With Ra.One, Bollywood attempted what Hollywood movies like Harry Potter and Shrek have done as a proven marketing ploy. Agreed, Ra.One did not get the crowds swooning but it remains a shining example of a Bollywood movie trying to build a successful movie franchise.
Recall the spate of promotions surrounding the movie by brands across the board. Production company Red Chillies Entertainment marketed the movie as an event, and the promotions began 10 months before the launch. The objective for all the 25 brands that tied up with the movie was to ride the wave of publicity surrounding Ra.One.
Brands like Volkswagen and Kingfisher chose in-film promotions; others like Coca-Cola and Horlicks used on-pack graphics of Ra.One to grab eyeballs. Hero Cycles, Sony Play Station and Gitanjali Group launched special edition products to capitalise on the hype of Ra.One.
Then there were brands you would never imagine would join the fray — like NVidia, Western Union Money Transfer to calling card Matrix. “One of the most unique tie-ups for us was with McDonald’s,” says Karuna Badwal, head, marketing, Red Chillies Entertainment. “People who bought a Happy Meal filled a coupon which offered them a chance to meet Shah Rukh Khan. McDonald’s reworked its Happy Meal box to sport the Ra.One colours, a significant initiative given the brand’s global mandate to keep the packaging consistent,” she adds.
Of course, the brands King Khan endorses remained loyal. Nokia used Ra.One as a platform to promote its NFC range (near feel communication) of phones and marketed Ra.One content through its demo phones. Paint brand Nerolac launched a special television commercial based on the Ra.One theme. Linc Pen and Tag Heuer chipped in with special edition products, while Videocon DTH agreed to be the sponsor of a comic magazine released on Ra.One, distributed with The Times of India newspaper on a particular day.
The marketing effort to partner with cinemas also worked. “Typically cinema chains begin promotion two weeks prior to a release, but with Ra.One we began four-five months prior to the release,” says a Red Chillies spokesperson. Little things contributed to building up the excitement. For instance, a 25 per cent discount on seat number ‘G1’ in a theatre for all movies running for four months. Tie-ups with BIG Cinemas, Cinemax and PVR Cinemas helped create visibility. Shah Rukh Khan appeared on TV reality shows like Just Dance (Star Plus), India’s Got Talent (Colors) and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Little Champs (Zee TV).
“Shah Rukh Khan’s star power helped,” says Narayan Devanathan, national planning head, Dentsu Marcom. “What also worked is the fact that the movie clearly identified its core target audience—kids who love superheroes and games,” he adds. What raked in the publicity was the association with the World Cup, which has a huge fan following in the country. Ra.One extended the association with ESPN Star Sports for visibility across sporting events like Nokia Champions League and Barclays Premier League. The brand also took a brave front with the digital media.
Timing of the release had a part to play in all this. “We had an eye on the Diwali budgets, which account for a large part of a brand's annual spend,” says a Red Chillies spokesperson. The combined spend by brands revolving around the movie was around Rs 50 crore.
Handle viral marketing: Kolaveri Di
Who would have imagined that a spontaneous video clip, created overnight by Sony Music to do ‘something fun’ would became so infectious? Suddenly, the Tamglish (a street mix of Tamil and English) number from the upcoming Tamil movie 3 has become a rage. It is now a shining example for viral marketing. Within a few days of launch, the song became an internet sensation with 23 million hits on YouTube, 7.5 million shares on Facebook, and is perhaps the only Tamil song to feature on various FM stations across the country. If that’s not all, it saw 30 rotations in a day on entertainment and music channels, received credit on Indian news channels and also featured on radio stations across the globe. All this at absolutely zero marketing spend.
There was some clever behind-the-scenes effort that helped win over the masses. The process began with 30-40 people tweeting the song, which was the initial seeding process. “Facebook, YouTube and Twitter formed the core of our strategy,” says Prashanth Challapalli, business head, Jack in the Box, the social media agency working with Sony Music India to market the song.
The unveiling of the song was done in phases, starting with the Sony Music South Facebook page, which had a fan base of 2 lakh. “Friends, cast fans and others were asked to push the video and it caught on,” says Shridhar Subramaniam, president (India and Middle East), Sony Music Entertainment. The subscription of Sony Music’s YouTube page went up by 8,400 after the song was posted.
