It is fairly certain that after suitable amendments Padmavati will soon open to packed houses in some states at least. Producers and distributors will make considerable money as can many other businesses in the experience ecosystem, when armed with smart thinking and smooth implementation. The ability to milk controversies for short-term business gains can be called the Padmavati Effect, applicable for brands not directly a part of the problem.
Now consider for a moment if this movie is allowed to run in West Bengal only, the opportunities for Ban Tourism can be staggering. Go Air can do a tie up with PVR Cinemas to create special day packages for morning-evening travel, tickets in the theatres and a specially curated lunch. A Classic Rajput buffet at the Park Hotel as a suitable prelude while for others a Khilji Banquet catered by Aminia can be the mood-enhancer. As a logical extension, the tourism board can build a weekend escape package, exposing the cinema-watcher to local attractions while reputed jewellers can well do clones of the heroine’s necklace for memento hunters. Special large screens can be set up in unconventional venues like the Netaji Indoor Stadium, with a fairground-like atmosphere to compensate for the low numbers in the Eden Gardens Test Match. Uber can join the party with a special promo code as can every player in the organised hospitality business. The possibilities are truly endless for every brand with the appetite to make the most of the situation.
Similar strategies can also be suitably adopted in the context of leisure tourism, for states that do not have a liquor ban or beef ban in process. Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt have been courting trouble on various issues but that would, intuitively, enhance the recall and demand for their cinematic work, benefitting the trade. During the celebrated Nanavati case of the 1960s, brought to the cinemas through Rustom, street merchandising assumed cult-like proportions, with towels and guns very popular many years after the matter was closed. Shashi Tharoor was in the thick of a sordid drama for a few years, at a time when his book sales broke previous records and his popularity in the speaking circuit increased; publishers and event organisers making good money in the process.
To successfully implement this strategy the indirect brands must first conduct a risk assessment study on the impact of the controversy on their business and then map it against the chance to gain. If, in the West Bengal example as mentioned above, Taj Hotels believes that their fame will get spoiled or there is a risk to physical well-being of the property, then the association may be reconsidered. However, when that risk is marginal, as the connection with potential trouble is tenuous, then the plunge can be taken, for considerable gains. Then comes the association strategy, a set of point-in-time experiences that are specially packaged in attractive price points, to take advantage of the controversy, as long as it can be milked. When Air India withdrew the non-vegetarian meal from flights, airport restaurants like KFC could have done a special offer for those with such boarding passes, gaining both goodwill and business – in the spirit of short-term tactical initiatives, designed to generate a spike in business.
Behind such seemingly opportunistic thinking is actually a foundation of genuine consumer insight, the tendency of humans like us to be close to controversies without being directly affected. The same intuitive logic, which makes even the best of us huddle close to a road-rage or street violence situation, excited passive participants till we feel personally threatened. If a service eco-system which is attractive and convenient can be crafted, then we will most surely be interested, exactly why audiences thronged to listen to Shashi Tharoor at the height of the Leela Hotel affair. Residents of beef ban states, as an instance, will not break the rule at home but will certainly enjoy an extra portion of the forbidden meat when in Calcutta or Mumbai on work, if suitably facilitated.
As mentioned earlier, the Padmavati Effect is about brands which are not directly connected to the controversy but instead are happily able to fuel the consumer curiosity around it, as part of an attractive and highly topical experience. This can lead to short-term profits for those with imagination and can potentially add significant feathers to developing customer relationships, as a friend satisfying well-entrenched desires. Do consider this nimble strategy for your brand, at the right time, as a valuable opportunity and not shallow opportunism.
(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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