How To Navigate The Recent And Rapid Evolution Of Marketing In Indian Entertainment

Co-Founder and CEO, SoCheers, a digital-first advertising agency

Every industry evolves as new technologies are introduced and consumer behavior shifts. In fact, these gradual changes are expected as new entrants make their mark. But what happens when an industry experiences a sudden change of epic proportions? With little time to react, the successful formula and marketing tactics that have worked time and time again need to be revisited and reassessed.

This is what happened for the Indian entertainment industry when the population was initially forced inside due to the pandemic. Over-the-top (OTT) platforms rose to become instant fan favorites, and digital became the go-to mode of engagement. With this upended entertainment terrain, marketing strategies also had to quickly change in order to stay relevant.

Through my advertising agency, I have worked with larger distributors like Amazon Prime Video and Sony. Therefore, I know that the marketing shift brought on by the pandemic is one for the history books.

For the first time ever, big-budget Bollywood movies saw merit in releasing for OTT platforms. What started with a simple and rather sudden direct-to-digital release of Gulabo Sitabo in June 2020 has taken shape into the release of digitally-loaded, influencer-studded and much-viewed movies like Tanhaji, Shershah and Shakuntala Devi

While big Bollywood movies on online streaming platforms were the obvious and more visible shift, other substantial changes were also observed in how the entertainment industry integrated real life into the digital sphere as more and more marketing strategies included specific influencers and celebrities in order to target niche audiences. These online content creators made themselves indispensable with an arsenal of self-reliant content and an established connection with their audiences. 

For example, the 2020 Netflix original movie, AK vs AK, signed Jackie Shroff in order to make the film-within-a-film feel more authentic. The web series Four More Shots Please got Kareena Kapoor and her Bollywood girl gang to recreate their real friendships on-screen and to build on the changing career of its protagonist in its second season, the show The Family Man got CEOs of several renowned brands to “interview” the character in a relatable format.

Netflix is known to frequently employ comedians with a strong online presence to promote their projects. Other online shows like Raktaanchal leveraged the exploding popularity of games like PUBG during the pandemic, mirroring the bloodshed and teaming up with gaming influencers to expand their reach. 

As a further hint to OTT’s rise, Disney+ Hotstar recently got Shah Rukh Khan, one of the biggest names in Bollywood, for an ad campaign that hinted at his debut on OTT platforms and found humor in him feeling left out. 

Understanding the demands of the situation, entertainment marketing has definitely evolved, but that’s not to say that they’ve left everything behind or that going digital is the right move for everyone. On one hand, Salman Khan’s Radhe, a typically big Bollywood production, altered its approach and did an entirely OTT release, although it kept the tradition of releasing on the Eid Festival.

Conversely, films like Brahmastra, with an ensemble cast of big stars, are still holding out for restrictions on public movement to be fully lifted, as the producers and many viewers believe a big-screen viewing is an intricate part of the experience. Going forward, when both digital and offline options are available without any asterisks, choosing which platform fits the best for a particular project will also fall under the marketing strategy. 

While I do not believe that movie theaters and offline experiences will lose their charm, there’s no doubt that OTT is en route to establishing itself as one of the most popular methods for entertainment. It especially doesn’t seem so far-fetched when we take into account the sheer number of regional video streaming platforms that have gained traction and built a huge loyal audience base in the last couple of years.

Hoichoi, the Bengali language OTT platform, has garnered over 13 million subscribers. Given that it now also offers a Bengali music streaming option and English subtitles on all its properties, I’d say it’s aiming at an even wider audience. Companies that specialize in other languages like Oho Gujarati (Gujarati), Sun NXT (Malayalam), Planet Marathi OTT (Marathi) and Aha (Telugu) have also become staples within their respective regional audiences. 

Localizing marketing strategies and personalizing your content for regional audiences can help you get a bigger chunk of the market quicker. A case in point would be Netflix India starting a separate Twitter handle for its Southern audiences since the language, content consumption pattern and pop culture are different there. Identifying these kinds of opportunities and taking action can put you ahead of the curve.

Overall, there are a few key takeaways I think you can take from this new dynamic in media marketing.

1. Find the right audience match. Communicate to a specific audience in a way that relates to them or inspires them. Choose the right mediums for the communication and jumpstart your marketing by finding relevant creators or influencers who already possess many in your target audience. 

2. Generate social chatter around your campaign. The feeling of missing out (FOMO) is real, and you can get people to feel this by building the right conversation across social media platforms.

3. Use platforms and features efficiently. Each platform has its own strengths and demographics, so make sure your communication is adapted to fit each one in order to drive your message effectively.

So, what’s next? Given that OTT, and digital at large, are fluid and continuously evolving sectors, we have barely scratched the surface of the possibilities they offer. While I’ve listed some excellent examples of brand integrations and in-app advertisements, they’ve yet to become the norm.

OTT attracted the audience out of necessity but will keep them there on its merits. Similarly, the shift towards digital marketing in the entertainment sector might have been due to the circumstances but will claim its stake due to how well it connects to people. 


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https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2022/01/21/how-to-navigate-the-recent-and-rapid-evolution-of-marketing-in-indian-entertainment/

Erlando F Rasatro

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