Raushni Bhagia

Channel branding: Creating powerful bonds

After Zee TV, it's SET Max's turn to launch a brand campaign. A look at the relevance of branding for television channels -- movie channels in particular.

Remember the big noise 'Sirf Dekhneka Nahi' campaign, or the 'Bharat Bandh' campaign of SET Max, launched to promote the Indian Premier League? However, these product promotions have never attempted to add brand value to the channel itself.

Channel branding: Creating powerful bonds
Channel branding: Creating powerful bonds
Channel branding: Creating powerful bonds
Channel branding: Creating powerful bonds
The scenario is set to change, however, with Hindi movie channels showing an increasing amount of interest in upping their own brand value, and not just that of their properties. And this is particularly interesting because unlike many other channels, a movie channel can barely boast of 'original' content. So the groundwork, for turning the channel into a convincing 'brand', is inherently weak.

But this is not stopping channels from taking their own branding seriously. Recently, ZEEL talked about how building a brand is important while launching its new Hindi movie channel, &pictures. Interestingly, the channel was launched under a new brand, '&', and not the established brand, 'Zee'.

Now, SET Max has launched its brand campaign, 'Jahan Dekho, Vahaan Deewana', which adds a new dimension to its existing positioning, Deewana Bana De. And three television commercials have been launched as a part of this campaign.

Madness Revisited

Traditionally, movie channels have promoted newly acquired titles, upcoming properties and some special movie blocks. SET Max launched a campaign titled 'Shuruaat Yahin Se' last year, which talked about how watching a good film is a way to handle extreme emotions. Neeraj Vyas, EVP and business head, SET Max, says, "Shuruaat Yahin Se was never supposed to be a catch-phrase, Deewana Bana De had to come back."

Vyas adds, "Deewana Bana De is too powerful to let go of. Max, without Deewana Bana De, is very incomplete. We have used Deewana Bana De again, essentially because as per our research, it is very deeply connected with the brand - be it movies or cricket; Deewana Bana De has always been the base of all our communication. The three films carve out a very basic element within a common man. It doesn't talk about brand Max, but about the bit of Deewanapan (craziness) in everyone. We aren't praising Max in the campaign."

The branding dilemma

That said, there lurks the question of whether brand campaigns for TV channels are any good. Are they really effective? While the age-old debate -- on whether people watch programmes or channels -- continues, brand consultant Vinay Kanchan, provides some relief. A bit of both happens, he tells us. "For a new channel, a specific programme might attract viewers, but for an existing channel, the brand connect needs to be reinstated from time to time," he reasons.

SET Max's Vyas adds, "I think even for a non-Hindi movie channel, it is very important to keep reinforcing and reenergising the brand promise. We are in a cluttered environment today and it's important that the consumer values the brand."

Channel branding: Creating powerful bonds
Channel branding: Creating powerful bonds
Moreover, TV viewing is more of an impulsive choice and changing a channel doesn't cost the consumer anything. In such a scenario, it is important that channels build an overall platform, says Kanchan.

While other genres of TV channels have original content which helps in promotion, movie channels have to use content that is pre-sampled (through theatres). Also, each movie is a brand in itself and is well-promoted already. So why the need for a separate brand campaign for the channel?

Vyas agrees and adds, "By default you only end up promoting properties. I think that's not a smart way to go about it. With so much of fragmentation today, with so many channels available, I think you need to highlight the salience, virtues and values of the brand. Ultimately, it's the power of your brand that is going to sustain."

Kanchan thinks Max's recent campaign is very endearing and that it makes its point while staying within the domain of the channel and stands for all the real movie-buffs in India. "Viewers often come back to a channel for emotional reasons. Building bonds is very important, rather than just picking the newest film and putting it all over the town," he explains.

Citing examples of retail chains like Shoppers Stop and Central, Jagdeep Kapoor of Samsika says that it makes all the more sense for SET Max to build its own brand. He puts it across quite simply: It is very much like retail trade channels such as Chroma and Big Bazaar. If they can keep other brands and build their own, why can't TV channels do that, strategically? Branding for a movie channel, then, is as important as, say, branding for an FMCG like Lux or a retail chain like Big Bazaar.

Kapoor explains that audiences can land on a movie telecast in two ways - either they search the movies and then look for the channel, or they go to the channel and look for movies. Every channel has a library offering repeat views, of which some movies will be favourites for some viewers. "If Lux has been in the market for 70-80 years, people still ask for it at the store," he smirks.

Kanchan sighs, "We are at a stage in the country where what you are offering as a product becomes incidental. Every brand is ultimately promoting a larger-than-life platform, be it a cafe or a high-end car." We are in the business of making mental brands and occupying a corner in the consumer's mind, he feels.

And this idea can be extended further, the brand consultant points out. Through this kind of 'movie channel branding', SET Max could launch a Bollywood cafe or a Bollywood entertainment park, even, and the campaign would still hold water. This is because there's no particular compulsion for the brand to operate within the confines of a particular product category, unlike in the case of other players like, say, telecom service providers.

For movie channels, there really aren't any rules in place... a fact that seems to be working for them as far as brand building goes.