Thursday, April 12, 2018

Here’s Why Brands Won’t Dump Salman Khan Despite the Court’s Conviction

The main highlights of the last week was Salman Khan being convicted by a Jodhpur Court and the actor being sentenced to 5 years in prison for killing an endangered animal. However, after spending just two days in jail he was out on bail. The incident was enough to ruin a person’s professional career and cancel all his brand endorsement contracts.

Several media reports pointed that ‘Brand Salman’ was slated to take a hit and the share prices of brands associated with him could witness a drop. Trade analysts estimated that Rs 400-600 crore could be at stake with Khan.

However, none of the brands associated with Khan have even flinched. How is that possible? Is brand ‘Sallu Bhai’ (as he is popularly known as) so powerful that despite being found guilty in court, a brand such as Relaxo Footwears could release a new TVC featuring Khan just yesterday like nothing ever happened?

AdAge India team spoke with a few brand experts in the industry as to what makes brands stay with Khan despite his actions.

Fan Following Matters

It is no secret that Khan has a massive fan following. Fans make a beeline outside theatres when his films hit the screens no matter how good or bad those films are. He is the bad boy of Bollywood and has been a frequent visitor to court for several cases. However, youth still relate to him and it is this following that the brands that have hired him as the endorser look at.

Shubho Sengupta, Brand Consultant (Digital) says that everyone knew that Salman would spend one night in jail and get out. “Every year he seems to be spending two nights in jail. Brands have become very immoral. They will move only when there is some public outcry. They will never take a step on their own. Despite the man being clearly guilty, the brands have not moved. He is still a super hit, so why rock the boat,” he says.

Another brand expert also pointed out that many brands in India do not have strong conviction as majority of the people in India too don’t have a strong conviction regarding anything.

Ramanujam Sridhar, Founder and CEO, Brand-comm says, “If we see what happened with the Australian cricketers who were recently caught in the ball tampering issue, there was a huge outcry in Australia after which even their Prime Minister too had to intervene. I don’t see that sort of outcry from people in India. Khan has a huge fan following in the country. There are people like me on Twitter who are not influenced by Salman, but we are few and are not the target audience of the brands he is endorsing. So, it doesn’t impact him and brands continue to endorse him.”

There is also the fact that unlike large multinational brands that have strict guidelines for their brand ambassadors, many Indian brands do not. They care about how much mileage they can get from a brand ambassador regardless of how it is achieved. MNC brands that Khan endorsed such as Thums Up have gradually moved away from him. Now, what remains in his kitty are largely Indian brands such as Relaxo Footwear, Emami, Dixcy Scott innerwear, Appy Fizz, Astral Pipes, among others.

K V Sridhar, Founder and CCO, HyperCollective says that if he is physically not in jail and his films do well at the box office then brands will endorse him. “At the box office, he is doing well and he started Being Human organisation to try to redeem himself for things he did wrong. So, there is still demand for him in advertising, because he is still in the free world. Everything is only a question mark right now. Multinationals will have an issue. Only smaller brands will be willing to back him as they want to gain awareness and popularity despite anything he does. Most of these will be the Indian brands who are not answerable to anyone. But international brands have strict guidelines,” he says.

The Wait and Watch Approach

Many of the brand experts say that the brands that endorse him may have adopted a wait and watch approach as they know he would be appeal and get out of jail.

Lulu Raghavan, Managing Director, Landor says, “I think partly it is because no one knows what is happening. One day he is jail, the next day he is out. It has to do with the law of our land and how long it takes for these verdicts. He does seem to have a huge popularity. But the hesitation of brands is maybe nobody wants to be hasty, because it is not clear what is going to happen to him.”

However, it is this wait and watch approach by brands that has put into question the credibility of the Indian legal system, points out Saurabh Uboweja, CEO and Chief Brand Strategist, Brands of Desire.

