Extravagant sets, foot-tapping songs, dance numbers, and melodrama may make Bollywood films a tad formulaic but when it comes to providing value for entertainment, there’s no phenomenon on earth that draws a cult-like following.

Unlike the more prominent inter-generational gaps that exist between South Asian millennials versus their traditional boomer parents, cinema continues to serve as the glue that holds families, and in some cases even feuding nations together.

In Canada, South Asians are classified as one homogenous group, even though technically, they may hail from different countries in the South East region.

As a marketer, if you’re trying to target this demographic, Bollywood or specifically Bollywood-themed events such as film festivals, premieres, and concerts that unfold across major cities in Canada every year may be the answer.

Star gazing

The language of cinema is universal. Festivals such as the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA), which dubs itself as the “largest South Asian film festival in North America,” Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival (MISAFF) as well as other music and cultural concerts happening across Canada during the summer and fall offer brands an unfettered opportunity to connect with consumers and build a relationship with them.

Case in point: last year, Bollywood/Hollywood celebrity Priyanka Chopra along with her mother Dr. Madhu Chopra and Punjabi Superstar Amrinder Gill, stopped by a Mississauga hotel to promote the film, Sarvaan. The film’s release in Canada was set to coincide with Lohri, a fall festival celebrated by Sikhs and Hindus. News of Chopra’s arrival sent the entire South Asian population in the GTA in a tizzy, and fans lined the streets in anticipation of a glimpse of the star.

This is also probably why celebrity endorsements in India has become such a saturated concept.

The big question, however, is: how can marketers take advantage of these opportunities?

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Brands on the Bollywood bandwagon

1) Targeting the South Asian consumers through a sustained strategy: Sponsoring (an event or concert) is an obvious but insipid choice. All this does is get the sponsor a small space for their logo in the promotional poster, which by the way, will be crammed with logos and taglines of other sponsors.

Instead, why not create a conduit to the consumers’ hearts by the way of a challenge or contest that would send a lucky contestant to a masterclass workshop (both IFSAA and Mosaic bring Bollywood/international film directors to host these)? Here’s a thought. The contest could ask people to submit a one-minute film on how Bollywood is part of their lives. Afterward, few of the top submissions can be used to create an ad campaign.

2) Use the festival space to gain insights: Market research is often a sterile exercise, one that lacks personal connection. If you’re a brand that wants to understand the individual preferences of your customers, what better way to do so than show up at these festivals and concerts and ask the audience for their unvarnished opinion? You may even learn a thing or two about your competitor.

3) The double whammy: experiential marketing + brand-building: Here’s a guaranteed way for a product to reach the hearts of South Asians: first, create an interesting (Bollywood-themed) photo-booth (at one of the film festivals) or a set that offers revelers a picture-perfect and “gram-worthy” opportunity. To this stunning backdrop, add the power of experiential marketing. Finally, introduce an appropriate hashtag. Voilà, sit back and watch the campaign gain traction as it amplifies on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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