Tuesday, 28 November, 2006

On the hows and whys of Himesh Reshammiya

India is a "hero-starved" nation. A nation that seeks heroism in all walks of life. History in the form of Ramayana, Mahabharata, the War of Independence are testimony. Our heritage is a reflection of our chain of thought. The present era is no different. From Sachin Tendulkar in cricket to SRK in the movies, India wants or I may dare to say needs to identify with a demi-god in human form. And this incessant need creates a market waiting to be tapped. Given this background, it is not surprising that mediocrity is often elevated to heroic proprtions to fit the need of this market by smart brand managers. Pull the right strings and you'd end up becoming the toast of this nation. One such man who's got his game spot-on is none other than Mr. Himesh Reshammiya. He works on a simple premise that India needs a rockstar. And he claims to have all the makings of one. Not a singer, not an actor but a rockstar. A rockstar minus the pseudo phirang antics of unkempt long hair and electric guitars. This man works and how.

The Big Idea : Presenting to you the One and Only Indian Rockstar - Himesh Reshammiya. A distinct brand identity that will strike a chord with the man in Sonwada village, Gujarat as well as the club-hoppers in Palk Street, Kolkatta.

As much as I despise his genre of music, I belong to a miniscule section of like-minded individuals. "HR's genre" of music itself speaks volumes about his penetration in the music industry.

The Real Picture: Close to one-third of India's population sways to "Aap ka Suroor" and his other anthems. So what works for the man?
Lets dig deep into one of the most fascinating case-studies in Brand Creation and Brand Building.

1. Brand mein dum hai kya ? :- Starting his career as a music director, Himesh got initially noticed for his upbeat numbers in 'Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya'. Himesh then did a series of Sallu flicks. The initial recognition gave him the much needed encouragement that a new brand requires in a fresh market. This was his testing gorund. He had succeeded in understanding his brand potential.

2. Starting mein full public mein nahin aane ka :- Himesh underplayed to a large extent in his initial years. HR as a brand was largely unrecognised. Premature entry of a product into an over-crowded market can be disastrous. Himesh waited for that one elusive hit film.

His official mass recognition as a music director came with Tere Naam. An album that found superior brand loyalty with rickshawallas, chaiwallas etc. The songs attained junta popularity. Remember the "Lagan Lagi's" in rickshaw rides across the city? Tere Naam ensured that he had a market for his music. Even then, the music was not Himesh. It was an old-school, Nadeem Shravan-ish genre of music. It was of importance that he offered something unique to the audience for longevity.

Understanding your product in terms of market offering is very essential. A Nestle Munch might be an excellent product but Kit-Kat will always have the upper hand in brand recall with regards to waferbiscuit chocolates. For a brand to become huge it has to be novel, one-of-a-kind.

3. Experimental Jhol-Jhal :- Aashiq Banaya Aapne took the nation by storm. Himesh lended his vocals to his song for the first time. It worked and how. To experiment with your talent is essential to attain the big break. He'd have never known that had he not tried.
Post the phenomenal success of "Aashiq Banaya Aapne" Himesh was quick to understand and realize that he had hit the right formula. Capturing what works and not making it a 'One-Off' worked in his favour. Post which he adhered to another simple philosophy : If it ain't broke, don't fix it !

4. Senses ko fultoo trap karne ka :- This was probably the moment when he realised that he had found his ticket to fame. Behind the mic made him unidentifiable. Rockstars aren't shy to expose themselves, their emotions. The true-blue rockstar is the macho man who can cry for his beloved without giving two hoots about what people think of him. This was his identity. A man that would pull the senti string of an emotional nation and mesmerize them.

5. Brand design jhakaas hona mangta :- Reshammiya has developed his trademark style of composition, based on pop music and catchy techno beats. He also places a particular emphasis on melodic hooks to his songs. Reshammiya has a unique fashion sense that makes him a recognizable face within and outside the Indian film industry. He wears a baseball cap and is usually seen wearing a pair of jeans with a conspicuous belt buckle along with his trademark stubble. The way he holds the mic with the bottom facing upwards and the trench coat that he wears in concerts and his videos are also consistent elements of his style. His packaging is flawless, distinct and consistent. Cadbury has been purple with white fonts ever since its inception and its taste has been more or less the same in years too. The same funda works for the man. Distinctive music, distinctive style.

6. Aage kya? :- The man is everywhere and his music videos have nearly saturated the market. The "In your face" approach worked in the initial stages of Himmy hysteria. Now a lot will depend on his next move. He realises that people are getting used to his monotony. But Himesh bhai has another ace up his sleeve. Three aces infact.

a) Aap ka Suroor - The Real Luv Story (The Moviee) : Yes our man explores new grounds in what seems to be a movie based on his love-life. See the use of the word "Luv" and "Moviee". As wannabe as they seem to the urban junta, it works with the masses. Time will tell. Don't be surprised if the movie breaks a few box-office records especially overseas where he has a loyal and an ever-increasing fan base.

b) HR School of Music - This one is a super-hit because a dearth of music schools is a genuine problem and also an unexplored market.

c) HR's signature line of clothes - A bold move in his effort to extend the Himesh Reshammiya brand. Quality and resemblance to his outfits will determine success. Pricing will also be decisive. The upmarket liberal spenders will avoid coming close to his line of clothes. The 'aam aadmi' will buy if it offers VFM.

This effort was to determine and rationalize how brands work and why certain brands gain far-reaching popularity. One cannot negate the luck factor and the man's hardwork and fierce ambition to succeed while analyzing him. But a lot of us work hard and are supremely ambitious. But there is only one SRK, one Sachin Tendulkar and one Himesh Reshammiya *I am saddened to put him in that league but am only getting used to it*. The difference is that their ambition is backed by keen insight and heightened awareness. To conclude his journey in the words of Robert Frost :

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference