The use of movies as a medium to popularize a brand, drive sales of an existing product or to launch a new brand is a trend that has existed since movies became popular across the globe. Movies do change the dynamics of a brand and determine the initial thrust and reach across markets. Clothes, jewelry, fashion accessories, footwear, cars, bikes, food and beverages, shopping malls, tourist destinations and so on have cashed in on the popularity of movies with their reach across the viewer spectrum.

When Shammi Kapoor sang, ‘Dekho, dekho, dekho’, an Evening in Paris, in the movie of the same name, many who did not know the existence of a place called Paris in India knew it and wanted to travel there. Other cities like London, New York, Tokyo, and countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Switzerland, to name a few became famous tourist destinations to the rich in India due to the frequency of songs shot in those locations. In India too, tourist destinations like Goa, Ajantha Ellora caves, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Tanjavur, to name a few became famous and desired visiting spots due to movies.

When Rajesh Khanna sang, ‘Mere sapno ki rani kab aayegi tu’ in Aradhana, little did anyone expect that his cap, the mannerisms, the harmonica which the hero’s sidekick played in the song would become a rage as well with every other kid blowing on it. Rajesh Khanna was truly the first Super Star of Indian films and his appeal cut across the country, even in the South. His “guru shirt”, his hairstyle, etc. became the trend among the youth and old during the 1970s.

When Sean Connery as James Bond 007 drove Aston Martin DB9 in Goldfinger, the company was flooded with orders and the profits jumped significantly. The drink that Bond orders “vodka martini, shaken not stirred” became a trend across bars in England and USA and is still in vogue.

When Steve McQueen rode a Triumph TR6 in The Great Escape, the motorcycle became a rage across UK and USA and it drove sales like never before.

Film is a form of entertainment that has the power to alter the tastes, preferences, perceptions of people in a very subtle, subconscious way and at times in an open manner. Films in India especially have had a huge influence on the Indian society and many times on the governments ever since movies were made in India. Political parties have gone on to ban a few movies and promote a few as and how it suited them. But it is the influence that the movies have had on consumers and the marketing trends that is of enduring interest.

How do movies influence marketing trends? Let us take a few examples. Movies such as A Bug’s Life and Toy Story had a refreshing take on business and entertainment.

The 1982 movie like ET by Spielberg provided the first-hand account of how a brand can be easily used in movie as a business. The film resulted in an estimated 66% spike in Reese’s Pieces Candies.

In Tom Hanks starrer classic “Cast Away” a crucial role was given to ‘Wilson’, a product of Wilson Sporting Goods alongside constant presence of FedEx brand. FedEx became globally popular as a courier service company that delivers no matter what.

In 2015, Sea World announced it was ending its controversial “Shamu Show” and replacing it with an “all-new orca experience” to focus on the “natural behaviour of whales”. Their decision was a result of the public outcry created by the 2013 documentary, Blackfish. The film drew attention to the dangers of keeping orcas in captivity — for both the animals and their human trainers.

In the film The Day After Tomorrow, the world is facing a second ice age: a tidal wave submerges New York City, tornadoes rip through downtown Los Angeles, and hailstones the size of grapefruits batter Tokyo. According to Yale researchers, it helped increase awareness on climate change, environmental crises, and global warming.

AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s was surrounded by stigma, fear, and misunderstanding of the disease. A 1985 poll in the US found that 51% of Americans felt people living with AIDS should be placed in quarantine, and 15% thought they should be identified with tattoos. Philadelphia released in 1993 changed those perceptions altogether. The film follows the journey of a young gay lawyer, by his firm after discovering he has AIDS. It was the first Hollywood film to tackle the issue of AIDS and homophobia, and it helped destigmatize a subject that until then few had wanted to discuss.

The movie What Women Want is about a male marketer who one day experiences an electroshock and starts hearing everything women are thinking. The movie looks at how he then learns to listen to the women’s voices and adapt to their wishes. Both in his profession and in his private life.

This film is about Steve Jobs and his highs and lows at Apple and in particular his very successful return to the company. A movie that shows that things do not sell by themselves. You have to show people that they cannot live without your product.

The list can get endless.

Indian Brands, Indian Movies

Bournvita as Hrithik Roshan’s energy drink in Koi Mil Gaya and Krissh come easily to mind.

One of the earliest brand placements that stands out is in Raj Kapoor’s Bobby (1973) that had debutants Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia riding on a Rajdoot motorbike (famously known as Bobby bike) launched by Escorts Limited, a company owned by Raj Kapoor’s son-in-law. The demand for the bike was such that one had to wait at least 6 months before it was delivered!

