How Kolaveri went viral, and what marketers can learn from it
Rhythm correctHow Kolaveri Di went from just another song toYouTube sensation and the lessons it holds for marketers An analysis by
Flop song... Not quite! On November 17, 2011, ‘Kolaveri’, was added to the There was more proof that India had found a new lexicon of commonly used Indian words. Meaning pop anthem. Within 18 days, Kolaveri Di became ‘murderous rage’, it was the title of a ‘Tanglish’ India’s most downloaded song on mobile phones (Tamil-English) song written and sung by actor (2,10,000 downloads) and on November 24 it Dhanush for his film 3. became the first Tamil film song to be premiered on a national music channel, MTV India. A video of the song being recorded in a studio was uploaded at precisely 12.53 am that day on YouTube Imitators played the role of flatterers as versions by Sony Music, which held the music rights for 3, of Kolaveri in various Indian languages sprang up. and its agency, Jack In The Box Worldwide. There was even a female version and one about This was followed by aggressive promotion on the slapping of Indian Facebook and Twitter. On the latter, the hashtag Agriculture Minister #whythiskolaveridi was created and the agency Sharad Pawar. Kolaveri started posting quirky lines like “Iceland has not found a mention in Time heard #whythiskolaveridi”, “Not called for 2 days magazine and even on the #whythiskolaveridi”, etc, with the YouTube link. Kolaveri Di female version more conservative BBC, Most people didn’t understand what ‘Kolaveri’ even as the Indian Institutes of Management cited it4 meant and clicked on the link to find out. as a viral marketing case study. The combination of a catchy song, a video that Even the prime minister was bowled over. Dhanush wasn’t staged and online ‘seeding’ worked. and his wife Aishwarya – incidentally, she’s the daughter of Tamil screen icon Rajnikanth and the By the evening of November 21, the hashtag producer of 3 – found themselves part of a state #kolaveri had topped Indian Twitter trends. Within dinner hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a week of the video going live, it received more for his Japanese counterpart Yoshihiko Noda. than 1.3 million views on YouTube and more than 1 million shares on Facebook. By December 5, Kolaveri found another unlikely admirer in the it had become a rage, crossing 16 million views reticent Ratan Tata, who heads the salt-to-steel Tata on YouTube. And it wasn’t just Tamilians driving conglomerate. He invited Dhanush over for a meal. the traffic – the song had become a pan-Indian Soup song, anyone? phenomenon. Photo credit: youtube
Super mama ready... How Kolaveri went viral Here’s how big Kolaveri became – even a month Soon, the lyrics began to be tweeted around the after its release, it got more air time than Anna globe – between November 1 and 10, there were Hazare, who was spearheading an agitation for a 43,800 mentions of Kolaveri in the US, 7,000 in strong anti-corruption law and was being supported France and 4,000 in the UAE. Tamil movie diehards by a mammoth cross-section of ordinary Indians. and non-resident Indians drove most of the traffic in the US and the Gulf, while Indian students All the noise eventually led to a debate over accounted for most of the mentions in Europe. how exactly the song achieved such a meteoric rise. Various reasons were attributed to it – from Kolaveri was well on its way to becoming a buzzword the irreverent Tanglish to the music video to an long before the official video was uploaded. overzealous media, which, spotting an opportunity for eyeballs, blew it out of proportion. Licking the leak Aishwarya said she got to know of the leak via The social connection Twitter. “I do not know the source [of the leak],” It all began with a rough cut of the video being she said in Mint. “Initially, I was upset, but I felt leaked on YouTube. However, its subsequent that people needed to hear the right version, so I success was anything but a fluke. If it was a leak, wanted to bring out an official video. In two weeks,5 as Aishwarya claimed, it was quickly turned into we put together the video as there was no time for a marketing masterstroke by Sony and the film’s CD covers or publicity. Something of this magnitude makers. cannot be planned. It just happens.” Social Hues, a social media analytics firm, found out that Kolaveri was being talked about two weeks before the video appeared on YouTube, reported the business daily Mint. It was a fan from Chennai, @arundanush, who told Dhanush’s sister-in-law Geetanjali Selvaraghavan and the composer Anirudh that the song was online on October 31, long before the official upload on November 17. Whether you believe that the leak was planned or not, Sony Music India was quick to seize the opportunity. Ashok Parwani, associate director of Sony Music, said their team recorded the song at 2 am on November 16 and edited it that same morning. “We wanted this song to go viral... We