“Despite the conviction, which basically means you are a criminal even if you are out on bail, it is quite amazing that brands have decided to stick around and take a wait and watch approach. Honestly speaking it is a tight slap on the Indian legal system. It shows how ineffective it is at trying hold people accountable for their crimes. And if brands are comfortable with endorsing him, it doesn’t speak very highly of the brands themselves. I think brands should have taken a slightly stronger action,” he says.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Yeh brand maange more

Time and again brands have leveraged upon the charisma and star power that celebrities, especially Bollywood stars and cricketers, bring. And more often than not, many brands have gone ahead and simultaneously signed on more than one sports or movie star as ambassadors.
Brands (like Pepsi) have hedged themselves by having a mix of cricketers and Bollywood stars as ambassadors, “to appeal to different segments of consumers,’’ says advertising and branding veteran Ramanujam Sridhar.
But in this digital economy, where social media rules the roost, the role play of celeb ambassadors has undergone a transformation.
Appointing more than one celeb as a brand ambassador is known for driving in greater market penetration, securing larger consumer mindshare and raising brand salience, says Vijay Subramanian, founder partner and co-CEO, Kwan Entertainment. “But brands need to have a well-defined strategy in place before signing on multiple ambassadors. They need to define the purpose of the association.”
Experts say more than promoting a product or a service, the key role for multiple ambassadors is to get interactive with the brand’s existing and potential customers. To convey the brand’s message through an engaging story that appeals to different demographics.
“The evolution of the digital era has changed the way marketers approach their consumers. From an era of mass communication and broadcast messages, it is now more about mass personalisation and being interactive,” says Pavan Padaki, brand practitioner and author of Brand Vinci: Decoding Facets of Branding. The brand ambassador is now much more than a mere clutter-breaker or a brand recall tool. From a time when celeb ambassadors merely held the product and eulogised its positives before the camera, it is now about the celebs sharing credible views and connecting with their fans with their emotions and beliefs “in the context of the brand they are endorsing,” says Padaki, explaining that brand ambassadors need to be deployed thoughtfully to bring the brand story to life in multiple fresh ways for an active engagement, bringing in relevance to the ever-changing (digitally-savvy) consumer’s habits and interests.
The recent MakeMyTrip commercials featuring Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh in different get-ups is a convincing attempt at using the might of two stars to promote the brand in a meaningful fashion, feel experts. Despite their distinct personalities and the different roles they play in the commercials, they engage with the audience in a quirky manner and tell the brand story (of how to be a smart traveller by booking through the MMT app, getting discounts, great deals, etc.) through their own ways.
Using multiple ambassadors is no longer about playing safe, nor is it a show of strength, feel experts. “The question is can the brand story be expressed better with a single or with multiple ambassadors? Brand ambassadors are an asset and a channel to address different segments of the audience,” says Padaki.
Therefore, having a well-defined agenda is vital, says Subramanian. ‘’Without it, it doesn’t matter how many celebs brand signs on, for the bevvy of stars will have little to no tangible impact on the market outreach without an overarching strategy.”
Padaki says multiple celeb ambassadors can be deployed to connect and build relationships at a more “micro level, catering to varied cultures and tastes. Each ambassador can connect with his/her own fan base to inspire, induce trust and weave their personal lifestyle and beliefs around the brand story. With multiple ambassadors, it is now possible to address the brand story in multiple ways, both collectively and as individual celebrities.’’

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


Ball-tampering: Bucks don’t stop here as a host of sponsors snap ties with Australian players, Team
It is business as usual for IPL and Indian cricket. The fans cheer Chennai Super Kings, back in the league after a two-year suspension for role in 2013 spot-fixing scandal, during practice recently
Unlike Australia, sponsors care two hoots about Indian cricket’s controversies as its stocks keep rising

The recent ball-tampering episode caused tremendous outrage among the Australian public, and sponsor response in the country was swift. ASICS ended its ties with David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, LG dropped Warner as brand ambassador, and Weet-Bix dumped Steve Smith. While these were individual tie-ups with the banned trio, even one of Cricket Australia’s major sponsors, Magellan, terminated its three year deal signed last August.

These actions are in stark contrast to the response of sponsors in India after the Indian Premier League (IPL) spot-fixing scandal of 2013. Even after three players were arrested, Pepsi, then the IPL title sponsor had said that they remained “committed to the property.” Kent withdrew advertisements featuring one of the three players, S Sreesanth, but continued as sponsor of his franchise Rajasthan Royals. Pepsi eventually pulled out more than two years later in 2015 only to return as associate sponsor for home international games.

