India’s diversity and complexity never cease to surprise me. Having studied various aspects of the entertainment preferences and habits of the Indian consumers rigorously for four years now, one begins to feel one knows quite a lot. But every once in a while, a new surprise springs up. Yes, the Indian consumer is like the mystery box on MasterChef Australia. You never know what’s inside.
One such revelation happened recently. Typically, all our film star research (e.g. Stars India Loves and Cinematix) is conducted amongst regular movie-goers, defined as those who have watched at least three of the nine biggest hits from the last six months. This audience is less than 5% of India’s population. But from a box office perspective, it is all-important.
In July this year, we launched Celebritix, our celebrity evaluation software designed to help brands evaluate various celebrities and decide which one to consider for an endorsement deal, based on the fit between the celebrity and the brand. Since the clients for the product are advertisers and not film producers, the target audiences for the research are urban Indians who consume advertising on TV and other media, not just movie-goers. This constitutes upto 40% of India’s population, a universe almost eight times wider than that covered in film-specific research. Many of these watch films on television and contribute to the ratings. But they are not the core target audience for box office business.
The shift of universe from 5% to 40% revealed some fascinating facts. Let’s call these two universes ‘the movie-goers’ and ‘the urban masses’. By now, everyone knows that Salman Khan is the most popular film star in India by far today. His box office prowess has been proven four times over in the last two years. He is not just critics proof, he is also content proof. But all that understanding comes from the movie-goers, i.e., the five percent universe.
In Celebritix, the urban masses are asked to rate upto 50 stars on 20 attributes, e.g. Youthful, Good Looking, Humble, Innovative, etc. Brands use the Celebritix software to select the attributes they want their brand to stand for, and assign weightages to each. The software then uses consumer data collected across 50 stars to identify the celebrities that fit the brand’s defined attributes the best.
The table below lists the top 10 male celebrities across three attributes – Successful, Stylish and Adventurous – based on the results of the second quarter of 2012 (April-June). The last column lists the top 10 male celebrities basis their overall average score across the 20 attributes put together.
|1||Sachin Tendulkar||Amitabh Bachchan||Sachin Tendulkar||Sachin Tendulkar|
|2||Amitabh Bachchan||MS Dhoni||Akshay Kumar||Amitabh Bachchan|
|3||Aamir Khan||Salman Khan||MS Dhoni||Aamir Khan|
|4||MS Dhoni||Hrithik Roshan||Amitabh Bachchan||MS Dhoni|
|5||Virender Sehwag||Sachin Tendulkar||Virat Kohli||Salman Khan|
|6||Shahrukh Khan||Aamir Khan||Virender Sehwag||Akshay Kumar|
|7||Salman Khan||Virat Kohli||Aamir Khan||Virat Kohli|
|8||Akshay Kumar||Ranbir Kapoor||Gautam Gambhir||Virender Sehwag|
|9||Ajay Devgn||Akshay Kumar||Salman Khan||Hrithik Roshan|
|10||Virat Kohli||Shahrukh Khan||Ajay Devgn||Shahrukh Khan|
Can you see how things begin to change once we widen the net from the movie-goers to the urban masses?
Let’s start with the last column, which captures the overall appeal of the celebrities, across a mix of 20 internal and external attributes. Sachin Tendulkar and Amitabh Bachchan occupy the top positions. Movie-goers’ favorite Salman Khan features at no. 5, behind Aamir Khan. Shahrukh Khan, in a challenging phase of his career, just about makes it to the top 10, squeezing past Gautam Gambhir and Ranbir Kapoor.
The results are equally interesting on the “Successful” attribute. Aamir Khan is perceived to be more successful than both Shahrukh and Salman, clearly indicating that success also has an intangible element associated with it, and is not just about number of hit movies or sheer longevity.
Aamir Khan has never occupied the top two positions in the last two years in Stars India Loves, conducted among the movie-goers. Amitabh Bachchan has ranked outside the top 8 consistently. But the moment we shift to the urban masses, the real “masses” begin to come into play. And that’s where the appeal of stars like Amitabh Bachchan is enhanced considerably.
Not that he could care less, but what does Salman Khan need to do to finish on the top of this list too? He simply needs to have more enduring success. If his golden run continues for another 3-4 years, it is sure to impact a wider audience at a deeper level, through satellite television and other media, beyond the theatres.
For Shahrukh Khan, this round of Celebritix suggests that his equity has been deeply impacted in the last 1-2 years. Again, given the wider universe, this is unlikely to be an outcome of just his films, but also of an image created in the media over time. Hence, just the forthcoming Diwali release may no do the complete job.
Aamir’s high ranking can be partly attributed to Satyamev Jayate, which was on-air at the time of this research. Yet, the results show inherent credibility and respect that Aamir enjoys. Also, it makes him a popular candidate for endorsements, ahead of the other two Khans, on 15 out of the 20 attributes.
But the real revelation is Amitabh Bachchan’s numero uno position. Of late, there has been a lot of talk of Salman Khan being the next superstar, in the Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan league. But the Big B’s position at the top (he features in the top 2 on 12 out of 20 attributes) is a testimony to what true superstardom can be. To achieve that, Salman Khan has some time to go.
Meanwhile, it’s time to acknowledge that while three Khans, one Kumar and one Roshan may drive the box office, the mass celebrity power in our nation is more equally distributed.