Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathaan and the 3 Lessons for Marketers

Have you ever wondered why some movies become blockbusters while others fail to create a buzz?

While ‘the content’ is the obvious answer, it also partly lies in how the movie is marketed leading to its release.

When it comes to movie promotions, the norm is to create hype and frenzy to attract audiences to the theaters on the opening weekend. But what happens when a movie doesn’t follow this norm?

That’s exactly what happened with the latest Bollywood blockbuster ‘Pathaan’ starring Shah Rukh Khan. In the current era of movie promotions, where actors do multiple press conferences, interviews with electronic and digital media, and city tours to promote their movies and overwhelm their audience, the makers of ‘Pathaan’ – Yash Raj Films (YRF) took a different approach.

To the marketer in me, there are three pertinent lessons worth pondering.

Less can be more.

The success of ‘Pathaan’s’ marketing strategy is a testament to the fact that less can be more when promoting a product or service. The makers of the movie did not go overdrive with promotions like most movies these days do but relied on curiosity and the enigma surrounding the film before its release to create walk-ins in the movie halls in the first couple of days of the release and then on the positive word-of-mouth around the movie as they were confident about their offerings.

This is not the first time a movie has opted for less promotion, leading to better success. ‘Baahubali’ relied on a single trailer and word of mouth to create a massive buzz before its release. And the rest is history.

Know your hook.

The audience was excited to watch Shah Rukh Khan after a gap of four years. The controversy surrounding the song ‘Besharam Rang’ probably would have forced them to, but YRF understood the biggest hook of their offering.

Shah Rukh Khan went with the often-forgotten and core principle of movies.

‘If you want to watch me, come to the theatres. I’m a movie star, and you get to watch me in movies only’.

This clarity paid off and how.

Your advocates are your superpower.

When one of the songs, ‘Besharam Rang,’ was released a month before ‘Pathaan’s’ release, a massive protest was mounted by a certain section of the audience owing to the saffron-colored bikini Deepika Padukone wore in the song. It was linked with the movie title, and conclusions were drawn that the movie was anti-Hindu.

The makers of Pathaan did not ignore this negative publicity but used it to their advantage as they were confident in their product. We saw thousands of Shah Rukh Khan fans taking on the trolls for over a month on every social media platform, news channels, and a few times on the streets.

We also saw the fans speaking about the movie on and off social media platforms positively upon its release, creating excitement about it beyond the core fans of the actors. We saw videos from movie halls from all around the world where people danced to ‘Besharam Rang’ and ‘Zhomme Jo Pathaan,’ and suddenly, watching ‘Pathaan’ became an event that everybody wanted to be a part of. The power of your advocates – what a lesson for marketers!

In the world of marketing, sometimes less is more, and knowing your hook and utilizing your advocates can be the difference between a mediocre product and a blockbuster success.

So, what’s your hook? How can you utilize your advocates? Let’s get creative and see what success we can achieve.

Amit Tilekar
Amit Tilekar

Customer-obsessed digital marketer and growth marketing consultant

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