The Indian film industry, often referred to as Bollywood, is one of the largest and most influential in the world. Over the years, it has not only evolved in terms of storytelling and production but has also witnessed a significant transformation in movie marketing. Gone are the days of simple posters and traditional advertising methods; today’s Indian movie marketing is a dynamic and digital-driven force that leverages technology, social media, and innovative strategies to reach a global audience.

In the early days of Indian cinema, movie marketing was a relatively straightforward affair. Filmmakers relied heavily on colorful posters and hand-painted billboards to attract audiences to their films. These visually striking posters not only served as promotional tools but also offered a glimpse into the film’s characters and plot. With limited technological resources and a largely local audience, this was an effective strategy.

Furthermore, word of mouth played a crucial role in promoting movies. Positive reviews and audience feedback were instrumental in driving footfalls. Celebrities and film stars were also significant assets in promoting films through public appearances, endorsements, and interviews.

The advent of television in the 1980s brought about a significant shift in movie marketing. Television trailers and advertisements became primary tools for promoting films. Bollywood songs and dances were frequently featured in television shows, further enhancing the reach of movie promotions. It was during this era that movie music and its marketing became a distinct aspect of film promotion, with audio cassettes and later CDs becoming highly sought-after items.

As India embraced the internet and digital technology in the late 1990s and early 2000s, movie marketing underwent a profound transformation. The emergence of websites dedicated to Bollywood news and movie reviews provided new platforms for promotion. However, the real game-changer was the rise of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Social media allowed filmmakers to connect directly with their target audience. It enabled them to instantaneously release teasers, posters, and trailers to a global audience. Celebrities started using these platforms to engage with fans and promote their films. The ‘tweet and retweet’ culture, along with hashtags, turned movie marketing into an interactive and viral experience.

One of the earliest and most successful instances of digital movie marketing was Aamir Khan’s “Ghajini” (2008). The actor used his blog and social media presence to engage fans, reveal the film’s look, and share updates. This strategy helped generate significant buzz and contributed to the film’s blockbuster success.

In recent years, the Indian film industry has witnessed a paradigm shift in how movies make money even before they get released. Smart collaborations have played a pivotal role in this trend. Two recent examples – Shahrukh Khan’s Jawan and Rajinikanth’s Jailer, exemplify this evolving trend.

Shah Rukh Khan, renowned for his innovative marketing prowess, adopted a unique promotional strategy for his film, Jawan. Rather than following conventional promotional routes, he has deliberately shrouded the project in an aura of intrigue. This strategic move garnered substantial attention and anticipation within the film industry. Trade expert Komal Nahta predicted a spectacular opening akin to the success of SRK’s previous blockbuster, Pathaan. The film’s preview set the stage for a global buzz, mirroring the trajectory that led to the triumph of Pathaan. Shah Rukh Khan’s decision to focus on digital promotion and harness the support of industry peers, such as Salman Khan, added a compelling layer to the evolving landscape of Indian movie marketing.

Jailer, on the other hand, became a national sensation with the release of its first single promo, “Kaavaalaa.”  The strategy was an amazingly integrated flow of events, starting with this video that featured a delightful exchange between the film’s director, Nelson, and composer Anirudh. It quickly went viral, accumulating over 100 million views on YouTube. Following this, lyrical video was released, winning praise from both critics and fans.

The Jailer audio launch event, held at Chennai’s Nehru Indoor Stadium, was not just a star-studded affair but a strategically planned event with a subsequent Sun TV broadcast that broke TRP records and was followed by a “Jailer Showcase” premiered on YouTube. These examples vividly portray the remarkable evolution of Indian movie marketing, shaping it into a dynamic and multifaceted industry that continually captivates audiences in today’s ever-evolving digital landscape.

From the enigmatic strategy employed by Shah Rukh Khan for Jawan to the viral sensation created by Jailer, the industry continually adapts to new trends and technologies. The journey from posters to pixels is not just about changing marketing techniques; it’s a reflection of the industry’s ability to innovate and captivate audiences in an ever-evolving digital landscape. With smart collaborations, digital promotions, and unique engagement strategies, movies are now not just about storytelling; they are about creating immersive experiences that engage audiences even before the curtains rise in theatres.

About the author: Sudip Bandyopadhyay
Sudip Bandyopadhyay
Sudip Bandyopadhyay is currently the Group Chairman of Inditrade (JRG) Group of Companies. He sits on the Boards of a number of listed and unlisted companies. His area of expertise includes equity, commodity and currency markets, wealth management, mutual fund, insurance, investment banking, remittance, forex and distribution of financial products. During Sudip’s 16 years stint with ITC as Head of Treasury and Strategic Investments, he managed investments in excess of $1.5 billion. He was responsible for the acquisition of strategic stakes in EIH, VST and several other companies, by ITC. Post ITC, he was the Managing Director of Reliance Securities (Reliance Money) and also on the Board of several Reliance ADA Group companies. He was instrumental in leading Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group’s foray, amongst others, into Equity and Commodity Broking, Commodity Exchanges, Gold Coin Retailing, and Money Transfer. Afterwards Sudip was the Managing Director and CEO of Destimoney, promoted by New Silk Route, with over $1.4 billion under management. Sudip has significant presence in business media through his regular interaction on leading business channels, business newspapers and magazines.Author can be reached at [email protected]

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