About this entry
Chennai Express, a recent blockbuster Bollywood movie won many social media accolades worldwide. The social media strategy for “Chennai Express” was well planned for the right timing, buzz and effective engagement. The biggest initial challenge was deciding the correct timing for the launch (of various campaigns), selecting the right keywords & hashtags, and choosing the right target audiences & influencers for initial promotions.
We carefully divided our strategy in phases. It began weeks before the actual release date and continued even after post-release. Innovative hashtags were pivotal to the Twitter strategy. Upcoming public holidays like Eid, India’s Independence Day and Raksha Bandhan, movie based buzzwords, including viral content like the Lungi Dance; the success of international releases and box office numbers were all used in creating hashtags. Each hashtag was supported separately in trends, on the premise that each had its own milestones and identity, and cumulatively could help the movie campaign to spread. The success of this strategy is amply demonstrated by the fact that not a day went by during the entire campaign period that a Chennai Express related hashtag wasn’t at the top of the Indian trending charts, and often at the top of the world’s trending topics! Here, another related challenge for the campaign was sustaining the buzz for global and national audiences over a long period. In social media, a week is a decade and timing is everything. If a movie’s buzz peaks too early or too late in its marketing lifecycle, it could ring the death knell for successful box office collections. The team’s ‘Actionable Insights’ were vital in keeping things fresh and adding new paradigms to the social media buzz. For example, during the opening weekend, the team quickly realized that people like talking about box office numbers, so the hashtag #CE100crin3Days was designed to celebrate the box office numbers being reported. Also, one key consideration was reaching out to the core fan base, on whom the movie’s campaigns would have the most impact and to give them a sense of ownership for the film. We also intended to reach out to influencers on social media – movie critics, trade analysts and social media stars. And, that’s why we focused on the cross-pollination of social networks. We designed cohesive campaigns; using the strengths of each social network. While Twitter is the engine for viral content, Facebook is the more personal platform, where word of mouth recommendations work better. Chennai Express’ campaigns were designed in such a way that users of one social network were often asked to go to another one for the next stimulus. For example, the YouTube game “Rahul meets Meena” involved innovations around YouTube’s in-video links and was showcased on both Facebook and Twitter. The ultimate goal or the objective of the social media strategy was to generate social buzz and an extended close engagement with audiences, globally and nationally so that they would buy tickets and come to theaters, occasioning huge box office collections.
As part of the overall social engagement strategy, we also wanted to challenge some prevalent social media ‘best practice’ myths. It is widely believed that pre-planned trends, inorganic followers’ growth and contests are ways to create buzz and that the number of followers on Twitter or ‘Likes’ on Facebook alone equal the level of engagement. To the contrary, we now believe this approach often ignores both the quality of the engagement and the strategies involved in taking the engagement forward & actually translating it into business results. And, to achieve this objective we focused on cross-pollination of social networks, leveraging the strengths of all major social channels like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and mobiles. During the tenure, one interesting phenomenon we noticed was that after the first 5 days i.e. after the initial buzz had died; the box office collections mirrored the social interaction trends of the previous day - if the interactions went up, the collections for the next day also went up. It is evident from this inference that the social media buzz indicators directly affected box office collection figures to a large degree. Throughout the social media campaigns, the response received was unprecedented and nothing short of staggering! Following results clearly indicates the impact of successful social media strategy adopted:
1. Chennai Express related tweets generated over 1 billion cumulative impressions and the total number of tweets across all hashtags stood at over 750 thousand over the 90 days campaign period.
As a point of reference: Kaun Banega Crorepati, another very popular Indian TV show has generated about 21 thousand tweets over the last 2 years. Interestingly, the international impressions generated exceeded the Indian impressions. The top countries (in order of total tweets sent) included India, USA, Pakistan, Indonesia, Germany, Malaysia, UK, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Canada.
2. It has made Twitter history, the first film to be listed in the top trends for more than 10 consecutive days with innovative hash tags and multiple campaigns. It has also become the first Indian film in Twitter history to trend at worldwide no. 1 with two separate hashtags #ChennaiExpress and #ChennaiExpressWeekend.
3. Its buzz on opening day even eclipsed the Hollywood movies released during the same weekend – Elysium and Planes, produced by Tristar and Disney respectively - by over 500%. In fact, such opening day Twitter activity has not been seen since the release of Skyfall, released on November 9, 2012 which saw 33,000 related tweets.
4. As a part of our buzz sustenance strategy, the two hashtags, “#AzaadiExpress” and “#ChennaiExpressDobara” began the social conversation around Chennai Express anew using a fresh perspective. These two hashtags alone saw over 12,000 related tweets each with a potential reach of over 25 million people. This resulted in box office collections ~ 450 million (INR) for Chennai Express, another unprecedented figure for 2nd weekend figures.
5. Along the way, every box office record milestone has been broken, including highest opening weekend collections in India, highest opening weekend collections for a Bollywood movie in USA & Canada, fastest Bollywood movie to join the one billion (INR) club and the fastest film franchise to cross the 2 billion (INR) mark, beating all the biggest Bollywood box office hits before it.
It’s a common perception that pre-planned trends, inorganic followers’ growth and contests can be used to create buzz. On the contrary, we believe this approach often ignores both the quality of the engagement taking it forward and actually translating it into business result hence we used analytical engines on top of the structured data to innovate.
• Mentions around topics of interest
• Related global trending topics
• Sentiment & Mood Analysis
• Social Reach & Geographical hotspots
• Classifying users based on their engagement levels, clout score, Sentiment. Based on this, a different strategy for engagement with each user was adopted. Eg, We noticed that trade analysts reports’ on the box office numbers of a movie really excited people. Thus, a concerted effort was made to use this network
It’s relevant in film marketing because movies release together on the same weekend and successful movies have to compete with movies releasing the following week. We focused on:
• Identifying and tracking competitors
• Understanding what people like or dislike about each movie
• Giving insights around failures or successes and provide comparisons relevant to the marketing of Chennai Express
• Real time recalibration and applying this learning for future campaigns
INTEGRATED DIGITAL STRATEGY
• Though Social Media Marketing was pivotal to our strategy we also integrated other digital tools seamlessly with social media platforms to get the maximum mileage out of our digital campaign.
• A twitter app was created where a train needed to reach Rameshwaram. The more the tweets, the faster the train would move to reach the destination for the trailer to be unveiled.
• Seven browser based games were created and adapted for use on mobiles and social media sites. This seamless cross platform integration helped the audience to engage more.
• An Endless Running mobile game where users take control of Rahul or Meena while they run to escape the villians. On the way, they fight goons , run past a variety of obstacles ranging from buses, autos, coconut carts, man-holes etc.
• A Karaoke mobile app for users to sing a song from the movie, share the score on Facebook.
• Interactive Video Innovation app allowed users to choose what Rahul would do next to woo Meena and accordingly change the sequence of events and influence the end of the video.
• To bring all the campaigns together the comprehensive website was fully integrated with social media sites and proved invaluable in creating high recall value for Chennai Express
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