Be it a shampoo, a service or even a film star, branding is the surest way to get noticed in a cluttered market. Tamil cinema’s most enduring star, Rajinikanth, knew this at the outset.
“Rajini’s motto was ‘differentiate and dominate’. Establishing individuality was the nucleus of his work,” write PC Balasubramanian, founder of Matrix Business Services, and Ram N Ramkrishnan, a management consultant, in their book Grand Brand Rajini. It traces the journey of a “lungi-clad, beedi-smoking villain” to a “sophisticated digital robot”; the evolution of a mere product to a timeless brand that “provides credibility, connects with customers emotionally, motivates a buyer and creates user loyalty”.
Throughout his four-decade-long career, Rajini has developed unique brand attributes that have enabled him to be distinct from other luminaries of Tamil cinema, such as MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and Kamal Haasan. The writers argue that “the Rajini brand became saleable through imagination”.
He was neither the archetypal hero nor the regular villain but his version of histrionics captured the market. His twist of glasses, chucking of the cigarette to the lips, and crackling punch lines ensured instant brand recall. They were as powerful as Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ or Intel’s signature jingle, the writers say.
Films have a shelf life but their stars don’t—they become brands. And as the book points out, “Brand Rajini sells itself. The products are secondary to the brand. His fans don’t go to watch the films. They go to watch him.”