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  • Tausif Mulla

Can Movies Be Termed As BRANDS?

Andaz Apna Apna movie as a brand

As a marketer, it is of vital importance to know what is the current THING in the market. We may not like something but what if our customers associate themselves with it and want to be known by it? This is where most marketing professionals take a hit, they don’t listen to their customers.

A few years back, HBO's acclaimed show Game of Thrones sparked a curiosity in me which resulted in a question “Can movies/shows be termed as BRANDS?” The question looks very simple but you don’t get a clear answer to it. In this post of mine, I have tried to answer this question based on the comments I received on one of my posts on LinkedIn and my observations over the period of time.

Game of Thrones as a Brand

To start with, let’s go back to basics and learn what is the definition of a BRAND?

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as “A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.

I love to define a brand as "the sum total of all the experiences one has with a product or service over a period of time". Apple & Microsoft have a rich history associated with them, Harley Davidson has become a cult, and FedEx has become a verb (Can you please, FedEx this?). Now let’s try to fit this definition into movies. The Sum total of all the experiences a viewer has with a movie (like Godfather, Terminator, Sholay, Andaz Apna Apna) over a period of time.

As you see, with the above definition, I can term a movie or show as a brand. But, does it also fit into key branding concepts? I will try to unfold important branding concepts like brand architecture, brand extension, brand equity, etc. with respect to movies.

Applying branding fundamentals on movies:

“Branded House”

To simply put, in this case, the company is the brand. All products and services within that company are subsets of the parent brand. A good example of a branded house is the TATA Group. They may have different companies/divisions/verticals (Tata Nano, Tata Swatch, Tata Salt, etc) but they are known for their parent brand’s ideology. When we talk about movies, we have different production houses like Walt Disney Pictures, Warner Bros Pictures, Yash Raj Films (YRF), Dharma Productions, etc. Every production house has made a position in the mind of the consumer. For example, a Walt Disney movie will specifically cater to children. Similarly, a Dharma Production film will keep the romance as the central theme of the movie and will cater to similar audiences.

Virgin group brand

Source: Virgin

House of Brands

In this type of architecture, the focus is on sub-brands rather than the parent brand. Proctor & Gamble (P&G) company is a perfect example of a house of brands. In the house of P&G, there are dozens of brands such as Olay, Vicks, Gillette, and Head & Shoulders just to name a few. Each individual brand has marked its position in the mind of the consumer. In movies, a production house may be known to make different genre movies thereby catering to different audiences. Production houses like Lions Gate, 20th Century Fox, Rohit Shetty Films, Vishesh Films, etc. all follow the house of brands architecture.

P&G House of brands

Source: P&G

Goman movie franchise

"Brand Extension"

"Brand extension is leveraging a well-known brand name in one category to launch a new product in a different category". In the case of movies, the sequels can be terms as brand extensions.

Example of Brand Extension

Rocky Balboa as an example of movie brand

I had initiated the same discussion in one of the groups in LinkedIn and below are few really good points that were shared by fellow marketers. Here is the link


Question: Can a movie be termed as a BRAND?

Answer: Yes, if it fulfills at least one of the five aspects.

A movie can be termed a brand if it covers a few of these aspects:

  1. The movie should have an emotional connection with the audience.

  2. A movie can be termed as a Brand when it becomes a CULT classic.

  3. Becomes a cash cow (by selling copyrights) for the production house over a period of time.

  4. Strong Recall.

  5. Be relevant (in sync) with current times.

A movie can be a Brand when it is able to evoke an emotional response from its audience. The goal of the movie should be to leave the audience satisfied and wanting more.

Sholay as an example of movie brand
"Ye haath mujhe dede thakoor……." - Sholay

A movie can be termed as a Brand when it becomes a CULT classic. The movie "The Godfather" is considered a CULT classic for its dialogues, stylish visuals, engaging storyline, and powerful characters. It has endured the test of time and is still a favorite of fans today.

Godfather movie as a brand
“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” - The Godfather

For a movie to be called a Brand, it needs to become a cash cow (by selling copyrights) for the production house over a period of time. For instance, the movie called "The Shawshank Redemption" was a successful movie in the 1990s. It took about 5 years for the production house to make a profit from that movie. However, today, Netflix pays a huge amount to retain in its library.

Star Wars as an example of Movie Brand
"Do or do not. There is no try." - Star Wars

For a movie to be called a brand, it needs to have a strong recall among the audience. As strong recall translates to higher revenue from copyrights and an increase in the number of people talking about it. This in return leads to more people seeing it on repeat and more people purchasing their own copies/paying for subscriptions. For example, the FRIENDS series has been known for its strong emotional connection and recall with audiences over the past two decades. It has also been one of the most successful sitcoms of all time with over 10 seasons and 236 episodes.

Andaz Apna Apna - teja as a brand

Were Ross and Rachel on a break? - FRIENDS

It is necessary for a movie to be relevant (sync with current times) to be called a Brand. The best movies and shows aren't bound by a time period; they are timeless. Toy Story, for instance, is timeless because it continues to have relevance for children today.

“The important thing is that we stick together” - Buzz Lightyear

Concluding thoughts on the movie as a brand

Branding is a term that is used to describe a company or product's ability to generate interest and profits. It can be said that if a movie is able to connect with its audience, generate money for the houses in the long run, and has a strong recall it can be termed as a brand.

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