Fan: What makes Shah Rukh Khan a marketing genius

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 14, 2016 11:25 IST
Maneesh Sharma is the director of Fan. (Twitter)

There is a reason why Shah Rukh Khan is called the Baadshah of Bollywood: He sells like no else. But behind the affable face of ‘Raj’ and ‘Rahul’ is a mind that understands how the audience ticks. And he’s willing to take risks based on that.

It was the peak of the cricketing season in 2011 when the first trailer of Ra.One was released. It was a movie Shah Rukh heavily invested in, and showcased the actor in a new avatar. But as intriguing as the trailer was, this wasn’t all that caught attention; people were surprised as the movie was a good seven months away.

The normal Bollywood practice is to release a trailer 40 days before opening night. So, why would a superstar jump the gun by 200 days, and run the risk of having to prolong and sustain excitement? To build momentum of course, through a long promotional campaign.

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But such planning costs.

Shah Rukh ultimately spent Rs 150 crore, making Ra.One one of the costliest films ever in Bollywood. Half of this was spent on marketing and promotions alone. Given Ra.One’s success, one would say well played.

Big ticket production houses though aren’t game for such risks. They don’t want to spend too much on marketing; instead they release a film to more screens and aim to cash in on a superstar’s brand positioning.

Shah Rukh though has never been the conventional sort, and with his new film, he’s hardly settling for any less. Directed by Maneesh Sharma, Fan in itself is different movie. It stars the actor in a double role: A superstar and his obsessed fan (hence the movie title). If the trailer is anything to go by, the movie packs everything – drama, suspense, action and quintessential Khan.

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The art of marketing a movie has changed in the past few years, and though production houses don’t spend as much as Shah Rukh did on Ra.One, they spend smartly on innovative strategies. Combined with that, the actor is beginning to tame a whole new beast.

The usual strategy includes lots of TV time: Shah Rukh has become omnipresent on TV with a stream of interviews and appearances. He even filmed a special episode on The Kapil Sharma Show.

For their part, the makers have released the Fan anthem in six different languages; this shows their strategy to penetrate regional markets.

Watch: The making of Fan

A parallel television campaign is also taking place in collaboration with brands where winners of various competitions are being promised merchandises and meetings.

But, Shah Rukh kicked off the anticipation for Fan months ago with a wall mural outside his house. Twitter picked it up and went to town with it.

The new catchword is social media, and both Shah Rukh and production houses are cashing in on this to shrink their marketing bills while also making a big splash.

Watch: Shah Rukh Khan in Fan trailer

It’s the age of hashtags, mentions, retweets, shares and likes (remember the song ‘Jabra’ from Fan?).

Aside from the occasional message/tweet, Shah Rukh has been sharing behind-the-scenes videos on Youtube, engaging with people on Twitter and Facebook and featuring his own videos to feed excitement. In one such segment, Shah Rukh read out fan mail.

Unlike earlier decades where contemporary actors maintained frosty-to-bitter camaraderie, Shah Rukh and Salman have understood how to play to the gallery, throwing up friendly banter on Twitter, using each other’s film names, and so on. Fans love this, and the combine support base means double the success for both actors. It’s all about the win-win now.

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