Unlike the West, Bollywood film merchandise is still a negligible part of the overall movie business for studios. With films gaining more relevance, what is the roadblock here?
Remember the figurines from Krrish 3, the Dabangg Ray-Ban aviators and more recently, the Bajrangi Bhaijaan locket that went on to create a rage? With changing cinema viewing habits, we are beginning to witness an upswing in terms of strategic alliances between filmmakers and merchandising partners.
Examples are aplenty. Reliance Entertainment partnered with Vishal Fashions for Holiday: a Soldier is Never off Duty to design an exclusive range of ethnic wear inspired by the movie. Fox Star Studios collaborated with Mitashi Edutainment to launch Bang Bang merchandise. Not only that, even cinema chain PVR associated with Singham Returns and launched popcorn bags, sippers and lunch boxes inspired by the movie. Yash Raj Films went a step further and became the first Indian film studio to launch its e-commerce store to sell merchandise.
While there seems to be a lot of activity in this space, the real picture is quite different. India’s licensing and merchandising (L&M) industry is still at a pretty nascent stage and accounts for only 0.4% of the global industry. Within this, film merchandising comprises a very small portion of the `40 billion India L&M industry, states the FICCI-KPMG report of 2015.
“Licensing in the Indian market is a new concept and in its infancy, roughly worth about $30-35 million,” says Manan Mehta, VP marketing and merchandising at Yash Raj Films. “The primary reason being Bollywood movies are story-driven while most Hollywood movies are character-driven.” Moreover, in India, merchandising continues to be used as a marketing tool rather than being an active revenue contributor.
There has always been a template format for a Bollywood film release. There are brand associations, a game launch and promotions, but does merchandising become a unique revenue stream? We may be far from that.
The filmy funda
Popular opinion goes that the merchandise of franchise movies performs better than the usual character-driven films due to the awareness factor with the audience. This provides licensees and manufacturers the comfort of knowing that the film will attract a large audience with greater likelihood of sales. Looking over to the West, Star Wars for instance, earned over $12 billion in merchandise and about $5 billion in box office revenues last year.
Closer home, Dhoom has one of the most successful and extensively worked on merchandising programmes. It had multiple partners including global ones like Mattel for Barbie and Hot Wheels which launched collectible dolls and bikes. There were also biking accessory partners like Ceat and Gulf.
Vinit Karnik, business head, GroupM ESP, states that franchises create the perfect opportunity for merchandising. But this is presently limited, as the merchandise is mainly targeted towards kids and youth. “For the shelf life to be longer there has to be a talking point after the movie has gone out of theatres. For example, Krrish 3 was a franchise built over the years,” he says.
However, even some character-driven films like Bajrangi Bhaijaan have seen successful merchandising.
“We identified the opportunity of creating merchandise for the locket that he wore in the film and tied up with Silvostyle to create these. We sold it exclusively on Amazon in India and overseas, and it has been selling well even now,” states Amar Butala, COO, Salman Khan Films.
Besides that, the studio also released an illustrated book Geography with Bajrangi Bhaijaan published by Indus Source Books. The book talks about the history and culture of each place that the hero visits in the movie.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge also had merchandise lined up for the completion of 1000 weeks in India. Amazon created an exclusive web store and sold all products from the iconic bell to books/other lifestyle products associated with the film. Aditya Chopra for the first time penned down the experience of making the film in a book, which was sold across all retail channels, while other brands such as Asian Paints, Popley Jewellers and Doodle Collection also partnered for exclusive merchandise.
Film associations have multiple benefits for a brand. It is a topical and relevant tie up — both in terms of the theme of the film as well as the stars. There is no ROI concept for such tie ups as the multiplier effect on the visibility of the brand is huge. The shelf life of film-inspired merchandise is about eight to 10 weeks, between the pre-release, release and post release period. Hence the partnerships with brands generally range between a 12 to 16-week period. The minimum targeted revenues a brand can derive from such an association would be in the range of Rs 2 crore and above.
Citing the example of Om Shanti Om, the tie-up was signed almost 10 months ahead of the film’s release and even before the shooting started. The producer and director involved the fashion designers well ahead of time to help
the brand adopt the key looks and styling for each character specifically to an individual exclusive brand.
