Brands need to be careful when they are signing up a very big star to endorse the brand. The celebrity can effortlessly become bigger than the brand
Delhi | March 22, 2017
In 2000, Star Plus launched KBC and along with it Amitabh Bachchan also got relaunched. Rarely would a TV programme have the power to impact pop culture and rarely can a TV host become the darling of the nation. So deep was the impact of the programme that 17 years later, a major cell phone brand has launched its latest version with a throwback on the same time.
The question then is simple: Does a 17-year-old TV show work to sell a new, expensive, shiny smartphone or the celebrity assumes greater significance and the brand loses out? Bachchan, despite his tremendous star power, has been a rather lukewarm endorser of cell phones. His earlier two endorsements of handsets didn't set the market on fire.
So why is it that Aamir Khan has been super successful for Samsung, but Bachchan has not been so LG?
The answer may lie in evaluating the age-old issue that when you use a celebrity, is the brand bigger or the celebrity? Does the celebrity add to brand appeal or the two remain like two rail tracks, they travel together, but have intermittent connections?
Here are some examples of India’s biggest endorsers who may not have added phenomenally to the brand they advertised. This has nothing to do with the kind of brands they endorsed, but everything to do with the brand not rising and matching the standing of the star.
Salman can sell anything
There is no denying that Salman is a huge star and has a huge fan following. His movies run only because of him, his private label Being Human is successful because of him. He did very well for Thums Up, but did he do well for some other brands?
Yellow Diamond is a big homegrown brand of snacks that can match Lays pack for pack. So big is Yellow Diamond that even private equity company Sequoia invested in the brand. When they decided to use advertising in a big way, they signed up Salman Khan. In this long format ad the brand put Salman on a pedestal and celebrated his stardom. What did it do for the brand though? May be it added to the muscle of Yellow Diamond – that Salman Khan endorses them; may be it helped the brand break away from its Indian hinterland image to become mainstream. But all of that could have happened in a far sharper way if Salman’s appeal was integrated with brand’s appeal. Brand invested heavily in the endorser, but let the endorser take over the idea.
Salman also endorses Dixy Scot, a brand of vests. This commercial too is unabashedly Salman Khan. The whole set-up and the final integration of the brand into narrative is crafted to only enhance Salman’s appeal. Did it work? Would it have worked better if the brand had a stronger idea built on the right insight?
Hritik can dance, but can it make the brand dance?
Like Salman, Hrithik is a busy endorser. He endorses a luxury watch brand, a mid-priced smartphone brand, a private label clothing brand, a computer brand, a computer chip maker and a detergent.
Nirma made a pretty bold move to bring Hrithik on board as endorser. As their first ever celebrity endorser, the brand had a winner on hand. He could break the category codes, break some stereotypes, become the brand of millennials like it became the brand for the emerging Indians in the 80s. Hrithik can dance, and Nirma discovered he can dance extremely well. Did the brand dance to the tunes of its endorser eventually or the endorser added a huge value back to the brand? Nirma did get the endorser who is popular, but as a brand failed to build the narrative that came from the core if the brand. The celebrity took over, the ad broke no new ground for the celebrity, nor did it recraft the image of Nirma. Letting Hrithik’s move take over the narrative made the ad under-branded.
Nirma could have done far better if their core proposition of value for the hard-nosed homemaker was kept in sharper focus.
SRK has his own style of ad narratives
He has been selling Hyundai successfully for almost 20years. He has had a phenomenal run with them. He also has been selling many other brands, some very well, and some not so well. In between all this he has built a style that is uniquely SRK but does very little for the brands he endorses.
Take this ad from Dubai Tourism. He becomes the host for guest sharing ‘his unique perspective on Dubai’. Yes, that is the official version from the tourism board. He adds a Bollywood kind of hero worship to the whole showcase of Dubai, but what does he do anything beyond that? Dubai is already a very vibrant and in-demand destination; so is SRK doing anything that makes Dubai extra desirable? The whole promise of #BeMyGuest actually sounds very large, for Dubai has almost made him sound like the ruler of the state! If anything SRK needs to be congratulated for becoming bigger than a state in the game of endorsement.
While these are some examples of how celebrities and brands are not matching each other and not building a symbiotic relationship, there are many brands that have done this partnership extremely successfully.
Brands need to be careful, especially when they are signing up a very big star to endorse the brand. The celebrity can effortlessly become bigger than the brand. This worked with the pre-millennial generation; the millennials are hardnosed consumers and are less likely to fall to only the charm of endorser, especially when the endorsers sell many brands.