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Pole Position-ing


Should movies be branded?

The common perception that exists among the marketers of movies is that unlike the brands in FMCG or White goods, which have a long shelf-life, movies do not have sufficient life to attempt branding. Unlike a piece of art, movies are made for the mass market and hence the reality is that one needs to adapt the branding techniques that exist to the film world. Let us look at the opportunities that exist for branding movies.“A brand is a name, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” The most important aspect of a brand is differentiation and it is done through brand positioning. The key to positioning a brand lies in answering the following four questions accurately and honestly: Who am I? What am I? For who am I? Why me?
Who am I?

The answer to this question establishes the credibility of the origin of the film. For example: ‘I am from Aamir Khan Productions’ answered Delhi Belly’s credentials. The audience trust Aamir Khan to produce films that are of ‘Quality’. Studios and production houses need to build their own equity through a large bank of consistently successful films to gain credibility. It is not enough if a studio or a production house has ‘made money’ on films that have not had an image. It is important to have an association with a few successful films consistently. Otherwise, the films from this stable will have to overly depend on the lead stars. Stardom as we all know is a transient phenomenon.
What am I?

Here the film establishes what it is supposed to offer. Here the question needs to be answered in a little more detail than a simple statement like ‘I am a thriller’. This statement describes a genre and that is not of much help in establishing the film’s differentiator or more importantly the drivers. Take a look at what Bodyguard can say. The statement ‘I am Salman Khan. I am the bodyguard of Kareena Kapoor. I have a hard time protecting her and we have a love-hate relationship. In the process of guarding her you will see me fighting villains. Finally we fall in love. So will you with this romantic comedy’. It is here that the trailers play a key role. The trailer should clearly explain what the audience can expect. Conceiving and executing an effective trailer is a tough task and sufficient research should go in to its making. Films once made can be tweaked very little, but trailers offer a much larger canvas. We at Foresight measure the effectiveness of a trailer using 15-20 dimensions, since a trailer should create an expectation about a movie and also clearly focus on the film’s drivers. An effective trailer can cut the promotion costs of a film significantly and improve its opening. But, the gap in the promise, made by a trailer, and performance, the film’s delivery to the audience, determines the further course of the film during the first week.
For whom am I?

The third question should address the type of audience to whom the film has been made. A simple definition of ‘Mainly made for people who watch movies in multiplexes’ is not an adequate answer. The answer should be much more detailed so that the promotional strategy is better focused. A typical detailed answer would be ‘This movie is for adult men and women in 18-24 years, unmarried, who love emotional drama and they form my primary audience’. Currently such finely positioned movies struggle to pull through the first week in 200 or 300 screens. But sizable audience for such movies will emerge as they become more mature and choosy. However, the fact remains that even a masala movie needs to answer this question clearly to get its focus on marketing the movie.
Why me?

The last question is the killer question. In the consumer product marketing parlance this question comes down to asking a series of questions. They are

a. Is my target market large enough?

b. What are my brand drivers?

c. Are they strong differentiators from movies scheduled for release on the same day or the following one or two weeks?

d. Will a large proportion of my market segment consume the brand?In the case of movies also the questions are relevant and they need to be answered before the film’s release strategy  is planned. Typically the questions that a distribution house would ask are,

a. What will pull the audience? – Hero, heroine, music?

b. What numbers are we going to pull?

The answers to these questions can be given using Film Test or a Market Test. The results of these tests can be converted to estimates of the number of people who will be drawn to the theatres to watch the film.

Consumer product branding consists of many other questions that need answering since each brand evolves over a period of time. As the brand moves through its life cycle successfully marketed brands start gaining share and consumers. However, in the case of films the film loses audience as the time advances from theatres and the action shifts to other distribution channels. Since the first week is critical to a movie’s release in theatres and its future life the positional aspect of branding is most important to a film. All it needs is a focus and data based analytics, whether the data is historical or primary data, to get more value out of a film.

Bollywood is slowly adapting the marketing techniques and tweaked them for marketing movies. This is largely due to the revival of the studio system and an influx of professional managers. It is now not uncommon to hear about studios and distribution houses using data from focus groups, tracks etc. All these will be effective once the four key questions discussed before, positioning questions, are answered honestly and accurately. Otherwise, the data, both hard and soft, will be used ‘..like a drunk uses a lamp-post, it is for support and not for light!’.

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