Tim Cook shows brands how to schmooze India the smart way
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Apple CEO Tim Cook. Photo credit: iphonedigital / Flickr

Apple CEO Tim Cook. Photo credit: iphonedigital / Flickr

There are lessons in Cook’s schmoozing for all brands that are trying to market their newly launched product

Tech in Asia

There is a reason that Apple, the world’s most valuable company, chose Bollywood and cricket during Tim Cook’s first ever visit to India this week.

And there are lessons in Cook’s schmoozing for all brands that are trying to market their newly launched product – there are no bigger forces than Bollywood and cricket in this country of 1.25 billion people.

Cook met a gamut of Bollywood stars, including the like of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan.

The celebs, who are hungry for big bang endorsement deals, also had a reason to meet the Apple CEO.

4 reasons Bollywood matters

1. Brand recall: Brands such as Lenovo, Nokia, Samsung, and India’s own Micromax have paid millions of dollars to Bollywood stars such as Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Akshay Kumar, and Farhan Akhtar to market their products and add some pizazz to their brands.

In one shot, Apple used the entire top gamut of Bollywood stars to tweet about Tim Cook’s visit to India.

2. Language matters: Bollywood appeals to about 800 million people in India who can either understand or speak Hindi.

A tweet or a photo with a host of big Bollywood superstars is likely to get your brand front page or prime time coverage in media – and thus instant recognition.

3. Indian viewership: A small glimpse of your brand during a commercial break of a popular film is likely to bring it to the attention of millions.

About 2.6 billion Bollywood tickets were sold in 2014, making it the most watched cinema on the planet. Hollywood sold about 1.4 billion tickets worldwide the same year.

4. International appeal: Bollywood reaches far beyond India. If you ever wish to launch your product in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, or Africa, an association with a Bollywood superstar will give it instant recognition.

In countries where domestic cinema is not too strong, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nepal, Indian cinema rules the box office.

Ubiquitous cricket

If you fail to get an actor to endorse or do a sweat equity deal for your brand, cricket is your next best bet. Even a small appearance by an A-list cricket player is sure to bring the hype.

Here are some reasons cricket matters:

1. Massive TV viewership: The Indian Premier League has a viewership of about 335 million, more than the entire population of the US.

Apple hit a master stroke. Tim Cook appeared with the IPL chairman before the TV cameras during the live telecast of an IPL match. Through this, Apple made sure those who missed reading a business newspaper got to know the brand exists in India.

A large part of the Indian TV watching population also owns a mobile phone. Most smartphones in India run on Google’s Android.

2. Youth appeal: A sporting tie-up imparts energy to a brand – especially so in India where 65 percent of the population is under 35 years of age. Being cool and looking young is important for this population.

Even if it’s a dreary product such as life insurance, cricketers such as Sachin Tendulkar have done wonders for companies they’ve endorsed.

3. Played globally: Visit any part of the world where cricket is played, and on an IPL match day you can see young and old alike glued to TV sets or the web, watching a live broadcast.

And wherever South Asians are based in the world, on a match day between arch-rivals India and Pakistan there are celebrations – or heartbreak – whenever a batsman hits a six or four.

Cook out-zucks Zuck

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried hard to win over India. He met Prime Minister Narendra Modi twice in six months as he sought to get his controversial “free internet” service accepted in India. However it was struck down by India’s telecoms regulator, citing violation of net neutrality principles.

Other tech luminaries such as Uber’s Travis Kalanick, Cisco’s John Chambers, Dell’s Michael Dell, and Google’s Sundar Pichai usually limit their visits to a talk to technology students, followed by some hobnobbing with the media and the powerful in government.

In contrast, CEOs of new phone brands such as OnePlus love to schmooze India by holding fan meet-ups and giving away goodies.

Virgin CEO Richard Branson roamed the streets of Mumbai sitting on a taxi in 2012, while Amazon’s Jeff Bezos stood atop a truck holding a giant check for US$2 billion to show the ecommerce giant was serious about India.

Cook went straight to an Indian temple on the first leg of his Indian pilgrimage this week. Ganesha – the elephant God – is known to bring good luck, which is what Cook needs in India where most smartphone converts opt for cheap Android phones instead of pricey iPhones. And Cook also found time to visit homegrown startups such as Zomato.

Editing by Steven Millward and C. Custer

This post was originally published on Tech in Asia

Featured image credit: iphonedigital / Flickr

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