Iron Man impersonator on stage with contestants of talent show India’s Best Dramebaaz on Zee TV to promote the film before its release in India. A few years ago, the character played by actor Kareena Kapoor in Madhur Bhandarkar’s film Heroine inaugurates a showroom for sanitaryware brand Cera, to try and get around the absence of any plot-related device to introduce the brand association.
“Today, only 15-20% of brand tie-ups are actually relevant to the target audience, the brand communication and brand DNA,” said Navin Shah, joint managing director of EMC Solutions Worldwide Pvt. Ltd, a branded entertainment solutions firm. While Amul milk fitted well in the plot of a movie like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, the association between it and Getit Infomedia, a digital information and services provider, was a bit of a stretch. (Getit Infoservices Pvt. Ltd was the official search partner for the movie.)
“While both brands have derived some value from the association, assuming that the cost of association is the same, one (Amul) has derived more value than the other. If it is a good fit, then there is a multiplier effect for the brand, as the association is memorable and likable, and therefore more impactful,” he said, citing the example of travel site MakeMyTrip.com and its association with Bollywood film Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani.
When it comes to brand associations and joint promotions, experts said these usually have certain objectives.
The first is the implied endorsement of the stars. The second is to ride on the success associated with a hit film and the third is breaking the clutter and monotony of communication. In the case of the Smurf films, the idea was to expand the viewer base for the English movie as well as its dubbed version in Hindi.
“We knew that English-speaking kids knew about the Smurfs. The question was, how do we increase their appeal with the Hindi segment,” said Divya Pathak, director, marketing, Sony Pictures India.
The strategy to promote the film across different segments seemed to have helped in 2011, as the dubbed Hindi version of the film saw an increase following the placement in the serial.
“This is a sustained effort to build audiences for the (Hollywood) animation franchise,” she said.
In the case of WeChat, the mobile messaging app, the company was looking to ride on the implied endorsement by the stars.
“Both Ranveer Singh and Sonakshi Sinha are not only young stars with mass youth appeal but they also represent the freshness WeChat brings to its users,” said Katie Lee, spokesperson for WeChat. “Lootera not only gave us a good exposure but also by associating ourselves with a movie like that, we have managed to enhance our mind share in the minds of our audiences.” Raindrops for instance ran a “Rice and Shine” contest on Facebook, urging users to upload pictures of their rice dishes. The picture with the most likes would win a chance to meet the Ghanchakkar stars.
Experts said that a few months before the film is launched, filmmakers are very careful about what they say and what brands they associate with. However, closer to the release of the film it’s all about the “gross noise”.
“Any publicity is good publicity, to ensure that the film is on top of the consumer’s mind. At that time a brand can help, even if the association is not relevant,” said Shah, with even controversies such as a film being banned in a particular state helping to boost revenue. “You want noise, not even voice.”