What explains this difference in sponsor responses in the two countries, when the issue of spot-fixing should have arguably caused more outrage and damage than ball-tampering did?

Mirror spoke on the issue to three prominent advertising and branding veterans, who elaborated on a few broad differences between the two cultures. Among them were the public tolerance for corruption and the way celebrities are treated, which in turn determines how sponsors react.

“We are complacent about corruption. We don’t have moral spine,” Prahlad Kakkar said. “The common man understands figures up to a lakh. We don’t even understand the astronomical figures that are thrown about in scams. Someone such as Nirav Modi escapes abroad after not repaying thousands of crores to banks. We make some noise about it for a few days and then it is back to normal.”

Not only is outrage in India weaker, its nature is also different, according to Santosh Desai. “Power seeks to extract its price in India. Negotiating for opportunities is a part of life here. Rules do not apply and it is not seen as a big betrayal. Outrage is not deep in India. There is a gossipy element to it. It becomes a talking point in the news, people start talking about how much Indian stars are paid. Nobody did that in Australia. So the nature of the outrage in India is more transactional than moral.”

Both Desai and Sridhar Ramanujam said the outdoorsy, sports-playing culture of Australia was also a factor in their fans’ immense anger.

“Even the Prime Minister got into it in Australia. Steve Smith did not understand the extent of the negative reaction in Australia initially when he said he would not resign as captain,” Sridhar said. “The sponsors did not have an option at all. National pride was offended.

“And if you do a random sampling of Indians, the majority will say the Australian reaction was over the top. We are a lot more forgiving about these things as Indians. We are fairly casual.”

Kakkar gave the example of Salman Khan and Desai that of Mohammed Azharuddin when talking of how India has lax standards for its celebrities. “It is a relationship founded on admiration. They are held to a celebrity code, and not a hero code,” Desai said.

“The celebrity culture is different in India. A celebrity abroad has to use the products they endorse,” Sridhar said. “But a Shah Rukh Khan can sell a Santro when his preferred car may be a Pajero. A celebrity is viewed as an entertainer in India. And advertisers are guided by consumer preferences.”

Would Indian cricket consumers, and in turn, advertisers react differently had the spot-fixing happened in an India match as opposed to in the IPL?

Desai said it would not have made much difference, but Kakkar said it would, for then patriotic feelings would have been hurt.

“Fixing at national level would have been different. But if it is Hyderabad v Pune who cares yaar? That kind of fanatical following has never been there for cricket anyway, the kind that you would associate with say, East Bengal or Mohun Bagan in the past. And now, especially with the IPL, it has become tamasha or entertainment.”

All three experts agreed that cricket was too important a property for advertisers to ignore in India, ethical considerations notwithstanding.

“Cricket is too big in India, you cannot afford to miss out on it,” Sridhar said. “Large mass brands cannot miss out on the game. ‘Cricket is king’ is an understatement in India.”

Essentially, because the Indian public does not get too worked up about corruption and celebrity behaviour, advertisers follow their lead in being more tolerant of taint.

“In the heat of the moment, there may be calls for doing something drastic in Indian companies because there are people involved after all,” Desai says. “But eventually saner minds prevail, calculation overrides ethical considerations, that ‘let us wait and watch, let us be pragmatic.”

Outrage is not deep in India. There is a gossipy element to it. It becomes a talking point in the news, people start talking about how much Indian stars are paid. Nobody did that in Australia

