Movie merchandising – products and commodities based on a movie’s theme, character, location, etc – is a tool meant to promote a film.
Though producers/film studios perceive merchandising as a hook to supplement their box-office fortunes, its full potential has not been explored in India. Remember the 1973 film Bobby which popularised Bobby hair clips and the Rajdoot ‘Bobby’ motorcycle or the cap embossed with ‘Friends’ from Maine Pyaar Kiya which became a rage in the 1990s?
For many film makers, merchandising has been, at best, at the periphery of their planned activities since they are focussed on the film and distribution rights. The new generation of filmmakers, however, is changing the rules and considers merchandising as an important part of marketing strategy, especially to attract viewers to watch the film.
Unlike earlier, many more people today want to emulate the look and style of their favourite stars, acquire memorabilia associated with the film and visit the locations where their favourite films were shot.
Film-based merchandise gives them that opportunity.
Primarily, film makers/studios enter into two types of agreements: product placement deals with manufacturers of products where a product is shown in films, and merchandising deals where licenses are given to use names, characters and artwork for spin-off products such as toys and clothing.
Hollywood mastered the movie licensing and merchandising (L&M) game a long time ago as seen in iconic movies such as Star Wars, Toy Story, Cars, and Harry Potter. These films spawned a whole new market for products that bore the stamp of the film and were heavily promoted. Star Wars merchandise is said to have raked in USD 40 billion and Harry Potter USD 25 billion. Other success stories abound. Batman, Superman and Spiderman are icons for children and account for massive sales internationally. Indian industry estimates the market for Bollywood-related merchandise at less than Rs 20 crore.
This is now changing as movie-makers see the potential of the related products. They are creating dedicated merchandising divisions which designs and markets film memorabilia to fans across the globe.
While merchandising has the advantage of promoting and popularising films and offering a definite revenue stream, there are pitfalls to watch out for – the poor quality of merchandising could do more damage to the brand than good. For merchandising to be successful and lucrative, a clear strategy with appropriate investments of money and time will be required.
Walt Disney built an empire marketing Mickey Mouse ears and other toys, apart from the enormous revenue generated from theme parks. The time is ripe for producers and merchandising agents to strategize long term plans to identify and promote mass merchandise options in Indian movies. Merchandising should be a potentially lucrative activity which can supplement the movie’s earnings and fortunes at the box-office. As the Indian market matures, it is a matter of time before figurines of Baahubali sit alongside those of Darth Vader from Star Wars on store shelves.