marketed aggressively to make the song a rage,” he The big push told NDTV. For a video to go viral, it’s not enough to tweet about The Sony team posted the song on Tamil, Hindi and it. All forms of social media must be leveraged and international Facebook pages to generate interest. complemented by traditional marketing. The results were stunning – Social Hues reported that the rate of Twitter mentions rose 200% every It was Facebook that emerged as the main driver day, starting at 179 and peaking a week later at for Kolaveri, accounting for 80% of social media 14,907 on November 24, the day it was aired on MTV mentions, followed by Twitter and YouTube, and screen icon Amitabh Bachchan tweeted about according to Social Hues. it. With the objective of making the song a national That apart, the word ‘Kolaveri’ was intriguing – 12% rage achieved, Sony Music decided it now needed of all conversations centred on its meaning. to make money off it. The company inked a content partnership with YouTube on November 30, taking 50% of the revenue generated by the video since Luck by chance then. One man’s fortune is another’s misfortune. This Ironically, YouTube wasn’t Sony’s first choice.6 was never more true than for what happened on Shridhar Subramaniam, president of Sony Music November 25 – Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Entertainment India, told Mint: “We initially wanted Pawar was slapped by a Punjabi youth in Delhi. to release it through Vevo, a video platform owned Soon, a Punjabi version by Sony. But there was a delay because of the of Kolaveri hit YouTube, Thanksgiving weekend, so we decided to release it logging more than a on YouTube.” million views of its own. It might seem that Sony acted fast, sealing the deal Suddenly, there was more within 13 days of the video’s upload. But, by then, than one reason to look the song had already clocked 9 million views. Had up the #kolaveri hashtag. Sony managed to monetise those views, it would Kolaveri Di Punjabi version The song was now an have made an additional $4,000 (Rs 2 lakh), based international phenomenon. It was played on BBC on YouTube’s $1 cost per 1,000 impressions (CPM). Radio 94.9 and the Huffington Post quipped on On Vevo, Subramaniam said, the yield would have Twitter: “Adding a ‘u’ sound to the end of English been $40 (Rs 2,000) CPM. words is the latest trend in India.” First on the bandwagon Kolaveri was not the first song or movie to be launched/promoted on social media. Sheila Ki Jawani, from Tees Maar Khan, first made an appearance on YouTube. Makers of the film Peepli [Live] and the band Euphoria have released parts of their Sheila Ki Jawani Peepli [Live] Euphoria work on Facebook and other social networks.
Holy cow-u... Lessons for marketers An anthem for managers? » Money isn’t everything: Kolaveri is a great example of how promoting a song – and by extension a product or service – need not always involve The renowned Indian Institutes huge budgets. Don’t be surprised if social media now finally takes its place of Management (IIMs) are as a mainstream option alongside TV and radio. “If something is a hit on studying Kolaveri as an social media, then your fans become your ambassadors and it goes viral in example of successful viral no time,” said Jehil Thakkar, executive director, KPMG India, in Mint. marketing. IIM-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) planned a session » Have a great product: It could have had the best marketing plan, but if on the song as part of its Kolaveri wasn’t entertaining, it would have flopped. Social media is not a7 Contemporary Film Industry: A magic wand – if your product isn’t great, it won’t succeed. Business Perspective course. » Keep it simple, stupid: The video is unpretentious, not bothering with The song, which all of India is the melodrama and kitsch associated with most Indian films. Brent Coker, singing along to, was played a marketing professor at the University of Melbourne, pointed out that during classes by professors in videos or images “congruent with our existing notion of the brand” are well the IIMs of Bangalore, Rohtak received. In the case of Kolaveri, Dhanush, known for his boy-next-door and Lucknow, and its marketing image, sang the song as an innocent, heartbroken lover. And it worked. strategy discussed threadbare. » Touch hearts: Croker says that ideas with strong emotional appeal do Rajeev Kumra, a professor of better than others. Kolaveri was about an emotion we’ve all experienced marketing at IIM-Lucknow, was – heartbreak. Besides, the song was fun. The nonsensical lyrics and the quoted as saying: “Companies have to be serious about viral foot-tapping beat had people hooked. marketing now... We were » Have an idea that connects: Apart from talking about a familiar emotion, discussing in class how the the song used words that are used by young people every day. ‘Soup boys’ strategy used by Kolaveri (those who failed in love), ‘bouw-u’ (rejection) and ‘life reverse gear’ were can be used by a company to leverage its marketing part of South Indian slang. Now, the words are pan-Indian. activities...” » Use all social media channels: Sharing is critical and the viral ‘surface The students are taking it area’ should be all the channels available. Tweets and likes are akin to pretty seriously too. Sajal viral currency; eventually, you can charge for traffic that they drive to your Kumar, a first-year post- content. The great advantage with social media is that it makes content graduate student at IIM- easy to consume and, more importantly, easy to share. Finally, take Kozhikode, did a case study ownership of your content. Kolaveri generated a buzz when it was leaked, on the song, sending out an but it really took off once the official video was uploaded and a sustained online survey and analysing its marketing effort followed. Don’t forget, quality content is always in demand marketing success. – if you have it, people will always want more.
