Neru Vs Malaikottai Vaaliban: Marketing lessons from Mohanlal’s latest flicks

The movie ‘Neru’ stands out as a prime example of the power of strategic communication and clear, focused brand positioning.
Neru Vs Malaikottai Vaaliban: Marketing lessons from Mohanlal’s latest flicks

KOCHI: In the fiercely competitive film industry, the strategic deployment of marketing principles and brand positioning tactics can dramatically influence a movie’s box office performance. As a strategic business content producer and an ardent cinema enthusiast, I had the privilege of witnessing this firsthand, attending the first day, the first show of Mohanlal’s recent movies ‘Neru’ and ‘Malaikottai Vaaliban’.

The contrasting outcomes of these films serve as compelling case studies, underscoring the pivotal role of precise communication and expectation management in transforming an above-average film into a blockbuster or conversely, diminishing the potential success of a well-crafted movie.

A masterclass

The movie ‘Neru’ stands out as a prime example of the power of strategic communication and clear, focused brand positioning. The promotional strategy was notably understated, not aiming at overselling but accurately portraying the movie’s essence. The marketing team’s approach was characterised by:

  • Clear differentiation, explicitly stating it was not a crime thriller but a courtroom drama

  • Setting realistic expectations by revealing the film’s narrative nature upfront

  • Emphasising the emotional depth and familial themes over sensational twists

This strategy of managing expectations by under-promising created an environment where audiences, myself included, were pleasantly surprised and deeply engaged. This resulted in strong word-of-mouth advocacy that significantly boosted its box office success. Such an approach mirrored best practices in product launches, where clear, accurate, and focused communication ensures the target audience’s expectations are perfectly aligned with the product experience.

A cautionary tale

In stark contrast, ‘Malaikottai Vaaliban’ suffered from misaligned expectations. The promotional campaign, or the hype that organically evolved around a Mohanlal-Lijo Jose Pellissery film, resulted in bold promises:

  • A grand cinematic experience with unmatched action sequences, which will literally ‘shake’ the theatre

  • A multifaceted (rather confusing) narrative blending adventure/action with spirituality or comics like ‘Amar Chitra Katha’

  • Unprecedented production values and storytelling/making

However, these ambitious promises, made and evolved both verbally and non-verbally, failed to accurately communicate the film’s true nature, leading to a disappointed audience and underwhelming box office performance. As an early viewer, I observed firsthand the confusion and disillusionment in the theatre, a direct result of the scattered and overhyped communication that set unrealistic expectations, which the movie experience could not fulfil for the majority of its viewers.

The best way forward

The destinies of ‘Neru’ and ‘Malaikottai Vaaliban’ highlight the critical importance of strategic brand positioning and communication in determining a product’s market success. For brand managers and strategists, these cases reinforce the need for:

  • Clear and accurate messaging: Ensuring all promotional material accurately reflects the product’s essence

  • Understanding audience: Deep market research and audience understanding can guide the development of a marketing strategy that resonates and engages effectively

  • Strategic under-promising: A subtle under-promise can lead to over-delivery in the consumer’s experience, enhancing satisfaction and positive word-of-mouth promotion

  • Consistency across channels: Maintaining a consistent message across all marketing channels reinforces the product’s positioning

As I reflect on my experiences watching both movies on their opening days, it’s evident that the strategic nuances of marketing and brand positioning can make or break a film’s success.

These insights not only apply to the film industry but also broader marketing principles across various sectors where clarity, audience alignment, and realistic expectations are cornerstones for achieving commercial success and lasting brand equity.

The writer is an entrepreneur and CEO of CAT Productions

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