Friday, March 23, 2018

Product placement, a subtle marketing strategy

A brand can ride on a film’s popularity without paying the costs such endorsement would entail
Let me start with a story. Over 25 years ago, I was the regional head of a large advertising agency. One day, we got a call from one of our clients, a large cycle brand in Madras, as Chennai was known in those days. They wanted us to evaluate a proposal for an in-film placement. There were a couple of bright young MBAs from Bombay and they were recounting their story; quite effectively too, I must add.
They had obviously done their homework; they said that their film was about the competition between two schools — one, an elite, snobbish private school; and the other, a government school where the hero was studying. The annual face-off involved high drama and the deciding event was to be the cycle race. The young men said the ‘hero’ would use our client’s brand of cycle, an ordinary roadster, and beat the geared cycle of the ‘villain’ from the private school!
There was to be enough opportunity to show the brand in all its glory and it was slated to be an incredible part of the film’s climax. While it seemed interesting, we hummed and hawed as we were not sure, it was beyond our ad budget and so we told the client that maybe it wasn’t a great idea. How wrong we were! The film was Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar and the hero, Aamir Khan, who in later years went on to become a legend. In hindsight, it was a great opportunity for in-film product placement that would have made our brand recognisable across the length and breadth of this country. But, boy had we goofed up!
Things have moved on …
Over the years, there has been a major improvement on this front as more brands have jumped on to the product placement bandwagon. Younger, savvier film producers continued to make interesting films and TV commercials, and wove brands into them by way of engaging story lines so that they didn’t stick out like a sore thumb.
Some older readers would remember the successful movie Taal featuring Aishwarya Rai, who was at the top of her career; along with her was the bottle of Coke that she kept sipping intermittently. If she was happy, she sipped Coke; if she was in love, she sipped Coke, and the message being subtly reinforced to a gullible audience was that Coke was for the great moments in your life. Here was a ‘commercial’ that you couldn’t skip or move on to a different channel!
There’s no greater value than naming a movie after your brand, as we saw in Mere Dad ki Maruti, that acted as an effective product placement for the Ertiga.

Yes, in-film placement is here to stay, even in television serials that are often more popular than films for a section of the target audience.
Enter the brand manager
Over the years, there has been a subtle and yet, significant change in the world of marketing and that is the increasing importance of the brand manager. Today, the brand manager calls the shots. He looks at opportunities for the brand without worrying about what the ad agency will say or do. He looks at the costs and benefits of options presented to him.
He knows that people can blank out advertising — they skip channels with impunity. Brands have to be subtle in their selling and that is where a strategy like product placement may be considered. Today, rather than ‘in your face’ product placement, or merely having the hero and heroine dancing in front of the brand logo, subtle possibilities exist.
A brand’s essence can be seamlessly woven into the plot of a film. A brand can easily ride on a hero’s or a film’s popularity without paying the phenomenal celebrity costs that endorsements would entail.
Time to be different
Branding is all about being different and standing out from the competition. Today, in this media cluttered world, one must constantly look for new opportunities to be distinctive.
Often, we may think the solution is a high-decibel TV commercial shot in New Zealand and costing a bomb. But it need not be. It can be an in-film placement that is strategic, relevant and subtle. So it’s important to scan the environment and keep an open mind to spot the right opportunity. This could provide the extra push your brand needs!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

In-depth: Understanding the rural consumer and how to market to them

With more and more brands trying to increase their footprint in rural India, what must a marketer keep in mind when reaching out to a rural consumer?

