Updated: Sep 21, 2020
Most international Media Intellectual Properties make bank big time when it comes to Merchandise sales. Also, in recent times the number of Merchandise retail outlets that have popped up on Indian High Streets have tripled but they don’t shelve enough Desi Pop Culture items in proportion to western pop culture merch. Has the time come for producers to focus on Merchandisability of Intellectual Properties before financially backing them up as franchises with sequels?
In a post COVID world will we need to focus on Merchandiesability before backing a cinematic project?
The market is so ready!
A bird’s eye analysis of the Desi demographics both domestically and in the diaspora, indicates that for the generation born post liberalization of the Indian economy recently entering the workforce may be amidst a paradigm shift in their value system. They are more inclined towards consumerist values and the rise of technology, e-commerce and the 4g revolution have made this shift even more prominent. This huge cultural change spells an opportunity for the merchandise sector the likes of which we have never seen before. Top growth market analysts take into account whether a publicly listed business in the west has expanded into India as a positive indicator when they acquire stock in that enterprise. This leaves no doubt that we have a market that is finally ready for Desi Pop Culture Merchandise.
Global players are making their move
Funko pop is a company that has emerged as a global market leader in the Pop Culture merchandise sector and has been steadily increasing its presence on Indian Retail shelves on account of the opportunity that the economy presents. A clear indicator that the economy is ready for licensed merchandise is the number of High Street retail outlets that have a maximum amount of shelf space dedicated to pop culture merchandise.
Disney is already making its move by flooding the market with Avengers merchandise given how well the MCU movies did in India and the domestic pop culture and entertainment industries need to catch up quickly to secure their market share. Let’s also keep in mind that our very own desi mega enterprise - Reliance added the global market leader in the toys & collectables industry - Hamleys to their investment portfolio. This could be very beneficial to desi pop culture players especially if they are looking at reaching an international market. As a case study, take, for example, Salman Khan’s Being Human. It has stores all over the world raking in substantial revenue in merchandise sale, particularly from the superfans of the superstar. Let's not even get into the soft power benefit this move could present.
Atmanirbharta & Make in India
Modi says we must make toys in India and ramp up the economy by consuming desi. When the movie Ajooba released in 1991 the number of Ajooba masks were a delight to see the same goes for Krrish in 2006. Now in 2020 with better innovation, digitization and with better technology, there is so much more the industry can do in partnership with Indian manufacturers. If decision-makers are still sceptical then just look at the Chota Bheem franchise case study. It has been riding the tide, expanding into various trans-media revenue streams with their franchise, including stage production, while simultaneously tackling counterfeiting very successfully. IPL as another example has been making mountains of money growing its merchandise revenue year on year.
This proves that there is a framework to make this work. Several extremely talented independent merchandisers would jump at a chance to design and some might even work within a licensing fee structure such as rev-shares etc for MSMEs to incorporate top pop culture IPs into their existing merchandise.
Beyond the Box-Office
Post COVID box office revenues will take time to rise and most certainly not suffice to revive the industry. Merchandise if done correctly can generate revenue that surpasses Box office collections, steaming licensing revenue and TV syndication licensing revenue combine. Not to forget the opportunity when it comes to Digital Merchandising especially AR & VR. Mobile gaming is at an all-time high and is here to stay. Indian Cinema and Bollywood, in particular, has to embrace a cohesive trans-media rollout approach if they want to rebuild this industry and grow it further than its pre-COVID numbers. If there were ever a way to move past the toxic media culture that plagues the entertainment industry, having merchandise related announcements regularly is what can and will surely help. Needless to say, it also does wonders to keep a franchise alive for much longer if people have physical memorabilia. As an added bonus, it might present actors a chance to make more money if they negotiate likeness clauses in their contracts.
How to get it right?
1 Content creators need to keep merchandising and iconography in mind from the point of screenplay inception.
2 Maintain character consistency when developing content franchises.
3 Secure the IP rights to protect the IP across all monetizable mediums.
4 Partner with the right agencies to help monitor counterfeits and to help boost royalties.
5 Invest in Character Fandom community development & medium size design & production vendors.
6 Hire content consultants who understand the pop culture space and markets.
7 Test your merchandise with focus groups and at psychographically targeted fan conventions like BollyCon before production commences.
8 Don’t worry if the original content was disliked, REBOOT!
Remember people hated the He-Man movie and several Star Wars Movies. Even the Potterverse has managed to piss many fans off. Don’t give up, win your fans back and create new fans. Be like the DCEU.
Leap of faith.
Many franchises can pull this off in upcoming releases. The ones that come to mind right away are Krrish4, Mr India, Bahubali, Robot, Ra-One, Stree, Ajooba, Naagin, Baalveer, Shakalaka Boom Boom, Shaktimaan, Nagraj, Phantom, the Shettyverse, Cargo, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota and Even Bhavesh Joshi Superhero. The question is which one will take the first leap of faith for gain and glory. My bets are on someone who has a history of getting desi pop culture & merchandise perfect.
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