While Vettorio Fratini represented Shahrukh Khan and Arjun Rampal’s look, Kashish was brought alive by Deepika Padukone and Stop by Shreyas Talpade. The cast also did a special fashion show and Farah Khan created a special promo AV based on the styling.
Elaborating on it, Govind Shrikhande, customer care associate and MD, Shoppers Stop, says, “Deepika Padukone visited a few stores and met customers in order to create excitement for the movie and the merchandise. All the stores created a visual merchandising theme and we ran several contests for our customers.” Another brand that has benefited from such associations is Micromax, which tied up with Singh is Bliing to promote its Bolt series. It collaborated with Akshay Kumar and rapper Badshah to rap to the ‘Micromax Singh is Bliing’, where the new Bolt was called Phone da Sardaar. The rap song highlighted the similarities between ‘Singhs’ and the features of Micromax.
Shubhajit Sen, CMO at Micromax, says, “We used the Singh is Bliing platform to launch one of our flagship products aimed at capturing the mass market. We wanted the association to be innovative and not just a run of the mill logo presence. Hence, the music video.”
The problem areas
Currently, L&M is an auxiliary mode of revenue, unlike Hollywood where it almost contributes equally to the box office collections. Also, the ingenuity of merchandise makes it far more alluring to customers, something that Bollywood merchandise is slowly catching up with.
Saugato Bhowmik, head of Viacom18 consumer products says that Bollywood hasn’t really built franchises that exist in the same breath as Hollywood movies like Star Wars, Avengers etc. Secondly, there are few examples of other genres of films which have lent themselves to licensing and merchandising, besides the action and super-hero genres.
“The main cost for studios is marketing, talent acquisition and the cost of production. Licensing isn’t bringing anything back and is thus being used more as a promotional/marketing tool to build the buzz around movies,” he says.
The problem is that usually the lead-in period for Bollywood films is very tight, but that is also because the films have a shorter shelf life. Many people also consume films on TV which further reduces the opportunity.
It is difficult to start sales of merchandise prior to the movie release as there is no visibility and a consumer will only relate to the product once they have seen it in the trailer or the film. The opportunity is more post the release but the challenge lies in keeping the connect alive long after the movie has gone.
This is a crowded business where a film is releasing every week. Thus it will be difficult to sell something five-six months before the release. “The main challenge is continuing to be on shelves. So Salman Khan for example, was wearing the locket even after the movie released in all the interviews he gave to create visibility,” Butala states.
Industry experts believe that L&M in India will not succeed until a product is relevant. There needs to be a Bollywood inspired fashion label, as the industry is known for its style. In the script stage itself, a film needs to have opportunities for toys or accessories for merchandising.
Beyond that, what needs to change is the outlook. Many film studios incorporate merchandising into the promotions of the movie rather than looking at it as a separate revenue stream.
“It would be a fatal error of judgement by any marketers to treat merchandising as merely a marketing tool. Merchandising does that and much more. There are many business models that can be created and capitalised,” asserts Mehta.
Upcoming merchandise for Fan
* Customised merchandise platform Vistaprint is the official merchandise partner for the upcoming Shahrukh Khan
* The merchandise range includes t-shirts, tote bags, coffee mugs, posters and calendars. Fans can showcase their love for the actor by customising words, expressions or photographs with Fan themed designs
Picks from the Bollywood store
* Online shopping portal Limeroad has associated with Ki & Ka to re-create Kareena Kapoor’s look in the movie. A
similar association was seen for Deepika Padukone in Tamasha
* Van Heusen tied up with Ghajini to create a collection of formal suits similar to Aamir Khan’s look in the movie
* Shoppers Stop connected with young customers through movie merchandise based on films like Love Aaj Kal, Karthik Calling Karthik and Dance pe Chance
* T-shirt collections include Pantaloons, based on the characters and philosophy of 3 Idiots. Meanwhile, Provogue tied up with both Wake Up Sid and Kites
* Even regional cinema is getting into the L&M game. Shoppers Stop was the exclusive style partner for the recent Marathi film Rajwade and Sons, where stores in Maharashtra housed the special collection under its youth brand Life.