What really did the trick was Twitter. “We used Twitter as the traffic driver and the song went viral,” adds Challapalli. The company created a hashtag called #whythiskolaveridi and started posting quirky lines like “Iceland has not heard whythiskolaveridi”, “Not called for 2 days #whythiskolaveridi” with the YouTube link to the video. “This built curiosity and as a natural impulse people began clicking on the link,” says Challapalli. The biggest advantage of Twitter is that the content gets noticed by people you don’t know, unlike Facebook where content is only visible to friends.
Twitter influencers like Ramesh Srivats (a well-known advertising professional) and Jhunjhunwala (fake ID of investor trader Rakesh Jhunjhunwala) also had a huge role to play. Once they began tweeting about it, people began to take notice. Later, bigwigs like Amitabh Bachchan, Anand Mahindra and Salman Rushdie cottoned on, after which the song sparked a huge following both in India and abroad.
What accelerated its popularity was the numerous creative offshoots of the song. “For any viral strategy to work, it must have the potential for user-generated content,” says Challapalli. “The beauty of Kolaveri Di is that the team did not piggyback on the star cast to get people hooked.”
According to Challapalli, what worked was a combination of online seeding, mainstream PR and a song shot in a non-posed and non-cinema environment which everyone could identify with. Marketing experts agree. As Dentsu Digital, CEO, Glen Ireland explains, “The whole experience is unrehearsed and spontaneous, which clearly connects with how today’s youth live life.” Obviously, content is king for a viral strategy to work. “A viral is largely self promoted; what worked for this one is the fact that it is very entertaining,” says Gautam Talwar, chief strategy officer, Rediffusion Y&R.
Sony Music wants to leverage the success of the song. “We are working on a few official remixes and will release a single nationally.” But the lesson is to not overextend the effort. “We don’t want to do too much as it will just kill the charm of the song that entertained people so wholeheartedly,” concludes Subramaniam.
Build an independent agency culture: Taproot
Taproot, founded by the art (director)-copy (writer) duo of Santosh Padhi (Paddy, right in picture above) and Agnello Dias (Aggie), may have started its innings in 2008 but 2011 marked its most successful year so far with not one, but two large clients coming its way — PepsiCo and Airtel, both JWT clients.
Taproot would not have seen the light of day had its founders been content with what they were doing. Both were on award-winning sprees at their agencies. Padhi was executive creative director and national head of art at Leo Burnett and Dias the chief creative officer at JWT. But the urge to develop a culture of their own led them to chuck their jobs with established networks.
Dias says, “I was part of transforming an agency, Chaitra, from its humble beginnings to a multinational creative hotbed as Leo Burnett. At JWT, it was the scale and motivating a large team. The only option left to try was building an agency culture from scratch.” Padhi adds, “Every agency has its own culture. But changing that culture is difficult because most are global organisations. For creative guys, it can get difficult to go on after a while. You can’t fight the system every time you want to experiment.”Besides the two founders, Taproot also had a client servicing hand, Manan Mehta, who is now managing partner at the agency.
A lean workforce has kept the agency nimble. “Over time, big agencies pick up a lot of high-cost staff. They make the agency dependent on big-ticket accounts. We have been careful to fit ourselves with resources for a lean period and then stretch ourselves for higher traffic (more account activities) rather than the other way round,” points our Dias. The 33-odd staff at Taproot is young and creative-heavy. Padhi adds, “A lot of our clients feel that interacting with owner-creative heads ensures the brief does not get diluted.”
The duo want to be thrifty in scaling up. “We were clear that we would wait for business to come in and then get more people. We are often advised to scale up to convince clients that we can handle their business. We could have even lost one or two clients because for not being large scale,” says Dias.
Taproot benefitted from the trend of clients going to a small creative hotshop to rejuvenate a brand. Padhi says, “Clients now divide their media budgets among different agencies but those amounts are still profitable for smaller agencies.”
Airtel came to Taproot to turn their connection with larger life truths into a campaign that resonated with the youth but did not alienate a wider audience. They had been beaten on the popularity charts by the likes of Vodafone’s ‘Zoozoos’, Idea’s ‘What an idea, sir ji’ and Docomo’s crowd-sourced launch campaigns. The wildly popular Airtel campaign of ‘Har ek friend zaroori...’ was the much documented result. Taproot presented the ‘Change the Game’ idea to PepsiCo, which was looking for a new way to associate with the cricket World Cup but did not want the tonality to be linked to just one country’s fortunes.
