What makes 'Gully Boy' a marketing case study?

Vishal Ramchandani, Head of Marketing for Excel Entertainment, tells exchange4media all about the considerations of the production house for marketing 'Gully Boy'.

by Venkata Susmita Biswas
Published - Mar 12, 2019 9:05 AM Updated: Mar 12, 2019 9:05 AM
gully boy

Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt starrer 'Gully Boy' which was released just about a month ago has become a case study of sorts for marketers and MBA grads. 

The movie’s catchphrase “Apna Time Ayega” resonated with movie-goers and brands alike, taking on a life of its own on social media timelines, contextual advertising by brands, and achieved peak meme status within days of the song being launched. 

From the inception of the movie, the filmmakers had decided to “sell the movie on the proposition of hope,” reveals Vishal Ramchandani, Head of Marketing for Excel Entertainment. The filmmakers were grappling with the public perception of the movie as a ‘musical’ or the ‘next Slumdog Millionaire’ which put the movie in a non-commercial space and were looking for a way to position this movie to appeal to a large audience. “It was conscious effort to keep the proposition as ‘Apna Time Ayega’ because that is highly relatable to our TG - youth,” he says. 

And it's to sell this proposition of ‘hope’ that the filmmakers chose to release the trailer for the movie on the first day of the year instead of releasing it alongside Ranveer Singh’s movie Simba that hit theaters on December 28. “Putting the trailer ahead of Simba would have given us immense reach, but we did not take that option because the proposition of ‘Apna Time Ayega’ was central to our promotion. Therefore, we decided to release the trailer on January 1, 2019, to further build the idea for audiences that in 2019 Apna Time Ayega.” Ramchandani believes that while this may seem like a small deviation from the standard operating procedure, it helped cement the emotional connect with audiences.   

Earned Media 

From this point onwards the meme machine began working overtime giving the movie free earned media. Ramchandani says that while the team and he expected ‘Apna Time Ayega’ to resonate with audiences, the overwhelming response came as a pleasant surprise. 

He says that while Excel Entertainment has tied up with influencers in the past for movie promotions, some of the viral content that came out around Gully Boy was not out of a tie-up. Girlyapa’s Gully Bai, a spoof of the movie’s trailer, came out on January 12, which went viral on social media and was one such tribute to the movie. “While we did have plans to work with influencers, when we saw that people were beginning to create content themselves, we decided to let that happen organically,” he adds. 

Gully Boy’s spend on marketing was as much as that of a small budget film, Ramchandani says, thanks to the earned media that the film generated. From India’s most loved topical advertising brand - Amul, to condom brand Durex - for which Ranveer Singh is a brand ambassador, to the Mumbai Police, a variety of brands and influential social media handles latched onto catchphrases from the movie, giving the movie’s promotions a massive thrust. “The biggest selling point for any movie is content and content pieces. If you do some content collaborations that carry that message forward, all you need is a few pieces to stick because people can smell the content. After that, it is all about sustaining the promotions.” 

According to Shrenik Gandhi, Founder & CEO, White Rivers Media, Gully Boy’s campaign was particularly successful and memorable because of the life that it took on giving the filmmakers earned media - the holy grail for all marketers. “It is the honesty and positivity of the film and its campaign that led to this massive snowballing effect for the movie,” he adds.

Tech Innovations - Gully Beat App

Movies that have released in the last year have been experimenting with chatbots, Snapchat filters, and a few other social media innovations. Gully Boy too had created a Snapchat filter which dressed people up in a hoodie and looking up ‘Apna Time Ayega’ on Google Maps directed people to the nearest Gully Boy graffiti. 

Since the movie was introducing an entirely new category of music, the makers wanted to get people comfortable with this new genre of music. Of all the innovations, Ramchandani is most excited about the Gully Beat App which allows users to compose a rap track in less than a minute. “Cracking the right technology innovation is crucial now,” he says. He further adds that an apt innovation can also excite a brand to come on board the way Nokia and Ola did for Gully Beat. Backing the movie, the mobile handset maker and cab hailing service challenged users to rap to their tunes on the app. “It is no longer about vanilla associations. New technology innovations like these allow brands to give an interesting spin to their communication,” he says. 

Brand Associations

The movie had several in-film product placements and co-branded associations across a wide spectrum of product categories. Singh is seen using JBL headphones while recording tracks. The pub - Social - becomes the rendezvous point for two rappers, they order a Bira while at the pub. Brands such as Zomato, Nokia, Ola, KFC, Dairy Milk, Dish TV, Adidas had co-branding associations with the movie. 

Alia Bhatt alludes to an app that can find mobile numbers in the movie by the words True Call saying “True Call pe dekh.” The real app she refers to is TrueCaller. While Ramchandani says there was no actual brand association there, the public perception that Bhatt wants to use TrueCaller and TrueCaller’s own admission of helping out Bhatt in the film blur the lines between what is an association and what is not. 

Ramchandani says that the brand associations within the film especially were chosen carefully to make sure they did not feel forced. For example, the association with Bira was leveraged during the Music Launch of the film in Byculla which was in tune with the brand proposition of the movie and the brand because Bira does sponsor music festivals and concerts. 

Although brand integrations help add value to the brand and the movie when a fit is perfect, brand integrations are a long way from becoming a serious revenue stream for filmmakers. “Monetising it and depending on brand integrations from a budget point of view puts pressure on the creative team, compromising their integrity. So we look at all brand integrations as a bonus,” he states.  

As of week four, Gully Boy raked in Rs 131.85 crore at the box office. 

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