Why films fail? Marketing lessons from Bollywood failures…

This is very basic observation. But it needs mention, because it has slipped the attention of many in the Bollywood.

A film, is an Audio-Visual story, an entertainment product. Now the basic function of a film as a product must be to tell a story through the effective use of Audio and Visual. On any one or all of these media, sometimes even the most aniticipated and hyped films fall short.

Inaudible Audio :

I recently saw Jab Tak Hai Jaan on SET MAX. A very good film, acted by my favorite, a veteran, Shah Rukh Khan and directed by the legend Yash Chopra. But, while watching the film, I came across 8-10 instances where the dialogs are either :

a) Delivered too fast OR

b) Spoken in very low volume voice (whispers), which are hardly audible

Invisible Video :

Some films, even though directed by great directors, have some scenes where there is a stark darkness on the screen, coupled with strange, inaudible audio, where audience has to struggle hard to make sense of what is going on. Ravan (2010) by Mani Ratnam is one such example which comes to my mind.

Ineffective Storytelling :

Many films, fail to tell the story in a coherent manner. I remember going to watch Khatta Meetha (Akshay Kumar) with a lot of hope to see something as good as the funny original Khatta Meetha. But here, the story was moving so erratically, with many illogical cuts and joints, that one felt it was complete waste of time.

The end result of such audio which is not audible, the video which is not visible and the story which does not hold our attention, the average person (and there are a lot of such people like me), feels disconnected from the film. Many such instances in the same film, and the disconnection results in irritation. This results in bad word of mouth. And the films don’t live up to the expectations or hype. Regardless of SRK, Akshay Kumar, Yash Chopra, Mani Ratnam or whatever or whoever.

One reason for such shortcomings could be that they as actors, directors or editors watch the film or scenes too many times. So, they don’t realize the problems which the person watching it for the first time may face. Technically perfect, marketed with a lot of style and noise, the Bollywood products fail because such simple ideas are missed even by veterans.

Marketing lesson : A product must deliver on the basic promises it makes. An audio visual story should have three basic elements delivered clearly : Audio, Visuals and Story. The Bollywood must remember that a lot of ordinary people like me go to watch their films. If they make their films understandable only by highly intelligent and smart people, they will get very few of them, because they are in only a small fraction and also sometimes Bollywood is beyond their taste… Typical Bollywood fans come to watch films for entertainment, not to tax their ears, eyes or brains.


Focus on your Halwa not the hype

While on a visit to Lonavala one cannot miss the multitude of shops announcing their brand of Chikki – a local sweet delicacy. One specific brand of Chikki’s name (let’s call it Famous Chikki) is visible across the tourist place. It is visible almost everywhere there, with more than 50 outlets selling Famous Chikki. On many signboards of Famous Chikki, it is mentioned as “World famous”. So, one may think that Famous Chikki must be the most selling Chikki in Lonavala.

A little investigation revealed that the top selling Chikki in Lonavala is the one which has a nondescript shop, tucked away in the interior of the town, away from the market place where a majority of tourists stay and hang out. This is the Original Chikki. Daily, this shop does a roaring business, selling many times more than the cumulative sales of those 50+ outlets of the ‘Famous’ brand.

Curious, I asked the owner of this bestselling Original Chikki. “Why you are not advertising your Chikki the way that other one does? You can do even better.” His answer was revealing : “Every town and village has a Halwai which is famous for his Halwa, Peda , Laddoo, Barfi or any such local delicacy. He becomes successful because of his product quality. Seeing his success, other wannabe look-alike Halwais spring up and make a lot of noise, touting to be The best in the world. Instead of focusing on the product, the Halwa, they focus on the hollow messages. In the end, the product fails to live up to the the promise created by the message and the hype. They lose steam on the way.  Still, the original, completely focused on his Halwa, remains the best and the bestselling, without making any unnecessary noise. To answer your question, I focus on my Chikki, not on the noise…. I don’t have to worry about sales.”

If our product is not good, any type of ideas or strategy or tactic or ‘BIG’ thinking or hype or ‘Branding’ (!!!) will not cut the ice. If you wish to be the best Halwai, focus on the Halwa, not on the hollow hype.

When is it too soon to ask “Will you marry me?”

Before some time, I got introduced to a Business Networking Group. I was lured into going to the initial meeting (at a decent five star hotel), where a lot of highly enthusiastic businesspersons had gathered to exchange ‘references’ (a cold lead) to each other, over a high-calorie breakfast. As soon as I entered, I found a lot of eager and greedy exchanges of visiting cards with the new visitors like me.

The whole concept of exchanging ‘bijhness references’ looked highly weird, even though beautifully disguised into the five star facade of suits and pseudo-professionalism. Of course some of the businesspersons there were really genuine and not so overbearing, but there were many creepy parasites. I encountered some novice Insurance Agents, Web Designers, Dentists, General Practitioners, Image Consultants, Estate Agents, Photographers, Beauticians, Interior Designers who had just started their career and wanted some ‘references’ to build their ‘bijhness’. During the proceedings, it became clear that it was not more than yet another “mutual back scratcher’s club…”. The dominating proportion of this club was a bunch of wannabes, who did not want to be called wannabes, (or may be some wannabes don’t know who is called a wannabe….)

By the end of the day, most of these wannabes, who exchanged ‘bijhness’ cards with me had called me referring to the ‘meeting’ we had in the morning and asking how can we take it forward? In a time where almost every apartment building has at least one insurance agent, why would I risk doing ‘bijhness‘ with somebody living across the city, only because we had a chance encounter of few seconds termed as a ‘meeting’ in the morning? I could not stop laughing a novice dentist calling up and asking for ‘references’…

I felt as if it was like I met somebody in the morning and by evening I was proposed with the  “Will you marry me?” And that too, by 7-8 different suitors…. All from different professions…!!!

Are marriages made like that? Or is ‘bijhness’ references shared like that?

Really, in life or in ‘bijhness’, “No wannabe wannabe a wannabe…” So they get together and make a ‘Bijhness Networking Group…’. Is such a network your net worth? May be some self-proclaimed loud mouth Bijhness Gurus may have an answer?