When a bicycle maker chanced upon a village in Rajasthan that believed in gifting the groom a bicycle on his wedding day, it believed it had struck gold. But soon it realised that there was something peculiar about the custom. The colour black is considered inauspicious and so gifting a bicycle without any black part was proving to be difficult. After all, you can’t do away with wheels or chain of a bike. Villagers were buying bicycles and painting over the black parts in a bid to keep the tradition alive. This is when the bicycle manufacturer decided to introduce an all red and silver bike to the village. Yes, even the wheels were red. The bikes were, obviously, a raging success.
Like this anecdote goes to prove, India is full of little eccentricities. Fully understanding this country would be impossible considering the fact that people, customs and even language changes with every few kilometres.
In that case, how would a marketer go about marketing his/her products? Traditionally, marketers in the country depended upon a socio-economic classification system that divided the populace of the country into SEC A, B, C and D and helped the marketer define his target audience. Over time, flaws were discovered in the system and the need for a new and improved system was felt. This made way for New Consumer Classification System or NCCS. While this new system did cover all of India, unlike SEC which was restricted to just urban areas, the fact remains that for the longest time marketers assumed that the rural population fell somewhere between SEC/NCCS C and D or if we are being really generous then somewhere SEC/NCCS B and D.
The rural consumer was, by default, assumed to be poor, with little or no education and limited purchasing power. But that perception is changing. Brands are starting to realise that the rural consumer is as diverse and different as the urban consumer and that they too have the purchasing power that they are looking for. It isn’t surprising then that brands are looking beyond metros and trying to increase their footprints in rural India.
“Brands should resist viewing rural Indian consumers as a homogeneous group. There are various segments of consumers within India’s hinterlands and each consumer segment is different from the other. The drivers of behaviour and also aspirations of a rural consumer vary from an urban consumer. Rural demand is largely driven by agricultural harvest unlike the salaried class in urban India. Our approach is to win our consumers’ trust by understanding what their needs, gaps, pain points are and then accordingly customising our strategy and offerings to meet their expectations,” said Nandagopal Nair, Vice-President, Corporate Communications, V-Guard Industries Ltd.
There was a time when brands had little to no budget to market to the rural audience and that meant taking something they had created for the urban market and praying that it worked for them in the rural markets as well. But that is not the case anymore.
“Earlier, brands did not have any special budgets or special strategy for the rural markets. But in the last two decades things have really changed. Now brands have realised the importance of the rural markets and have specialised teams to take care of these markets. Not only that even the communication, packaging, placements of the products, as well as the one to one connect with the consumers has increased. The overall budget for BTL has gone up when compared to ATL for these markets,” said S Venkatesh, Marketing Director, RW Promotions.
But how difficult or easy is it to market to rural consumers?
Venkatesh feels that it is more difficult to market to a rural audience than an urban audience simply because of how vast this country is.
“Yes, it is difficult to market to the rural markets – India being such a vast country it is almost a continent and factors like different languages, diverse cultures, diverse eating habits, diverse living conditions, different economies in different states makes it very difficult for the marketer to work,” said Venkatesh.

BK Rao
But BK Rao, Deputy Marketing Manager, Parle Products, thinks that marketing to a rural consumer is in fact much easier.
“While reaching a rural consumer is difficult, I would say that marketing to a rural consumer is easier than marketing to an urban consumer. The reason being, a rural market is relatively uncluttered when compared to an urban market. If you look at the number of brands that a rural consumer is exposed to v/s an urban consumer, there is a huge difference. It is far more difficult to appeal to an urban consumer because they are spoiled for choice,” said Rao.
According to Rao, more than appealing to a rural consumer the challenge lies in reaching a rural consumer. It is true that distribution is a problem in the country and that brands that have been able to work around this problem, device solutions and lay down a strong distribution network have thrived in rural India. But the game is changing with the emergence of e-commerce. The Amazons and Flipkarts of the world, assisted by low data costs and increased internet penetration, are able to bring brands to rural customers that they could not reach before.
“The sharp divide between urban and rural, that used to exist say 20 or 30 years ago, is no longer present. E-commerce players have been able to reach out to the consumers living in non-metros and bring brands to them that used to inaccessible,” said Ramanujam Sridhar, Founder CEO, Brand-comm.
With all these factors, making rural an alluring market for marketers, what should marketers keep in mind when trying to reach rural consumers?
Simplicity seems to be the universal code when it comes to reaching out to a rural consumer. Communication has to be crisp, simple and should serve a purpose. Giving the example of an ad by Nokia for their 1100 handset, Sridhar said, “The rural consumer then, used to look at mobile phones as a luxury. So, they came up with a campaign which talked about the features of the phone, essentially giving out the message that it is not a vanity product.”
Similarly, the recent ads by e-comm giant Amazon focus on everyday people and the choices they offer to the regular Indian consumer. There is nothing ‘rurally’ about those ads, argues Sridhar but they appeal to a wider audience and the insight that Indians love options.
Consumption pattern:
According to a leading marketer, one of the key difference between rural consumers and urban consumers is their consumption pattern.
“Rural consumers are more likely to consume smaller packs. One-rupee packs of products like shampoos and smaller packs of toothpaste get consumed more in rural areas. One reason for this trend could be the fact that people in rural areas earn money more on a daily or a season-to-season basis rather than a monthly basis. For example, a farmer will make money when his yield is good. Whereas an employee in an urban setting gets a monthly salary,” said he.
Leveraging technology:
Rural India has leapfrogged over the desktop phase and gone on to embrace mobile phones and therefore, it is important for brands to be present where their consumers are.
“Brands are innovating in their approaches in a bid to win rural consumers’ trust. Technology is enabling brands to leverage ‘newer’ platforms like internet and mobile (WhatsApp) to communicate to the consumer in rural India. Just being physically present in these markets no more ensures brand’s success,” said Nair.
A leading finance company of the country, when giving loans on vehicles like tractors or trucks, started enlisting the people who they were selling their loans to as their brand ambassadors. Once, the person had paid off his/her loan, the company would ask them to go to neighbouring villages and take the people over there through the company’s schemes and services. Thus creating a credible brand ambassador for themselves.
Nair also bats for the involving local influencers when reaching out to rural consumers.
“There are myriad ways to reach the rural community/consumer. For example, when introducing a product to rural areas, partnering with local influencers – teachers, doctors, panchayat head, etc. – can be a vital part of an outreach programme,” said Nair.
“It is important to reach out to the rural consumer in his/her language and I am not talking about the text here. It is possible that a rural consumer understands the language of colours. Visual appeal is very important. In fact, people go to stores and ask for products based on colours or the packaging,” said Rao.
It is, therefore, important to understand and consider the rural audience as a separate entity and try to create communication specific to their needs and wants and not peddle something that worked for them in the urban markets.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Make it interesting!

