Wednesday, December 12, 2012

15 Lessons South Indian Fan Clubs can teach any Marketer.

I come from southern part of India where filmstars command a great following. Infact, we are so used to personality led culture that we awe, rever and worship them whenever they are sighted in public. Many a times people are so fan-crazy, travel long distances and wait at the gates just to catch a glimpse. This, imagine, when the families would be struggling for one time food, next time work and loads of family commitments simply slighted just for this one cause.

The key part in the life and journey of filmstars and leaders of political parties from the area I come from, in particular is the way they nurture fan clubs. In fact it is seen that great careers and high successes in successive films is no guarantee for lifetime employment of an actor in the field. You would see that flops and hits continue with the actor who has an active fan club.

As a child I was infatuated to the fan club culture. It is really hard to miss the palpable action and talks around you. The craze to be part of crowds, the reverence that is commanded not in front of the living soul but by a 12-24" inch larger than life hoardings ("cut-outs" in our lingo), the urge and the high to see the first day first show, the creativity in the promos (these aren't done by paid publicists of the movie company but by a motivated crowd(fans) out of competition to vie for attention) and the way the buzz is created around the movie to bring in audiences for giving the movie a decent shelf life in the theaters, all attracted me much. However, owing to adolescent fear relished all of this action from fringes.

Fast forward to my professional life, having travelled multiple cities, I miss these old days of single screen theaters and the splash of posters in city wall-scapes and the charm of watching a movie in a sea of fans animated from their seats. If you watch it a week later, you can see your neighbours uttering the dialogues synchronized with the screen play.

Thanks to this child hood exposure, I realized many good lessons in marketing.

  1. Paid promos or self promotions cannot create buzz. They at maximum can give you the reach. It is your users who can get you the mass you need.
  2. The intrinsic value of product and the reach alone cannot guarantee a commitment from your customer. There needs an eco system which the customers need to be a part for gaining the commitment.
  3. What is projected in professional world, needs to be practiced in personal life as well. There have been careers in film industry with good fan following which have been way-led due to wavering ways or controversial decisions behind the cameras. In short, be responsible in all facets of your life - be it in glare or off it. Remember, "how" is as important as "what".
  4. No doubt, critical mass is important. However, critical mass is not numbers. The number needs to be with right mix of people who could carry you along untiringly towards your success. It is who you connect with (segment), how many (target) and in what ways (position) they sign up for you determines the longevity of life.
  5. Giving is the best form of taking back. The salaries, revenues and lifestyles - for fans gives little room for jealousy. In fact fans talk more about the philanthrophy than the multiplicity in riches. Practice to give - may be portion of sales to charity, or free samples to a sample population or your work/product/service to a cause. It aids in positive image associated with the offer you sell.
  6. Fan clubs need to be active all the time and so should be your marketing engine. During movie release season fan clubs are hyper-active. There is never a dull moment nor an opportunity created that makes one think of alternatives or comparisons. When movies are not around, fan clubs keep themselves busy in taking part in events or conducting them around festivals in the locality, in the interim period where there is nothing external, they conduct elections, reorganize their structures or conduct membership/collection drives to keep them energized for the peak season work. Actors are canny managers and adept at planning their movie releases to make sure they retain the flock intact.
  7. It is important to keep contacts. In world of technology everything is seen and watched in 2D. But it is clear that keeping contacts and mingling with crowds is still a potent marketing technique to establish the connect and renew it once in a while.
  8. Appreciate others and be kind with words for equal work of others in your field. The higher you grow the more you need to display genuine appreciation for juniors in the field. Promote products or services around you. Encourage an eco-system than being the end-all of doing everything. It helps you grow insulated from prying eyes.
  9. Display human tendencies at times. While we, in Tamil Nadu, consider our filmstars - god, we subtly understand and feel happy when they express natural emotions. Offer the softer side of your personality. It associates with the product or service you offer.
  10. Help budding performers and promote them in your field. It makes you a god father and reduces the number of people in opposite camp waiting for your downfall. Sponsor early talents is a great way to promote and spot talent who could help you.
  11. Even in stereotypes, mix in variety for freshness. Superstar Rajinikant movies are loved for his style. However every movie is watched for his variety that he brings in his inimitable style that is unique in every creation. What you represent might be boring. But how you present them in various mediums determines the freshness.
  12. Enjoy power responsibly: As a potent force, as a live wire who can change scores of lives, impact a large following who seek you as the leader and waiting to seize the command, comes a great responsibility and accountability to not use power the wrong way. And great stars never go beyond the limits they understand is a no-crossing zone. For marketers wield a great power to seduce mind about the products they market. Be careful to not promote a faulty one.
  13. Handle criticism: A flop movie gets face time of critics more. You are written off. Events surrounding the failure generates stories that sell on  pessimism. It is often said in industry circles that every friday a life is changed. It is constant change of fortunes that stars get used to. And fan clubs are a great stress-buster. Getting to spend more time with your users and feeding the news of improvements and excitements coming the way is a great way to stay the course.
  14. Wary of Flattery: A great product gets rave review. But making it a formula and expecting the same every time is a flattery. Stars are surrounded inevitably by flattery. Staying to not falling prey gives the service and product a longer duration to fix issues and not gloat in glory.
  15. Be an asset: In any field, your recognition is your reward. Your image is your asset. Be one who is useful for others. If your service is liked, you are liked by default. If you are hated, a great on-time delivery is still not good.

(Dedicated to #Rajnikant Ji on his birthday today, for whom at one point of time I was willing to go in direction along with scores of his fans without battling an eyelid).

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