For over a century, marketers have acted as an interrupter, pushing their message between the audience and the content they want to consume.
It is time for brands to generate interest over the interruption. Businesses need to attract audiences by building content with genuine value, with the art of storytelling instead of merely pushing messages.
There are several benefits of a content-based marketing strategy, and one of the most effective ways to do it is by leveraging the film industry.
To explain this further, let me ask you a few questions. Do you watch Hollywood movies with your favorite actors wearing NASA space suits? Or, taking a morning run with a Starbucks coffee? Or, taking Uber while coming home drunk? Or, for Kdrama fans out there, our idols eating Subway? Remember that hilarious mistake of GOT that helped Starbucks gain 2 billion USD (1)?
And today, they have become a cultural phenomenon. Remember how excited people were in India and many other parts of the world when Starbucks first came into their country. The story is the same for other brands, be it 7/11, McDonald’s, or IKEA (2, 3, 4, 5).
Instead of foreign brands, imagine we see our Indian actors using Ola, ordering from Zomato or Swiggy, using Paytm to make a payment, ordering things from Snapdeal, using Jio phones, or working out with Cure.Fit. There would be a significant impact of the movement that we can’t even put into words compared to campaign-based marketing.
Also, how about promoting our institutes like ISRO, DRDO, IIM, and IIT? Imagine a movie with cyber hackers from IIT saving our nation from China while sipping Paper Boat or eating takeaway food from Swiggy? Or ISRO scientists saving the world from a giant asteroid? That’s a movie I would watch!
It will not only just build a loyal customer following, but it will also build a culture, just like the one we have with Starbucks or ivy league universities.
All in all, we believe that it is time our Indian brands master the art of content creation and leverage our massive film industry to craft a story and understand the value of owning their audience (The Indian startup ecosystem is mature enough!).
Effectively Using Storytelling Techniques
Every brand wants to hook its target audience. However, many often struggle to educate their audience, inspire them to buy their products or services, and increase the overall loyalty towards the brand.
And effective storytelling is one-way brands can create resonance, move their audience emotionally to ignite positive and real transformation. A brand can leverage the Indian film industry to connect and engage with its audience.
Use the industry to hook your audience with a story and share your narratives.
In the consumer world, the role of marketing needs to be changed. Today, instead of a batch of sequential campaigns, brands need to focus on ebbs and conversation flow happening in a context.
Yes, it is not only about storytelling but about timeless, ever-evolving brand narratives that our startups need to create and control (6).
Brands Need to Keep an Open Mind
For over the past few decades, marketing was about crafting a myth and then selling it. At present, it has evolved to be about seeking the truth and telling it to the world.
From there, we have even started to move beyond the traditional storytelling method to an interactive brand narrative at multiple levels. Also, the brand narrative is changing from what it sells and how it is selling to the reason behind its existence (7).
In other words, the definition of brand narrative is about the company and how it is built by the efforts of your consumers to find a meaning or a solution. The core of a long-term conversation with continuous engagement always points back to the brand purpose.
And if our startups want to be successful, they need to do more than offer information about their brand. You will need to tell a story that aligns with the needs of your target audience.
Instead of thinking about storytelling as a prospect, or a system that will confine you, you need to think of them as a wide highway that will take you wherever you wish to go at your own pace and in your own style (8).
In short, you need to keep an open mind while leveraging the film industry and considering the freedom that comes with it.
Get People Excited About Your Brand
Of course, the era is long gone when corporations worship the profit at the bottom line. Today, everyone wants to purchase and associate themselves with brands with social consciousness and practice business responsibly (9, 10).
Thankfully, we found that most of our brands have a compelling story with their innovating and game-changing offerings and social responsibility.
And leveraging the Indian film industry is one of the most effective ways to build the necessary hype around your brand and awareness about your products and services.
Every business needs to create personal signature stories for their leaders, founders, and employees and brand narratives that represent the essence of their business worldwide.
In doing so, brands can memorably engage customers and have a positive emotional response to their company, allowing them to be go-to brands when people seek the types of products they offer.
Long story short, it is not just about product placements here, and there is a movie. No, it is about moving your audience with a credible and compelling story that will make your customers like you and care about you. Consequently, they will buy from you (13, 14).
And if you are reading this article, you are probably already on your way to building a new story that will hook your target customers.
How to Craft a Brand Narrative?
Step 1. Narrow Down Your Brand Story to a Single Sentence
Before you begin to build your brand story, articulate your general premise in a single sentence. See how it floors people when you share it with them. And only consider moving forward once you get a “WOW” reaction from everyone.
You want to achieve two things with this; clarity that will help you build a compelling and coherent story, and build a story that you want people to talk about, or even go viral on Twitter or Instagram. And if you want it to go viral, you will need that single sentence.
Of course, you don’t need to tell your whole story in a single sentence, but the goal is to capture the overall idea and make a way to fascinate others to be interested in the whole tale.
