When Suraj Barjatiya’s ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ was released, I remember vividly how the markets were flooded with ‘caps’ inscribed with the word, ‘friends’. Being in my early teens then, I was so excited that I bought six to seven caps and gifted them all to my close friends. I was too young to understand the public relation involved in the concept of film merchandising. Today, with two big films’ release this Diwali in partnership with top Indian retailers for film merchandising, I can well relate it to that cap, which symbolised the very emotion of friendship that the film tried to portray.
Film merchandising is a promotional tool used to heighten the fate of a film at the box office. The concept of movie merchandising has proved to be a successful hook for film producers, making healthy contributions to a film’s revenue streams and sometimes generating even more than the box-office collections themselves. Despite the fact that India produces more films than any other country in the world, film merchandising has not really been pursued seriously as a revenue option by filmmakers. In India, we have an individual-or-producer-dominated film industry whereas Hollywood operates on ‘studio’ format as a corporate unit. However, now the concept of film merchandising is catching on in the Indian film industry too. Diwali 2007’s special gift for all cinema lovers, Om Shanti Om under the banner of Red Chillies Entertainment Pvt Ltd and Saawariya under Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) Films are great reasons for delights. Moviemakers have not left any stone unturned to make their films a success. Film merchandising is such an effort that these moviemakers have opted for at a very large scale. Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) Films has tied up with Indian retail giant Future Group to promote its first Hindi film venture Saawariya, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Similarly, Red Chillies Entertainment has tie-up with Shopper’s Stop for the promotion of Om Shanti Om. The new genre of filmmakers is creative, marketing-savvy, sees the entire world as their market and is changing the rules. They are also beginning to look at merchandise seriously and some have already had a reasonable degree of success.
Movie merchandising: past and present
Most of the big banner films nowadays have been coming up with movie merchandise to supplement their marketing strategies. And if you think that the practice is something new, you are mistaken. The concept of movie merchandising existed in Bollywood as early as 1973, when the Rishi-Dimple starred film, Bobby, was released. At that time, fans could buy hair clips and pins worn by Dimple Kapadia. Mr Govind Shrikhande, Customer Care Associate and CEO, Shopper’s Stop, says, “It is difficult to pinpoint the birth of movie merchandising. But, in the last few years, as fashion has cut across all age groups, movie merchandising has become more popular. It is definitely more popular internationally for kid’s movies.” Movies have a very large role to play in our lives. They affect our emotions through music, stories as well as the leading stars. Film stars also have vast and huge impacts on fashion and lifestyle of the mass. If one looks back in the history, Dev Anand’s hairstyle as well as cap, Sadhana’s cut hairstyle, Asha Parekh’s hair bun, Rajesh Khanna’s kurtas, Neetu Singh’s bell bottoms, Jeetendra’s tight pants had all a lasting impression on fashion followers. The purple sari that Madhuri Dixit wore in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun reportedly sold in excess of a million pieces in the grey market. Films have also afforded advertising potential to products, brands and even services. Tourism from India to New Zealand went almost doubled after the release of Kaho Na Pyar Hai. Hence, for a long-long time, film personalities have been used by fabric, apparel and cosmetic and soap brands. Today, we can see stars endorsing products like cars, bikes, telecom products and even banks. Of very late, the ‘Chak de India’ craze prevailed over the markets. We are relating the success Indian hockey team to the movie and then Indian cricket team’s success in Twenty-Twenty world cup to the inspiration derived from ‘Chak de India’. The future of film merchandise, however, lies not in auctions catering to a minuscule audience and generating even more minuscule monies, but in identifying, introducing, producing, retailing, promoting creative mass merchandise options in Indian films. At the time of release of Ram Gopal Varma's Bhoot, 'Bhoot Dolls' were available in stores. This very doll was seen with the child who played the 'bhoot' in the film. Needless to say, they were quite a hit. The easiest way of movie merchandising is to auction the costumes worn by the actors. Another option is to replicate them and put them up for sale. And of course, there was Fanaa, which had three movie related products. There was the Mirchi Pendant, which Aamir is seen wearing, a cup-saucer set and a ceramic mug with autographed pictures of the stars. In fact, Yash Raj has gone ahead and launched a new division, Yash Raj Films Merchandise. New technology is also spurring the trend in India. For Sarkar, mobile gaming was used as part of the strategy. Producers are trying to use new vehicles such as ringtones, SMSes and websites to impress the moviegoers even before they walk into the theatre. The list goes on.
