Radhika Apte is all over the internet. Especially the desi part of the internet. Social media is flooded with fun (and funny) tweets on Apte. There are GIFs every other hour on WhatsApp. There is a two minute spoof Omnipresent video on Radhika. Twitter and Facebook are full of memes. Radhika is being scrolled and trolled. And all so suddenly, brands other than Netflix are getting involved in the life of Radhika Apte.
Not just Zomato, but even the Nagpur Police! Netflix has even ceded her their brand, albeit for now, helping create Radflix. The hi-brow, The Quint, is running an Apte quiz and getting you to try and figure out which character in Apte’s acting repertoire are you? And of course Lust Stories, Sacred Games and Ghoul, all from Netflix, have made Radhika Apte the most recognized face amongst Gen Z in India in the past few months.
To understand the extent to which Radhika Apte seems to dominate Netflix, let me share a WhatsApp forward I received last week:
Location: Netflix office
Director: We have to cast Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Producer: Book his dates
Director: … and Radhika Apte
Producer: We have booked her years …
Netflix were quick to realise the Apte phenomenon that has been building up, and decided to get one-up on the meme-makers. Playing up on the popularity (or shall we say obsession with Radhika Apte), Netflix created a hilarious 2-minute spoof with and on Radhika, also featuring filmmaker Vikramaditya Motwane, titled Omnipresent. The video is shot as a behind-the-scenes happenings of an upcoming show titled Omnipresent, which ostensibly has Radhika playing every role in the series.
The video even signs off Netflix as ‘Radflix’. The video, in fact was shared on Twitter by Netflix with the tongue-in-cheek caption, “Whatever the role, Radhika apt hai”. So beautifully has the social media buzz on Apte been accentuated by Netflix that it also changed its Instagram bio to ‘Just another @radhikaofficial fan account’. In fact, Netflix went a step further in building up Brand Radhika Apte when the Sacred Games actress got a special mention in the announcement that Pad Man was now streaming on the platform. ‘Pad Man is now streaming and we’re not just saying this because Radhika Apte is in it but yes Radhika Apte is in it’, Netflix tweeted through its official handle.
The fun started when food service brand Zomato posted a social media message saying it was not just Radhika Apte who had the gift of versatility, and was ‘OMNIPRESENT’ but that Paneer was equally, if not more omnipresent in Indian cuisine … in Shahi Paneer, Butter Paneer, Matar Paneer, Kadhai Paneer, Lababdar Paneer, Chilli Paneer, Garlic Paneer, Tandoori Paneer, Palak Paneer and Patrani Paneer …
Netflix, not to be out-done, picked one letter each from the Zomato dishes and put out a quick repartee saying ‘Well, she is everywhere’, replacing Paneer with Omnipresent!
Social media of course went delirious with joy on these clever exchanges.
By the same evening, CEAT Tyres too had joined the Apte bandwagon with #RoadSafetyAptHai putting up a hastily done edit of its own brand commercial from the PoV of Indian roads titled OMNIPRESENT: AN UNFORTUNATE TALE. Not a very creative output, but good enough to get CEAT also some eye-balls on social media.
It now looked as if every brand in the country was looking to join the Radhika Apte social media pillow fight. KFC decided to play on CHICKEN being the craving of the country, KFC Chicken being ‘apt’. All of it being finger lickin’ good. Not to be left behind, Reliance Mutual Fund wanted everyone to know that Mutual Fund Apt hai and how WEALTH sets you free. Basically, in no time it became a free-for-all.
Next morning in fact Nikhat Hetavkar headlined a story in The Business Standard saying ‘Radhika Apte is omnipresent: Netflix twists the plot, turns trolls around’. The Apte story was beginning to pick up more and more momentum. But the fun was just starting to gain pace.
Brand Apte received its biggest salutation when out of all possible ‘admirers’, the Nagpur Police decided to join the OMNIPRESENT debate wowing Twitterati watching this space. In an interactive post, the Nagpur Police used the same creative format as that of Zomato and Netflix to underline how the ‘Police are omnipresent’. The cops went on to stress, ‘We here are binge-watching our territory, 24x7 …’. Much like the Zomato and Netflix renditions, the Nagpur cops also plucked out letters to spell POLICE to ace the corporate entities at their own game!
Tweeple India went crazy with joy at the humor of the Maharashtra cops. The Twitter handle of the Mumbai Police Commissioner in the past has been known to have shown much creative genius, but now the policemen from upcountry too were out to prove that they too can twist the phrase!
It is interesting to note that all of the above social media action actually happened in a space of less than a week, with the Zomato-Netflix duel being staged on just one day, 29 August. This goes to show the speed of response that is becoming the norm on social media today.
Radhika Apte could not have asked for more. Sure, she was beginning to get noticed as an actor with her appearances in Badlapur, Hunterrr, Manjhi - The Mountain Man, Lai Bhaari, Kabali and of course Pad Man. But it is her new innings on Netflix that has catapulted her into a much much higher stratosphere. She is now widely recognised and remembered. She is increasingly the face of the series’ featuring her, and not just a minor female character part of a larger narrative. Netflix has done to her career, and to her personal brand, what perhaps a dozen movies in Hindi or Marathi or any of the South Indian languages could not have achieved.
Going forward, Radhika Apte needs to build on all that she has attained so far, including her recently acquired fame. She must know that for her to build a substantial and enduring personal brand she needs to always remember the following edicts:
1. Have a clear identity
2. Focus on the audience
3. Always be consistent
4. Keep your promises.
Apte is doing well. And she can do better. With all her pipeline shows, especially on Netflix, Brand Apte will surely go from strength to strength.
Some years ago, I would not ever have believed that a brand could be created so quickly, so efficiently and so inexpensively. But the speed with which Radhika Apte has gained public recognition, has got talked about, has become the subject of social media exchanges, and has been so widely circulated amongst Gen Z audiences, makes me believe that a lot that I have learnt about brand building over the years perhaps needs to be un-learnt and re-learnt.
Apte could also perhaps add to traditional brand learnings with new top-ups:
1. Stay buzzy
2. Be irreverent
3. Be self-deprecating
4. Stay humble.
It will work. And work well.
Brand Apte is Smart. Sexy. Spunky. Wonder why brand marketers, while they have joined the battle on social media, have not signed her up for brand endorsements.
(Sandeep Goyal is a PhD in Human Brands. The sudden rise of Brand Radhika Apte has blipped on his radar.)