Step 2. Ask the Right Questions
There are certain questions storytellers must ask themselves regardless of what they are working on. Feel free to answer these questions before you narrate your story or have already written it. The goal of these questions is to learn the nature of your narrative.
Big questions you need to consider asking includes:
- Your main character
- The need and desire of your main character, in short, define a dramatic problem and need (both emotional and physical) that exists outside the protagonist
- An unexpected but interesting way for your primary character to achieve that goal
- The final message that you wish to convey at the end of your story, however you decide to end it
- How you wish to tell your story and which narrative device you wish to use
- The character arc of your main and supporting characters throughout the story
Step 3. Create an Outline
Once you successfully answer all the questions above, you will have good clarity about your story and the message you wish to convey. It is time to take the narrative further and see if it works.
You can start by putting the story together and outlining a series of sentences or small paragraphs outlining your narrative as a whole. The aim is to get the gist of your narrative so you can determine what’s working and what’s challenging.
Even if you only have an idea, you can imagine all events that will happen in your story and list them as they will take place in the narrative to start.
Either way, you will have all the major moments of your story listed in front of you so you can find any major gaps in your story. And now, all you have to do is fill those holes with the needed story elements. You can describe settings, add dialogues, actions, and you will have an initial draft of your story.
You can even consider taking a step further and using your primary narrative to create more compelling content (15).
But, Why The Film Industry?
Sure, there are many mediums through which brands can tell their story. However, with the film industry, you can appeal to a large consumer base, and since we are already connected with the industry and actors, it can drive brand loyalty to a whole new level.
You can get a long-term commitment by continuously, coherently, and consistently leveraging the film industry.
In addition, celebrities of the film industry have been endorsing brands on tv, social media, and events for years now.
Here are some benefits:
- Instant brand awareness
- Attract multiple audience segments
- Establish a connection with your target audience
- Make an emotional connection to build brand loyalty.
- Actors’ long-term commitment to play a vital role in marketing campaigns, brand building, and driving sales (16).
All in all, Indian startups can leverage the film industry to gain sustainable advantage and benefit from its experience and wisdom.
As we mentioned at the start of this article, the Indian film industry is well poised to expand India’s global influence, similar to how Hollywood crafted the American influence (19).
The Indian Film Industry has a Reach Worldwide – h3
Many Indian films are also appreciated in the UK and European countries like Germany, France, Netherlands. They also garner huge revenue from the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia (23).
And its massive influence and reach are a major reason our brands need to consider leveraging it for their growth and successful storytelling.
Things Brands Need to Know While Leveraging the Indian Film Industry
We have seen many brands popping up in western movies and shows. However, it is not limited to Hollywood alone, and the Indian film industry also has a long history of product placements.
However, most of these placements are unsubtle and stuck out like a sore thumb. Not only does it create a limited impact, but also it annoys the audience with forced marketing.
“There was a time when product placement was a huge thing, and it still can be but only if it fits naturally in the script. Today’s audience is smart enough to know the difference between something forced, subtle, and seamless. However, product placements were too loud for too long in films,” said Vikram Bhatt, an Indian filmmaker (26).
Remember the movie Student of the Year with so many Puma and Louis Vuitton products? Movies from older decades were even worse in their product placement, Yaadien, for instance, with its constant (and annoying) endorsements for Coca-Cola and Pass Pass (Only Desi fans will get the reference!).
However, with the growth of OTT and the explosion of the digital era, there is a huge integrative opportunity for brands. Audiences of these formats are also more aware, and if brands use the right storytelling technique, they will respond well.
According to the MD of Mukta Arts, an Indian film production company, Rahul Puri, our audience is becoming savvy, and it has made actors, directors, and producers even savvier. Brand relationships are becoming subtler and have long-term relations.
“As marketing collaborations and brand positioning becomes linked with actors, the positioning in movies has also found ways that won’t offend the audience and is well received. Actors, producers, and brand managers are smart enough these days to not force any products but instead read a script carefully and then select the placement type as per the story and characters,” said Puri (27).
Overall, the Indian film industry is an effective way for brands to place themselves in front of customers.
- Emphasizing the brand name too often or too obviously can lead to a negative response and even social media trolling
- Instead, brands need to be blatant yet balanced to gain more eyeballs overall.
- It should not be too forced or intrude on the overall plot of a film but should be seen and used in a natural context (I think Nasa’s endorsement in the movie Martian was flawless).
- Brands can focus on creating a signature narrative and movement that their audience can easily memorize and notice.
- When we say natural placement, it doesn’t mean that we need to make brands invisible or neglectable. Instead, we can leverage visual and audio effects to make them memorable. (But, it should never look like an ad or too obvious.)
Be it OTT platforms, films, or small screens, brands have a highly lucrative opportunity in this growing and dynamic market.