On Saawariya’s tie-up, Mr Hemang Savla, Business Manager, Future Ideas, Future Group, says, “The latest tie-up between Future Group and Sanwariya is a combined partnership to create and celebrate the film in all our retail formats and to do a merchandising exercise, which will involve inspiration derived from clothes worn by the stars in the movie.” Further elaborating on the tie-up, Mr Savla informs, “The entire line up of the film merchandising is conceptualised, planned and executed by P9 Integrated. They have the merchandising rights of the film. They came to us with a proposal that was what we would like to do with the film. Then we designed the complete package.” On Om Shanti Om’s tie-up with Shopper’s Stop, Mr Shrikhande opines, “Om Shanti Om is a unique film. It has a hit director - Farah khan, the style icon of India; Shahrukh khan; the new girl in bollywood, Deepika and two charming actors, Shreyas and Arjun. It is also a film that promises innovation and has a story covering two eras - the retro 70s and the current 2007.” Further elaborating on the tie-up, he informs, “We met the director a year before and both of us felt that this was a tie-up that would be beneficial to all. The film merchandise will be available for customers at one place through four different exclusive brands viz. Push & Shove portraying the current edgy street fashion; Haute curry combining the ethnic and western looks in a fusion offering; Mario Zegnoti showcasing the club wear look and Vettorio Fratini presenting a powerful Italian styled clothing. The exclusive brands would also get a never-before exposure through the film. The targeted business is in the scale of over Rs 5 crore.”
Rationale behind tie-ups
There are many reasons behind film producers’ venturing into the arena of film merchandising. For starters, it definitely adds up to the profits. By flooding the market with movie-centric products, the movie gets more visibility, which is always welcome. When the audience sees a product they have seen in the movie, there is an immediate emotional connection with the film. However, the bottom line is that producers have beeen definitely benefited by launching their movies’ merchandise. The market for this business has a lot of potential. So, it is definitely a money-spinning venture.
Mr Shrikhande opines, “Shopper's Stop has always identified the aspirations of the customer. We have clearly seen the influence of trendy movies on young customers. We felt that we could tap into the topicality of a good film and create a line of fashion inspired by the film. This is a win-win situation for customers, film producers and retailers as well.” Mr Savla says, “From retailers’ perspective, films in general are celebrated all over India. In India, film merchandising is, at present, in a very initial stage. Though Future group has done a film merchandising for other films also like Krishh, which was very successful, it had a limited target-audience viz. ‘Kids’. These partnerships are of like-minded people.”
Pros and cons
Let’s see what such kind of partnerships brings in for retailers and producers. According to Mr Savla, “Any association should be of like-minded members. Given the spectrum of the film and looking at the past record of Mr Sanjay Leela Bansali, it was a good opportunity for both of us to enter into tie-up. It’s also Sony’s first production for India and has lots of energy. When two minds have one and the same motivational spirit to work, it really helps. The only risk involved was ‘if the movie does not do well’. Then, the customer will not be interested in your film-based merchandise. The excitement for film-based merchandise remains for even six months after the movie if the movie is success. Partial excitement can be created through retail. From the film merchandising of Saawariya, we are expecting a business of approximately Rs 10 to 25 crore.” According to Mr Shrikhande, “A movie needs to be associated with a retailer, whose customers are from the same profile. If this basic principle is not followed, there will be problems for both the retailer as well as the film.”
Film merchandising is not restricted to class appeal as it is more in the area of mass appeal. Ostensibly, film merchandising does not help in the success of the film, it, rather, helps in the promotion of the film. Promotional strategy helps but only to a limited extent by offering customers choice options. While Future Group too is likely to opt for film merchandising in the future, Shoppers’ Stop is relying on the success of the current tie-up before deciding on the next steps.