The phenomenal success of Kolaveri di is now being discussed in marketing sessions at leading management institutes. Dhanush would probably be the first to agree that the unintended consequences of his effort should not be elevated to the outcome of a grand marketing strategy. It is a fun song. It just happened.
Reporting in the Times of India of 5 December, Chitta Unnithan quotes an IIM Professor’s reference to the song as “a perfect example of viral marketing, which has created a huge difference in the world of publicity”.
Another Professor, from IIM Lucknow is quoted as saying that his class was discussing the beautiful strategy used by Kolaveri di and that it could be used by a company to leverage its marketing activities. A third, from IIM K, has done a case study on the song, calling it Project Kolaveri.
This is understandable. Professors of management would want to be the first to take real life happenings for class room discussion and for lessons to reinforce the concepts they have taught. There is nothing wrong with this. The more recent or familiar the event, the greater would be its impact on the class. It would also be creative if the event has nothing to do with business situations the student normally expects to get. This explains why many teachers now use films like Gandhi, Twelve O’clock High, Twelve Angry Men, Lagan and Tare Zamin Par for what is termed an experiential exercise.
However, in our anxiety to do this, many of us draw wrong, hurried conclusions from incomplete data and insufficient analysis.
Kolaveri di is an amazing phenomenon if you take its popularity – the way it has spread across continents, across linguistic barriers.. No other song in recent times has had this kind of success. Ten million hits on Youtube. Versions in other Indian languages like Marathi and Gujarathi. Japanese ladies dancing to the tune and an American child singing an English version
The facts however depict a different story. There was apparently no marketing strategy, no grand design, and no conscious application of marketing principles. Its creators, Dhanush who wrote the lyrics, Aiswariya the Director of the film and Anirudh the music director admit that they had no idea the song would be a great hit. It was conceived as a fun song, fun for themselves even more than for the target audience. It was sneaked out and put on the web before the creators could even think of marketing – let alone of a strategy. The web did the rest. Dhanush thanks the person who sneaked it out!
One can of course discuss the reasons for its success and rationalise, which is what we academics are best at. A simple catchy tune, a crazy mixture of Tamil and English with the words meaning very little, without a great tune or a great voice to sing it. A non sensical song according to Dhanush.
These are normally pointed out as the drawbacks of a song. They may well have been its strengths, to an audience that is tired of hearing songs picturised in idyllic surroundings sung by great playback singers and of lyrics that either sound sentimental or border on vulgarity. A simple song that has no pretension to being a song may well appeal. The tune is so simple that any child in India, China, Japan or the West can sing it. Simplicity pays.
Social media has of course had a great deal to do with the success of the song. If I like the song I would send a link to it to several friends and they would do likewise. If I do not, I would not bother to tweet about it unless it is intensely disliked by me.Both ways the song wins. The critical comments of one or two persons like Javed Akhtar would only give it added publicity.
Kolaveri di just happened. As things just happen in real life more by chance than by design. In business some of the well crafted stregies may result in gigantic failures and equally, some may be unexpected successes. Our ability to innovate is not matched by our ability to know the consequences of the innovation because we often respond to immediate concerns. The unintended consequences may be far reaching. Let us therefore enjoy the song and be grateful for what we got without reading too much into it.