If you want viewers to snap out of their apathy and care, make the communication different
The sad reality is that many of us are extremely apathetic to social issues, however important they may be. To be brutally honest, we don’t give a solitary damn! Many of us are too focussed on ourselves, our needs and our immediate family, and it’s difficult for us to think beyond ourselves — of the immediate community and of the world at large.
Communication, however, can play a big role in making us aware. But it has to be interesting, grab our attention and be not boring.
The trouble is that we equate serious subjects with ‘lecturing people’. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say ‘lecture’? Boredom (Just ask my poor students!).
As David Ogilvy said, “You cannot save souls in an empty church”. Interest the viewers, get their attention and hope that they will be roused from their apathy.
One of the long-standing examples of communication that really impacted viewers was the ‘pregnant man’ ad done over three decades ago. The advertising agency that created it won accolades.

his ad created waves and even made it to the cover page of Time magazine! Why was the ad so successful? Because it was based on the consumer insight that men, who have to be careful, don’t take precautions while having sex and more importantly, don’t care because it doesn’t affect them! Would they be more careful if they were the ones who got pregnant, questions the ad, making a viewer think.
Creatively solving problems
India is a diverse country with a multitude of problems. Often, these are unique to this country. Where else can you find people scared of using the word ‘condom’? We are a nation of shy people who shy away from saying ‘condom’ and perhaps even shier of using it, if our population growth figures are any indication.
So here are a series of commercials that show how uncomfortable different people are — be it a policeman, a lawyer or even a coolie in a railway station — even uttering the word. These commercials were done some time ago, but they still make for interesting viewing. The buzzword here is ‘interesting’, because if the creative doesn’t catch people’s interest, the entire communication can go waste.
Social = boring?
India is a vast country, and not everyone is up to date with today’s developments and advancements. A lot of people don’t even realise the value of basic things such as the need for toilets.
They need to be communicated to, and for decades, the government has been sending out messages on a variety of issues, whether it is population control, digitisation or even cleanliness. Sadly, a lot of the communication is boring and dull. It has the stamp of ‘Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity’ in every frame. Consequently, these messages are largely ignored. Here’s a sample of something that we get to see.

