Everything from the first look and the teaser to the trailer and latest poster unveiled last Friday, each piece of communication has been launched by a Shah Rukh Khan lover. Besides, the studio has carried out a 100-day contest called ‘Tu Nahi Samjhega’ in the run-up to the film’s release where a die-hard fan of the actor is introduced to the world every day.
“The fundamental premise of the film itself allowed us to incorporate beautifully a core strategy into any kind of marketing campaign—we believe this is a film that needs to touch every fan and every type of fan out there," said Manan Mehta, vice-president of marketing and merchandise at Yash Raj Films.
Mehta added that the idea was not to ring true just for a Shah Rukh Khan fan. It was more about representing the broader idea of being a fan as well as the whole emotion that one goes through.
“Fan as a concept is about an emotional connect. This film is just an example of explaining that from a Bollywood point of view. We thought we should translate that completely into a marketing campaign and reach out and recognize all those fans around who are bound by a common emotion of being passionate about that one thing or person," he said.
To be sure, the unusually long-drawn campaign isn’t a source of anxiety for Yash Raj. “Today Bollywood marketing is a very expensive affair. Unlike other brands where you have time to see where they go, with a film, it’s one day that decides the future of the product. So our job as marketers is to make sure the cost of marketing comes to some effective level. But at the same time, we keep driving efficiency in every interaction, keep talking to different communities at different times," Mehta said.
In case of Fan, the core community may have been of Shah Rukh Khan fans, but there was also the huge Yash Raj community to be tapped into, which was pretty huge, or groups of general Bollywood fans. Within the last genre, there were movie-goers who were fans of thrillers or of adventure movies.
“We’ve talked to all those. That is how a longer timeline allows us to go through the marketing campaign and justify costs," Mehta said.
That is also the reason, going forward, the studio has decided to reach out and introduce all their films to audiences as much in advance. Announcements for Salman Khan-starrer Sultan were made mid-2015 and the publicity material for the film has constantly circulated on social media since. The film will release for Eid 2016. “The longer you take to market products or brands, the longer audiences will have to engage with them. Plus you are also able to fine-tune your marketing strategy based on the responses you’re getting across different media-digital, offline, on-ground," said Mehta. “So that will be our mainstay going forward."
One would presume that the nearly one-year-long marketing campaign has been one of Yash Raj’s costliest. Industry experts estimate that their in-movie product placements could range between ₹ 30 lakh and ₹ 1 crore. But the reason it isn’t possible to put a finger on either their exact marketing spend or whether they will be able to recover any of it is that the film is yet to begin its traditional television campaign or announce any out of movie product placements.
Some brands associated with the movie currently are Ching’s, Hyundai, Yepme, Western Union and Airtel.
“It’s too early to gauge estimates of the marketing plan. However, they will definitely go all out since it’s an SRK-starrer and that’s how brands have been leveraging on movie associations," said Sidharth Ghosh, vice-president, Fountainhead MKTG, the marketing division of Dentsu Aegis Network.
Ghosh added that brand integrations are just one of the revenue models for movie studios. Yash Raj is sure to have a huge theatrical release in the Indian and overseas market apart from banking on satellite, digital and DVD rights.
“This is one of the most unique and effective campaigns from YRF," said Ghosh. “The idea was to build a story around real ‘fans’ and connect it to the movie which they have diligently achieved since the response has been overwhelming. They have managed to garner maximum attention on the digital platform. It is now a much-awaited movie from an audience perspective."
Not that Yash Raj saw it as any sort of a gamble in the first place.
“I don’t think gamble is the right word. I think what was happening so far was a gamble," Mehta said, referring to what he calls “hope and pray campaigns", where all eggs are put into one basket immediately before a film’s release.
“The correct way is once you know what kind of product you’re creating, what kind of brand it is, what kind of tonality it will have, and you broadly understand what kind of audience you will have for the star cast you have put out, go and start talking to those audiences," he said. The YRF marketing head believes that stems from the unique nature of Bollywood marketing.
“Basically each film has songs, romance and action. So you’ve got to find different audiences for the different offerings you have within that entire entertainment package. It’s a logical thing to do. Market it earlier. Start getting people in slowly and steadily and consolidating on whatever you’ve got. Meanwhile, keep going out and reaching for more audiences," he said.