Maintain, please... The Kolaveri story Composer Anirudh and producer Aishwarya at the Kolaveri recording October 31, 2011 A fan from Chennai, @arundanush, tells Dhanush’s sister-in-law Geetanjali Selvaraghavan and8 composer Anirudh that the song has been leaked online. November 1-10 43,800 mentions of Kolaveri in the US, 7,000 in France and 4,000 in the UAE November 16 Song is recorded at 2 am in the studio and edited that same morning November 17 Official video of the song uploaded at 12.53 am. Song posted on Tamil, Hindi and international Facebook pages. #whythiskolaveridi hashtag created November 21 The hashtag #kolaveri tops Indian Twitter trends. Video crosses 1.3 million views on YouTube and 1 million shares on Facebook November 24 Kolaveri becomes first Tamil film song to be premiered on a national music channel, MTV India November 25 Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar slapped by Punjabi youth in Delhi. Punjabi version of Kolaveri hits YouTube, logging more than one million views of its own. The song becomes an international phenomenon, is played on BBC Radio 94.9 in the subsequent days and the Huffington Post tweets about it November 30 Sony Music inks content partnership with YouTube, taking 50% of the revenue generated by the video since then December 5 Video crosses 16 million views on YouTube, becomes India’s most downloaded song on mobile phones with 2,10,000 downloads December 21 Dhanush is invited by reticent industrialist Ratan Tata for a private dinner. Kolaveri flash mobs over the next few days in places as diverse as Mumbai’s Churchgate train terminus to a mall in Auckland December 28 Dhanush and his wife Aishwarya are special invitees to the state dinner hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his Japanese counterpart Yoshihiko Noda. Kolaveri crosses 29 million views on YouTube January 11, 2012 Kolaveri crosses 34 million page views
Yo boys, I am singing song Soup song... flop song Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di Rhythm correct Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di Maintain, please Why this kolaveri... di Distance la moon-u moon-u Moon-u colour-u white-u White background night-u night-u Night-u colour-u black-u Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di White skin-u girl-u girl-u Girl-u heart-u black-u Eyes-u eyes-u meet-u meet-u My future dark And here’s Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di what you Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di Maama notes eduthuko (take notes)really wanted Apdiye kaila sax eduthuko (and the saxophone in your hand) Pa pa paan pa pa paan pa pa paa pa pa paan Sariya vaasi (play the music properly) Super mama ready Ready 1... 2... 3... 4... Whaa wat a change over, mama Ok mama, now tune change-u Kaila glass... Only English... Hand la glass-u Glass la scotch-u Eyes-u full-aa tear-u Empty life-u Girl-u come-u Life reverse gear-u Lovvu lovvu Oh my lovvu You showed me bouw-u Cow-u cow-u, holy cow-u I want u here now-u God, I am dying now-u She is happy how-u This song for soup boys-u We don’t have choice-u Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di Flop song!
For over 20 years, MSLGROUP Asia has counseled staff reaches an additional 125 Indian cities and aglobal, regional and local clients, helping them to strong affiliate network of independent agenciesestablish, protect and expand their businesses in across the region adds another 23 Asian citiesAsia. to our reach. In the past two years, MSLGROUP Asia has been recognized with more than 35The largest PR and social media network in both awards, including MSL Japan’s 2009 ‘PR Lion’ inGreater China and India, MSLGROUP Asia is the Travel and Tourism category at the Cannesheadquartered in China and includes 30 owned Lions International Festival of Creativity and ‘PRoffices and 1250 staff across Shanghai, Beijing, Consultancy of the Year’ for Hanmer MSL India,Guangzhou, Chengdu, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, 20:20 MSL India, Eastwei MSL China, and ICL MSLSeoul, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Taiwan from both international and local industryDelhi, Ahmedabad, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, groups.Hyderabad and Kolkata. A satellite network of INDIAMSLGROUP India is the nation’s largest PR and With a proven track record of servicingSocial Media network. Made up of three agencies, multinational and Indian corporations since 1989Hanmer MSL, 20:20 MSL and 2020Social, and 40 senior counselors with 15 or more years ofMSLGROUP India combined includes 16 offices, communications experience each, clients, staff575 staff and an activation network reaching an and business partners benefit from the depth andadditional 125 Indian cities. breadth of insight and experience within its teams.HANMER MSL is one of India’s largest multi- offices in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai,discipline communications firms and a leader in Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Pune,the area of speciality communications services as well as the reach of the MSLGROUP andincluding financial communications, social Publicis Groupe international network, HANMERmedia, crisis and issues management, corporate MSL works with more than 150 leading Indianreputation, strategic public relations, events brands and multinationals to deliver world-classand activation and creative services. Through its communications.powerful network of more than 400 staff acrosswww.mslgroup.comwww.mslgroupasia.comwww.hanmermsl.comContactjaideep.email@example.com