In perspective: West Side Story

Updated: March 29, 2016 2:10 AM

While a movie may stay with you long after you have enjoyed one at a movie hall or at your home theatre, it’s the licensing and merchandising aspect that makes the experience palpable...

While a movie may stay with you long after you have enjoyed one at a movie hall or at your home theatre, it’s the licensing and merchandising aspect that makes the experience palpable, physical and more alive than just being in the theatre of the mind. From a global perspective, Star Wars: The Force Awakens segued us into 2016 with toys, apparel and other tie-ins expected to generate $5 billion through the end of 2016.

So what does it take to create a successful L&M programme for a movie? For one, it’s the characters which must have the personality and that X-factor which lends itself to merchandise. The second factor is a successful franchise;
a string of movies with prequels and sequels keeps the franchise relevant and the merchandise actually keeps the character and interest alive on retail shelves till the next instalment. The third and most important is timing; launching movie merchandise takes long term planning to make sure the merchandise hits stores timed to a release to leverage the marketing machinery and the buzz generated by a movie.

And that begets the question of why Bollywood doesn’t have a solid merchandising story. We have movies like Sholay and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge to name a few which have potential to be turned into raging merchandise success stories. We have the fanatical fans that have the purchasing power, but we don’t have the merchandise like Batman and Superman. A notable exception is Krrish 3, whose L&M programme ticked all the boxes of a successful license-worthy film franchise and it is no surprise that Krrish 3 had a solid licensing programme across toys, publishing, apparel, gifts and novelties, back-to-school and promotions. The answer lies perhaps in the ambition and planning. Bollywood still sees merchandising as an afterthought — something that generates PR and marketing buzz, rather than revenues.

But more importantly, L&M takes planning, something that can’t be done three months before the movie releases. Categories like toys for example, involve moulding and have almost a one year plus timeline in development and pre-production to get great quality toys in time for the movie release. Another important element that needs pre-planning across categories are retail activations in line with spring, summer/autumn, winter launches to make sure that the merchandise launch is in line with market requirements.

What we need is recognition of merchandising as a serious line of business that not just generates the marketing buzz, but generates revenue and keeps a franchise alive.But it is not all gloom and doom. Things are changing in the world of Bollywood studios. Filmmakers need to start incorporating merchandising at early stages of the process — identifying cool characters, building iconic lines, engaging licensing experts and creating style guides. To have a successful licensing programme for a Bollywood film in Diwali 2017, the time to start planning is now: chalk out the strategy, identify the product mix, tie up licensees, create the retail programme, draw out the marketing and launch plan and get ready for fans to open their hearts and wallets. Let’s get started!
Jiggy George, The author is founder and CEO, Dream Theatre

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