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Social media strategy that significantly increased social reach and buzz, contributing to the success of “Chennai Express”

A spot-on social strategy based on innovative campaigns and cutting-edge social media analytics

Recently released, ”Chennai express” became one of biggest blockbuster in Indian Cinema (Often called Bollywood) beating all previous records of highest earning, social reach and overall buzz. This movie has been credited to create a new social media revolution in films branding and marketing. It has made Twitter history, the first film to be listed in the top trends for more than 10 consecutive days with innovative hashtags and multiple campaigns. It has also become the first Indian film in twitter history to trend at worldwide no. 1 with two separate hashtags #ChennaiExpress and #ChennaiExpressWeekend and many more.
In the words of Shailja Gupta, Chief Architect for Chennai Express digital marketing..The overall buzz unswervingly augmented results in terms of unprecedented collections and a huge fan base, beating all prevailing Bollywood records nationally and overseas. We have set a huge benchmark. In fact with some of our strategies we reached out globally enough to compete with a few Hollywood film buzz this year.

Chennai Express

Holistic Approach: A Remarkable Social Journey

The social media planning and campaigns began in earnest months before the actual release date. The initial focus was on reaching out to the core fan base, on whom the movie and campaigns would have the most impact, and to influencers on social media – movie critics, trade analysts and social media stars. With the launch of initial teaser campaigns and trailers, sentiment analysis was carried out on the marketing message, based on demographic, geographical and other criteria. This was designed to get feedback from audiences and perform a strategy recalibration as and when required. One example of this recalibration was that in the early pre-launch days, an overwhelming positive sentiment to Chennai Express was seen from people in South India, but the sentiment from North India was less unequivocally positive. Future campaigns bore this into mind and benefitted from the insight.

Chennai Express

As part of the engagement with Chennai Express, we also wanted to challenge some prevalent social media ‘best practice’ myths. It is widely believed that pre-planned trends, inorganic followers’ growth and contests are ways to create buzz and that the number of followers on Twitter or ‘Likes’ on Facebook alone equal the level of engagement. To the contrary, we believe this approach often ignores both the quality of the engagement and the strategies involved in taking the engagement forward & actually translating it to business results.

We used eMee's analytics and big data tools to quantify what people liked and what may be going through the sieve. Carefully calibrated metrics were used to gauge engagement (we followed the 4A’s levels of engagement) and this was backed by hard data. Actionable Insights or the recommendations that are resultant from these analyses are at the crux of our methodology.

Holistic Approach
Holistic Approach

The other aspect that we focused on was the cross-pollination of social networks. Chennai Express’ campaigns were designed in such a way that users of one network were often asked to go to another social network for the next stimulus. One example of this was the YouTube game ‘Rahul meets Meena’ that involved innovations around YouTube’s in-video links and was showcased on both Facebook and Twitter.

Mobile was another important channel that we utilized to reach to the masses and for real-time intelligence and insights on buzz.

Chennai Express

I was very clear on using social media not just as another way to push our marketing messaging. Instead, we used it innately to change the face of our personal interactions, social reach, engagement and involvement with the audience. Expert insights, built on analytics and big data from the eMee team proved to be very critical and essential components of our strategy….says Shailja Gupta

Unprecedented Buzz

Throughout the social media campaign, the response received was unprecedented and nothing short of staggering! Chennai Express related tweets generated over 1 billion cumulative impressions and the total number of tweets across all hashtags stood at over 750 thousand over the 90 days campaign period.

Chennai Express
Comparison of Chennai Express buzz with Other Representative Movies

One crucial challenge of the overall campaign was the sustenance of the buzz over this long period and to cater to different audiences, both globally as well as nationally. A week is a decade in social media terms and if the peak buzz for a movie is generated too early or too late in the marketing lifecycle, the death knell might as well already be rung for successful box office collections. The Actionable Insights generated by the team were crucial in keeping things fresh and adding new paradigms to the social media buzz.

Engaging campaign for extending buzz

As an example, during the opening weekend the team quickly realized that people like talking about box office numbers, and thus the hashtag #CE100cr in3Days was designed to celebrate the box office numbers being reported. Such innovative hashtags were at the center of the Twitter strategy. The release day, upcoming holidays in India - which included Eid, India’s Independence Day and Raksha Bandhan, movie based buzzwords, viral content like the Lungi Dance and the celebration of successful international releases & box office numbers were all used in creating hashtags. Each hashtag was separately supported in trends, with the belief that each has its own milestones and identity and cumulatively can help the overall movie campaign to spread easily.

Chennai Express
Chennai Express Hashtag Analysis

Business success: Translated Buzz to Box Office Success

As a result of distinguishing social media strategy, Chennai Express became the highest grossing Bollywood movie of all time. Along the way, every box office record milestone was broken, including highest opening weekend collections in India, highest opening weekend collections for a Bollywood movie in the UK, USA & Canada, fastest Bollywood movie to join one billion (INR) club, fastest Bollywood movie to cross two billion (INR) mark, among others. During the day of release, Chennai Express buzz was comparable to movies like Oblivion. One interesting phenomenon we noticed was that after the first 5 days i.e. after the initial buzz had died; the box office collections followed the social interaction trends of the previous day - if the interactions went up, the collections for the next day was most likely to also go up. Figure below shows this trend vividly.

Chennai Express

Clearly, the buzz generated helped in extending social reach which resulted in the unprecedented box office collections. And, we are proud to be associated with this revolutionary social media, social reach and social engagement success story.