Copywriters in their twenties, Chintan Ruparel and Kaushik Iyer, say they find the broken-down walls refreshing. “A brief is always shared with the team, irrespective of seniority. In bigger agencies, it is usually seniors who bag plum projects, juniors work on catalogues and packaging which no one else wants,” says Ruparel. Iyer says working directly with the stalwarts like Aggie and Paddy is something his friends are envious of.
Design a brand relaunch: Hero MotoCorp
The official announcement that Honda and Hero were parting ways and dissolving the Hero Honda joint venture was made on December 16, 2010. The reasons were historical and well documented. No surprises in that. What observers waited for was how well the new avatar of Hero, the new strategy and the new communication were all going to tie up.
Exactly a year later, Hero MotoCorp is celebrating its successful first year—the high point of which was the unveiling of the new avatar, which took forward the Desh ki dhadkan story of Hero Honda. Hum main hai hero (there’s a hero in all of us), released on August 15, was the first piece of communication from Hero MotoCorp. “It’s about every Indian having the potential to be a hero,” says Anil Dua, senior vice-president (marketing and sales), Hero MotoCorp. The other big event for the company was the launch of its first model, Hero Impulse.
Building or refreshing a brand is a highly emotional endeavor and a combination of research, confidence and passion. From the looks of it, the pieces of the puzzle are falling in place and a big part in this has been played by its ad agency Law & Kenneth, which devised the communication strategy leading up to the launch of the new identity. Says Dua, “The way we executed the transition was remarkable. With Impulse, we’ve introduced a whole new category as the bike serves a dual purpose — both on road and off the road.”
Hero MotoCorp worked out a transition period with Honda, which terminates in June 2014). Says Dua, “We have an interim period of three-and-a-half years; Honda will continue to give us technical support. We moved quickly with determination, speed and spirit. The new campaign takes the Desh ki dhadkan platform to a new high, also proclaiming how Hero is poised to go global.”
Adds Dua, “We have accelerated in the last seven months. Our market share has gone up by 1 percentage point. (It was 54.5 per cent in fiscal 2010 and it is 55.5 per cent year-to-date). Our volume is up, market share too is up, the Indian model is up and running and the brand’s hold is on the rise.” While the two-wheeler market is growing at 17 per cent, Hero grew 20 per cent after the split across categories. While the scooter category is growing at 23 per cent, Hero is growing 34 per cent.
The Hero commercial, shot in the anthem format, has brought the brand back in focus. Pranesh Misra, CMD, Brandscapes Worldwide, says, “Losing the ‘Honda’ association was a big challenge. But the company have managed the transition admirably. The campaign, instead of labouring on the name change, focused on the word ‘Hero’ and saluted the Hero in every Indian. The tone was confident and the budget added muscle.”
Santosh Desai, managing director & CEO, Future Brands India, analyses the transition at Hero. “Without being too noticeable and dramatic, Hero has managed to show continuity. If we look back, TVS Motor Company and Bajaj Auto too have come out of collaborations, and have materially altered their chances in the market. Now, it’s the turn of Hero MotoCorp. On the face of it, Hero isn’t doing anything dramatic; it is simply assuring its customer, ‘Don’t worry, nothing will change materially even though Honda has moved on’.”
Conduct a world-class event: F1 Grand Prix
A country so used to the roar of cricket fans in a stadium was in for pleasant surprise this year — the Formula One speed demon and its deafening roar that swept the country off its feet. With Sebastian Vettel’s 11th victory at the maiden Indian Grand Prix, the country vroomed to the international Formula One circuit in style. A lot went into making it happen — right from ideation till Vettel’s champagne shower.
The groundwork was in place by virtue of the fact that motor sport has been around in India for quite a while, and it is very popular in certain parts of the country. The one area in which the country was lacking was F1 infrastructure. Jaypee Sports International Limited, a fully owned subsidiary of Jaiprakash Associates Ltd, provided the answer with its world-class motor racing facility, the Buddh International Circuit.
