Especially in the case of big-ticket films.
Mumbai-based Eros International Plc has already launched a multi-pronged strategy to market film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani, to be released in December. Yash Raj Films Pvt. Ltd is implementing an elaborate plan for Fan, starring Shah Rukh Khan, which is slated for release in April 2016.
In July, Red Chillies Entertainment and Excel Entertainment’s Raees, also starring Khan, was introduced through a minute-long teaser. It is due to release on Eid next year. In June, Yash Raj released a title poster of Sultan, a Salman Khan-starrer, also slated for release on Eid next year. The film hasn’t even gone on the floors yet.
According to Prerna Singh, chief marketing officer with Eros International, early promotions of a film depend on whether the genre demands such a strategy.
Singh said Bajirao Mastani belongs to such a genre. “We were clear that we had to build it up as the world’s biggest love saga and India’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," she added.
Eros has drawn up a three-pronged approach for Bajirao Mastani, targeting the Mumbai, India and international markets separately, and has based the strategy on the director’s opulent vision and the fact that the film has been in the news for almost nine years.
“It’s important to let the audience know that this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The grandeur of the film, music and cast can’t be captured in a couple of months," Singh said.
For Mumbai, which Singh said brings in 40% of the total business, Eros International is trying to build on the historical charm of Peshwa Bajirao himself. The Maratha warrior, who never lost a battle, has not been spoken about enough, believes the firm.
On his 315th birth anniversary recently, actor Ranveer Singh’s first look from the film was revealed. Singh and her team also tracked down the descendants of the Peshwa family, now based in Pune, and invited them over to Mumbai for a felicitation ceremony.
For its pan-India approach, the production house is looking to create a buzz about director Bhansali and Eros International coming together to replicate the success of their last film Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela (2013).
The first teaser, without any dialogue, was meant to give a feel of the epic, while subsequent trailers hope to create a loyal consumer base to experience the characters and music. To international markets, the film is being presented as India’s biggest love saga.
Like Eros International, Yash Raj Films has an elaborate strategy planned for its film Fan built on, quite obviously, the stardom of Shah Rukh Khan. First is the campaign with Yepme.com, the online marketplace Khan endorses, to identify 100 of his biggest fans. The exercise will be routed through the fashion portal’s website, and the winners will be styled in outfits, apart from being featured in the film’s poster. Beginning hundred days before release, one individual will be introduced daily as a countdown to the big day.
Yash Raj has also tied up with Hyundai Motor India Ltd. Its new sport utility vehicle, Creta, is tagged as the “Official Wheels of Fan". A teaser campaign launched earlier this month features shots of the vehicle juxtaposed with real-life footage of Khan with a crowd of fans.
Ashish Patil, business and creative head at Yash Raj Films, said there will be more campaigns coming up during Diwali and closer to the film’s release.
“As far as brand partnerships go, we believe less is more," Patil said. “Apart from the countdown with the fans that begins sometime in January, we should be coming out with something in October, for Diwali, and definitely for Shah Rukh’s birthday on 2 November. We hope to generate both value and excitement for viewers with few, but strategic campaigns."
In an industry that boasts multiple releases every week, it isn’t clear how a marketing strategy drawn up over months, and sometimes nearly a year, ahead works. “It’s a trend specific to certain films," said Rudrarup Datta, head of marketing and operations at Viacom18 Motion Pictures.
“That is the way Hollywood has always operated with teasers and campaigns announced way in advance. But in India, a lot of factors work for our films closer to release. Nevertheless, it definitely helps arouse curiosity and anticipation for the really big films and makes sure they get better openings and lifetime business," he added.
Datta said Viacom18 adopted the strategy for Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), where it announced a release date 10 months in advance, having come out with a teaser and the first look of the film.
It spent the remaining time creating a promotional campaign centred around sprinter Milkha Singh and his achievements. The athlete not just made several public appearances with the team, but also at an event in Chandigarh, handed over his 1960 Rome Olympics spikes to actor Farhan Akhtar, as a mark of encouragement and faith.
“Film marketing as a business in India has become more sophisticated," said Vinit Karnik, national director (entertainment) at GroupM, a media buying company.
“At the same time, the shelf life of a film is becoming more condensed. It is important to leverage the star power, marketing positioning, innovations and brand associations keeping your core audience at the centre of all activations," he said.
Monetization of the film is also a concern. “With big-budget films, star cast and banners, there is also a need to look at revenue streams beyond ticket sales," Karnik said. “This is possible by creating a ‘buzz’—be it public relations, conversations or behind-the-scenes details that are often shared to help build a certain value for studios to leverage in the form of in-film and media tie-ups," he added.
But sustaining excitement among audiences for many months is no piece of cake. “Without a clear marketing plan, you can fall flat," said Datta of Viacom18. “You can’t just introduce one element of the film and disappear for the next six months. It definitely isn’t easy to keep audiences’ attention, but in the past few years, social media has emerged as a new way to interest and engage them."
While long-drawn marketing strategies are definitely not a guarantee of success of a film, they do “help in some cases", said Karnik.