In Dhoom, Suzuki Hayabusa bikes were used by the lead actors and thus occupied more screen time than the actors! The sales of these superbikes increased significantly after this movie.

Sometimes the film title itself denotes a brand like: Ferrari ki Sawaari, Mere Dad ki Maruti or have brands embedded in a song like Zandu Balm and Fevicol in Dabanng franchise.

In regional films brand placements are succeeding. The 2013 Malayalam road movie ‘Neelakasham Pachkadal Chuvanna Bhoomi’ indirectly highlighted the flexibility and grandeur of Royal Enfield motorcycles in the state. This resulted in massive increase in sale across the state as many film makers followed the trend and placed the same brand in later movie to lure youngsters.

Brands like Mercedes Benz, BMW, Harley Davidson, Audi, Volkswagen, etc., have been using movies to showcase their new models and make an impact.

Types of Product Placements

Brand/Product Placed in the Visual Frame

Product Name, Logo, Sign or even actual product is put up in the background that it catches attention of the viewer. Nothing blatant but very subtle. The product is not shown. In Kingsman: The Secret Service, the protagonists is having crucial conversation while being in a McDonald’s outlet. Another instance is from a song in the movie Koi Mil Gaya where boards of Coca-Cola and Nescafe are seen in background.

Character Uses the Product

The products are used in the movie by the actors. In Taal, Aishwarya Rai and Akshay Khanna share a Coke and the camera picks it up and lingers on it. ‘Nike’ self-tying shoe was famously used in the movie Back to Future franchise, ‘Nokia’ phone in Matrix and so on.

Characters Speak About the Product

In this the character is in a situation wherein he/she is using/consuming the product and speaking about the product. In the Malayalam movie Nerariyan CBI, Mamootty recommends Kalyan Jewellery to another character in a scene.

Product as a Part of the Story

The product plays a primary part in the script. The most notable example is Cast Away where FedEx and Wilson are crucial part of story.

Marketing in Movies

Movies affect/influence our perceptions, our tastes, our political choices, our educational choices, etc. But do movies sell by themselves through star power or the popularity of the director or the production house? Not quite. Movies too need to be marketed. From ads via radio, film trailers, posters designed much in advance, to ads and trailers on TV etc., to now the social and digital media, movie marketing has traversed the space of time. Is it different in this “digital era”? Here is a brief look at some very leading Movie Marketing Trends!

From increasing a movie’s shelf-life to helping a niche reach masses — these movie marketing trends are re-shaping the industry completely.


WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and content playing an important role, a major shift will happen from digital being a social media marketing platform to a wholesome digital marketing platform. Co-branding of products in movies to co-branding on digital spectrum will take over.

Content around Content to be the driving force

More content the better. Use of content creators to influence audiences is increasing. Engagement is moving beyond likes & shares and is increasingly found to be focused on consumers creating their own content around yours. There is a steady upswing in the use of multiple creations for different sets of consumers. No more scope for a one size fits all.

Augmented Reality and High Tech On-The-Go

Facebook and Instagram offer snackable content and also host Facebook Live interactions for promotions. The bot, which allows the movie makers to incentivise users for engagement, works as a native ticketing platform. Augmented reality will pick up in India as will gaming which will be the new platforms for marketing movies. Increasingly in latest TVs, 4K is becoming a norm. The latest home televisions are technically superior to theatre screens. While theatres offer unique scale and community, they will need new image technology to keep their audience.

Focus to Shift from Lead Actors to the Crew’s Contribution

Typical niche movies have managed to go mainstream, due to innovative digital movie marketing. New audiences have been created for niche genres thanks to social media. There is a significant increase in respect/awareness from audience toward screenplay, cinematographer, director, locations, music directors, character actors, etc.

Popularity of Niche Cinema: India vs Global

Niche cinema is in the nascent stage in India. Globally (mostly USA) the content battle is far ahead where there is significant battle of media giants and studios exploding. Netflix’s budget was USD 8 billion in 2018 on some 700 series and 80 feature films. Amazon is the other giant in the streaming arena and is fast catching up with Netflix and has invested USD 5 billion in Content. Disney, Facebook will be in here as well.


Snapchat usage has grown significantly. Snapchat is reportedly in talks with Hollywood about producing more original content for the platform.

Influencer Marketing

Using influencers or influencer marketing to promote movies has increased exponentially with pre-planned budget allocation for this. Some of the influencers — Top Stars — on YouTube, Instagram, and other platforms have signed up with the same entertainment talent agents who represent top Hollywood and Bollywood stars. Today vloggers and digital creators are stars in their own right and marketing teams are making a beeline toward them.

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