Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots Unique Marketing Strategy

The Indian film industry is big business. In the last several years, its value has seen an enormous leap, going from 83 billion rupees in 2010 to 138 billion rupees in 2015. Using data collected from this report, Statista.com predict that the total value is set to rise even higher, with forecasts for 2020 reaching a whopping 227 billion rupees. But what exactly is to thank for this huge increase in the industry’s worth? Clever and further widespread marketing, for one.

Just as more Indian businesses are beginning to use this option of country-specific domain extensions to target more online customers across India itself, so too is the film industry attempting to expand its reach. The most recent example of this is the promotion for one of India’s most prosperous movies of all time: 3 Idiots. Released in 2009 and starring Aamir Khan, 3 Idiots went on to collect 395 Crore (roughly US $70 million) at the worldwide box office, ranking it number six of the highest grossing movies made in India. However, it would be fair to say that Khan’s marketing was a big reason for the film’s success.

3 Idiots Unique Marketing Strategy

Already one of India’s most famous actors, Khan and the production team behind 3 Idiots still felt that a large part of the country, particularly smaller towns, either wouldn’t be aware of the movie, or wouldn’t care ordinarily. “We felt we aren’t connecting enough with our audience…so there’s a lot of business we aren’t reaching out to,” said Khan on Forbesindia.com. “Do they want to be entertained? Yes. Do they like watching films? Yes. But are they watching our films? No.”

As a result of the apparent lack of notice that some Indian films were receiving in parts of the country, a very interesting approach to marketing was undertaken by Khan. Acting like his character in 3 Idiots, Khan decided that he would disappear off the grid, but leave clues behind in each town he visited, so anyone could potentially find him for his future whereabouts. Like some eccentric cat and mouse game, Amir would post cryptic videos and posts on a Facebook page called ‘Aamir Khan the Pucca Idiot’. The page gathered over 2 million likes, and both the media and public went crazy for Khan’s stunt, wondering if it was real or fake.

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Often wearing disguises, Khan travelled for a total of two weeks and visited seven places, all the while keeping the intention vague – not even mentioning 3 Idiots at all. Khan even teased the media sometimes, by sending newspaper and magazine editors a handwritten letter, just to say thanks for having him in their city for a few days. In the middle of his trip, Khan held a Facebook live chat with his fans to keep the intrigue and mystery abundant. A few days later, when the tour and media interest was at its peak, 3 Idiots was released.

Put simply, the film was a runaway victory. Along with a positive critical response, 3 Idiots made 100 Crore (around US $18 million) on its opening weekend and, as stated earlier, remains one of India’s most profitable movies of all time. The takeaway from all this? Unusual marketing pays off. Of course Khan’s method is unique and might not work as well a second time around, but it showed that there is more to marketing movies than simply displaying a poster and releasing a trailer.

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