The Big, Bad Brand of Bollywood

There is really nothing wrong with the brand “Bollywood,” except that the Indian film industry has become far more powerful and far-reaching than anything else like this in any other country of the world, and even larger than Hollywood.

In hindsight, decades ago, who in their right mind would have picked such a blatant knockoff as “Bollywood” — so clearly a cheap copy of Hollywood? Now, that theme that has been further diluted and abused by hundreds of other adventurous film industry brands all over Asia, from “Ollywood” to “Jollywood,” creating confusion and ripping away the original centrality of the true brand.

There is only one Silicon Valley, one Eiffel Tower, one Disneyland and one Wall Street; the other sound-alikes and look-alikes are just desperate copycats. What India needs today is an all-out war to tackle these copycat problems, and accept only higher standards with an eye toward global leadership and creating original, world-class, global identities.

The Disney Dance

Today, Walt Disney can only be dancing in heaven after seeing how Disneyland has created hundreds of copycats from few mega sites to hundreds of parks with little more than a Ferris wheel and a guy in a gorilla suit.

What’s wrong with people? Why do they prefer sneaking, picking, cutting and pasting from someone else’s original brand idea while congratulating themselves for their smartness. This form of brand suicide is a kind of a self-inflicted identity wound that never heals and never has a chance of becoming a real brand. Surveys have proven that copying legendary icons only reduces a brilliant, original idea to a confused and crowded oblivion. The black-and-white proof of this global phenomenon is there on Google for all to see.

Without a doubt, there is no country with a film industry with the size and dynamics of current Bollywood, which on a global scale not only attracts a larger audience and more attention than any other force in the marketplace, but also carries the most global influence. This US$6 billion industry will double again in size in few years, and is just trapped in a dumb brand identity with no direct connection to Mumbai, as the name Bombay (source of the “B” in Bollywood) is just pass.

Hollywood History

The real Hollywood, on the other hand, came about in 1887, when the founder Harvey Wilcox drew up a grid map for a town, which he filed with the county recorder’s office on Feb. 1, 1887, the first official appearance of the name “Hollywood.”

During the last half-century, all over India and including Asia, the No. 1 practice of branding has been based on picking up names from Western Yellow Pages: “Just let the fingers do the branding.” Hence, hundreds and thousands of Western names are blatantly copied, a practice that in turn has kept beautiful and original local ideas buried in favor of Western identities.

In the course of human development, countries do come up with amazing and original ideas, like the invention of Silicon Valley, which not only incubated a global revolution of e-commerce but also the demise of hundreds of copycats from silicon woods to jungles, rivers, roads and oceans. Watergate germinated “thisGate” and “thatGate.” Historically, it can be proven that any copycatting on any scale fails big time, and accidental naming invites accidental cost, creating injured name brands that cripple long-term marketing and eventually fade away. Open any old magazine and the proof is right there.

The Art of Branding

The global complexity of billions of name images has turned this issue into a science, and the art of fondling a dictionary is now lost forever. It requires tactical understanding of corporate and business naming rules, trademark laws, global domain management systems and international marketing issues. It demands an in-depth understanding of languages, translations, connotations, perception and human interactions with words: memorability, type-ability, protectability and dozens of other related issues. Create an open dialogue, conduct an in-depth audit, test the five-star standard, demand practitioners with all these skills in your boardroom. Otherwise, your image and mega identity program will simply be doomed.

The old mass-advertising model is dying quickly, and a new style of marketing offers unique opportunities to become a successful brand with the smallest budget in the shortest period of time with maximum impact. However, once again, these sophisticated processes cannot be confused with general-logo-based-branding, as name branding is a very special art.

The Indian film industry has a bright future and will continue forward, but as the media blurs and the meltdown continues, the term Bollywood will diffuse into a low-tech brand perception of colorful-dance-routines-based-cinematography that has become the lead identifier, but hopefully the new leaders of the industry will re-establish brand new global iconic identities based on world-class standards.

A great future for the Indian film industry lies ahead.

Naseem Javed is recognized as a world authority on corporate image and global cyber-branding. Author of Naming for Power, he introduced the Laws of Corporate Naming in the 1980s and also foundedABC Namebank, a consultancy established in New York and Toronto a quarter century ago. He can be reached at[email protected].

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