Don’t you think it could have been more creative?
So, what’s happening here? Crores of rupees are being spent, but very poorly, in my opinion. What will elevate it to the next level? Clearly, it has to be more creative and that is where it fails.
Now let’s take this discussion further with a recent film.
Not so sanitary
Recently, I watched an interesting film, Padman, which, for all intents and purposes, could have been made into a documentary. It was dealing with a sticky subject. It addressed the issue of getting women to use sanitary napkins, which were earlier unaffordable. It is based on a real-life story of a revolutionary man, who had the vision and passion to transform rural India.
While the thought was powerful, executing it on-screen could have been boring. It needed someone from advertising to transform it into an emotional and inspiring movie, with enough gripping situations and characters that made for an inspiring and entertaining film. I am sure films like this can actually lead to a change in behaviour and action.
So what’s the lesson?
The lesson is simple. We have enough causes to communicate in this vast, complex country called India. The reality is that lots of money is being spent. But the question we should be asking is: How is this money being spent? Is there a better way of spending it? Is there a better way of accessing the best creative minds in the country to work on these causes and bring them to life?
I am sure agencies want to do exciting work and win awards for their creativity. Public service advertising, when done interestingly, can move people while winning accolades at the same time. Let’s make it interesting for the creative people in India to work on these social projects. You will be surprised at the dramatic change in interest and action that will happen.
But will we do it?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Does same celeb ambassador for decades help a brand?

In early February, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan dazzled Australians by appearing in a black fishtail-style gown with a perfectly fitting lace bodice embellished with gemstones. The former beauty queen was attending the launch of a Longines boutique in Sydney in her capacity as the Ambassador of Elegance for the Swiss premium watch brand. Rai has been the face of Longines since 1999 and more recently, the endorser of French cosmetics brand L’Oreal since 2003. Likewise, her Bollywood counterpart Shah Rukh Khan can boast of South Korean automobile giant Hyundai retaining him as their ambassador for two decades (and more).
Brands are often seen changing their celeb ambassadors as the seasons change, bringing in currently reigning icons and younger faces to portray the brand’s evolving qualities. Why then do certain brands prefer continuing their association with a particular celeb for years together?
Brands are all about the long-term, about consistency; and if the celebrity too can be ‘long-term’, it’s a rare phenomenon, says advertising and branding veteran Ramanujam Sridhar. He says Hyundai (for example) have acknowledged the value of Shah Rukh to the brand’s launch, success and growth. “Shah Rukh has been involved with the launch of the company, when it was not so well-known here and SRK was the big brand. His ads ‘Should I or Shouldn’t I’ certainly made waves. His charisma and appeal to women helped the brand as he did commercials with Preity Zinta. It’s a tribute to the resilience of the star and the consistency of the brand owners that the association has endured,” says Sridhar.
Just like in any partnership, long-term associations, especially when they continue to stay relevant, are always good for a brand, says Jiggy George, founder & CEO of brand management and licensing company Dream Theatre. According to George, the brand and the celeb must continue to evolve and echo the same DNA. “The celeb’s performance equity must continue to grow in such associations and if that is not the case, the association can run the risk of being out-of-touch,” says George.
Moreover, having the same ambassador enhances brand recognition and recall, say experts, as the celeb becomes the signature of the brand, helping the message to get delivered faster to the consumer.
However, the drawbacks of the same face for a brand are too many to be ignored. Long-term associations with a celeb can do more harm than good, says Kaustav Das, CEO of creative agency Ralph & Das.
Firstly, says Das, the brand’s fortunes get inexorably linked to the celeb’s fortunes. If the celeb faces a controversy or his or her performance sinks, it impacts the brand. “Secondly, celebs age and their personality matures over time. But brands have to evolve and stay fresh all the time. Celebs cannot necessarily evolve to comply with a brand’s re-set vision,” says Das, who feels that hiring celebs ‘’is the conventional wisdom of lazy marketers.”
Having different ambassadors helps maintain freshness in a brand’s communication, say experts, “As new celeb endorsers address changes in consumer preferences. It also helps to send out a new message or advocate a novel product or service with a new celeb.”
Do mascots like the Amul baby or Air India maharaja stand a better chance over celebs then?
“Perhaps”, feel experts. Das says the mascot can evolve. “A fine example is the V-Guard kangaroo evolving after 40 years. Or the Qantas Airlines kangaroo that has undergone changes over the years.”
Mascots can never get into controversies, says Sridhar. “But the challenge is that they have no appeal of their own and it has to be entirely created. But brands like Amul have managed to do it over the years.’’
Mascots can also be used to convey topical messages (like the Amul baby) “without having to resort to long-term planning, co-ordination, shoots, etc. But mascots have to be created and invested in over decades to turn legendary,” says George.