How Baahubali has evolved as a ‘Brand’ from a ‘Movie’

Bhavik Vora, CEO – Black White Orange Brands Pvt Ltd shared his experience of ‘Baahubali evolving from a ‘Movie’ to a ‘Brand’  with the India Licensing Post’s editorial team.

1. Do you believe that licensing for movies is challenging basis the short life cycles?

The shelf life of a film is so short, it’s literally about the opening weekend. Retailers feel there’s just not enough time to create consumer demand. But we are taking a realistic look at current market conditions and ‘fashioning’ licensing programs that we believe will succeed. We are trying to extend the window of opportunity as much as possible, from four to eight weeks prior to the theatrical premiere all the way through the DVD release and many a times even more. In fact movie merchandise has the potential to last until the fans  love the brand.
2. What prompted you to take on Baahubali as a project?

Indian cinema has the biggest fan following in the country and probably the most untapped potential on the consumer product platform, that takes fans beyond the realm of the big screen. Hardly any Bollywood movie has looked at merchandise seriously. Mostly, L&M has been looked upon as a promotional tool. When we established Black White Orange a year and half back, we had a vision of creating a world-class merchandise programme of cult Indian brands. After the successful launch of Yuvraj Singh’s brand YWC, we were extremely excited to bring to life, the biggest blockbuster of all time, ‘Baahubali’, through a well conceptualized, high-quality merchandise program for Indian & global fans. Arka Mediaworks’s Baahubali has raised the bar and created benchmarks in every aspect of movie making.

3. What did you invest  basis assets and what support did you get from the property owner? 

Time, effort & a lot of passion!

Our creative team at Black White Orange saw the film (first part) over 8-10 times. We were actually breathing the movie while the assets and designs were being created. Shobu Sir of Arka Media Works and Rajmouli Sir worked very closely with us, with inputs & suggestions at every step.

4. What was the strategy and development that went into building the program

The premise of any successful consumer product program is a fan and the community, Baahubali had created a huge fandom and community with the hype it had generated through its first part and it’s was just going to go up from there. Our strategy was to give these fans a piece of their favorite brand by launching categories and products that they would love to flaunt and consume. Our design team worked on a strategy to make the products aspirational enough for them to pay the value that we were planning to ask for it. By no means we wanted it to look like a promotional merchandise used for promoting the movie.

 5. Can this strategy work for all big blockbusters or is there a special ingredient required in the product for it to work for licensing?

I strongly believe it’s the fan of the particular film or brand that can make or break your product plan. Apart from that – quality & design. When a consumer pays for a product, he should be getting his moneys’ worth. That said, every strategy cannot be the same and it’s important to have a road-map that best suits each film.

6. You also work with Universal Studios. Is there something that the West does differently from Bollywood when it comes to licensing for movie properties?

Yes, we handle licensing and merchandising for NBC Universal, in India and South Asia. In Hollywood, merchandising is huge for filmmakers, worth billions of dollars with popular films. Hollywood works on building a huge consumer product program for their franchise properties. These franchise properties due to its global appeal have consumer product programs across the world and that means that many more opportunities to just directly import the product rather than developing from scratch. Plus, they invest very heavily on creating world class creative assets which makes the final product look great.  In India, the shelf life of film-inspired merchandise is about to 10 weeks, between the pre-release, release and post release period. L&M is seen more as a promotional tool rather than long term revenue earner. Although there are huge investments in making the movie, hardly any importance is given to developing creative assets to make a great looking style guide. However, in the future, you will see film studios partnering with more and more marketers to launch many more merchandise in India. Baahubali franchise is the biggest example of success of licensed merchandise in India. The franchise will generate close to 25 cores in sales.

7. Baahubali is the biggest grossing Indian movie- what has been the outcome of this on the merchandise program?

The second part was called Baahubali – The conclusion, for us, this is just the beginning. We already have 6 categories active and are expecting close to 25cr worth of merchandise sales this year and the way the brand has resonated with the audience its going to just grow from here. There are also other extensions that are happening around the brand like Animation & VR content which will help the longevity of the brand.

8. Have you been able to tap the large Indian diaspora on the back of Baahubali being released globally?

Yes, we have been successful in making Baahubali L&M a big hit globally… The idea was to make licensed merchandise as independent revenue vertical and not necessarily to promote the film much on the lines of the tent pole franchise model that is popular in Hollywood. We are sure, Baahubali has inspired Bollywood filmmakers and studios to take L&M seriously and it will be interesting to see the future of the maiden Indian film franchise as it gets ready to create a world of its own.

9. Do you reckon- BWO to pursue more movie licensing projects?

Yes, we are very excited to work with studios on movie licensing projects. Recently we also launched Despicable ME 3 merchandise  in India. The products, led by the Minions are based on characters from the movie, which include Gru, Balthazar Bratt, Margo, Lucy Wilde, Agnes and the incomparable Minions themselves, in exciting styles & categories. Next up – Watch out for the Jurassic World in 2018! It’s going to be huge!