“Before we signed on to get F1 to the country, Bernie Ecclestone, F1 CEO, visited our sports complex at Jaypee Greens, Greater Noida, the golf course and other facilities, and was happy with what he saw. He was convinced that the Jaypee Group is well equipped to bring a sport like Formula One to India,” says a spokesperson of Jaypee Sports International. In building the Buddh International Circuit, top priority was design, and it found a great mastermind in Hermann Tilke, German engineer and auto racer, who has designed numerous Formula One motor racing circuits. The construction was divided into two key parts — the racetrack and building a paddock and hospitality area.
While the build-up to the race appeared smooth, a stray dog on the racetrack made it to the news for interrupting a practice session. But critics never got another chance to raise their eye brows. The electronic, print and online media raised the maiden Grand Prix tempo across the country and beyond. While F1 became the leading talking point in the social media, sponsors and partners of the event like Airtel, Renault, Red Bull, Vodafone, Kingfisher, etc, launched campaigns escalating the F1 buzz as the event dates drew near.
Formula One has always been associated with glamour and the Indian GP was no different. While the F1 drivers are celebrities in their own rights, the presence of Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone etc attracted wide publicity. If that is not enough, the visit of Rowan ‘Mr Bean’ Atkinson and Lady Gaga turned the global spotlight to the Buddh International Circuit in the suburbs of Delhi.
While many hold this as the triumph of private sector project management skills, Assocham estimates that the Formula 1 Grand Prix could generate revenues of over Rs 90,000 crore in the next 10 years and create 15 lakh new job opportunities for technicalworkers.
Use the social media to create buzz: Ford Fiesta
A recent study finds that Indian marketers are most anxious about using social media. In 2001, however, one digital campaign hit the right notes. Ford India relaunched its Fiesta, harnessing the online social network before any other media. To top it, the automaker then roped in users on these networks to test drive its car for its television commercial.
The online leg of the campaign began more than a month before anything was seen or heard about the car in mainstream media. Ford India anonymously called for nominations of four people on myriad third-party Facebook pages. It was the start of a social buzz strategy planned and executed by Wunderman and Genesis Burson Marstellar. The contest was for the opportunity to test-drive an unnamed sedan, and saw entries from over 600 Facebook users. Ford, with the help of its agencies, selected four users on the basis of their online fan following and how well they matched Ford’s prototype user for the Fiesta, Ajay.
In keeping with Ford’s global advertising strategy of portraying real people with its cars, Ford India too had decided to get real people to drive around its Fiesta, an exercise that would later spin off mainstream ads by Global Team Ford, a WPP group drawn from various agencies for its Asia-Pacific account.
The 10 day-drive, with a moderator, from Delhi to Diu began on April 14 while the car was launched in July. Only after their impressions were captured, unscripted and impromptu, on a candid camera, was a TVC made out of the vignettes of the trip, aired in August. By then tweets, photos and videos from the drive had already started making their way to Facebook. The Facebook pages of the four —Archit Rakheja (an adventure consultant), Monica Joon (a sportsperson), Shruti Sharma (a travel writer) and Vikram Aditya Singh (a video journalist) — could be accessed much the same way we do with friends, establishing their credibility as real users. Their following in social media ensured that their word of mouth spread fast. Ford India earned as many as 42,000 conversations on social networks. Facebook was the engagement hub where the four chatted and answered other users at Facebook.com/FordFiesta. The other popular online haunts such as Twitter and YouTube drove traffic back to the Facebook discussions through impromptu tweets and video links. The videos, posted on Facebook, supported the four drivers’ testimonies by wittily highlighting features from voice controls, automatic boot unlocking, a adjustable seat-belt to extra lighting.
Ford India claims 80 per cent of the media mix was digital and hardly involved any big spends. While paid online advertising played a part in creating buzz, the unpaid or earned social buzz was no less. In addition to the 42,000 conversations, there were 1.5 million impressions as well. The test-drive ambassadors themselves were ringing up the unpaid buzz around the car.
Despite Ford India’s dealers voicing their concerns about the lack of fanfare around the launch, it went ahead with its social buzz plan. Chris Brown, Group CEO of EBS Worldwide, which consults on social networking for businesses, says, “The idea was a cross-media one, so the digital leg did not look like a poor cousin of a mainstream ad.”