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Celebrity-led brands and what is the future

From cricketers to Bollywood stars, everyone today is trying to vie for a space in the lives of their audience and this has led to an influx of celebrity-led brands in the Indian fashion and clothing sector. What is the future of these brands and how far can a celebrity take these brands only on their star power?

Globally, celebrities launching their own fashion brands is a well-known phenomenon. From Justin Timberlake to the Kardashian sisters, celebrities have vied for a space in the lives of their audience apart from just through their craft.

In India though, celebrities are just waking up to their potential as brand custodians and not just mere brand ambassadors. India has a long and rich history of celebrities endorsing products. From Rahul Dravid’s stint as ‘Jammy’ for Kissan Jams and recently Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhat for Make My Trip, celebrities and brands have been intricately interlinked in the Indian marketing scene.

But more and more celebrities are now coming up with their own fashion line. From actors like Salman Khan (Being Human), Deepika Padukone (All About You), Anushka Sharma (Nush) to cricketers like Virat Kohli (Wrogn) and Yuvraj Singh (Youwecan), celebrities are trying their hand at building a fashion brand to boot their immense popularity and fan following.

Speaking about the sudden influx of celebrity-led brands and the reason for their emergence, Jiggy George, Managing Director, Mojostar, said, “India is such a diverse country. The only thing that holds India together in terms of commonality is entertainment. Even in entertainment, it is sport, usually cricket and cinema. Now these sports stars and movie stars have great brand power which has not been leveraged so far other than in the form of endorsements. So, it was just a matter of time before people realised this potential.”

An early entrant in the market, Being Human – the casual wear brand launched by Salman Khan – is a ragging hit, spawning its own fakes.

Launched in the year 2012, the brand currently has more than 600 points-of-sale globally, having launched the clothing brand in markets like Europe, Middle East, Nepal and Mauritius.

“I think the brand has grown from strength to strength in these five years. We started with Rs 45 crore, then we moved to Rs 132 crore and then to Rs 176 crore, followed by Rs 218 crore and then Rs 220 crore. So, we have been growing at a good pace and we are looking at a 20% year-on-year growth for the next three to four years,” said Manish Mandhana, CEO, The Mandhana Retail Ventures.

Another reason for an increasing number of celebrities choosing to launch a brand rather than merely just endorsing one is the emergence of social media and how it helps celebrities reach out their fans personally.

“This reality intersects beautifully with digital. A lot of the stars have their own social media pages and some of them have a very authentic voice not curated by people but it is their own voice,” said George.

Giving the example of a brand that they are building and will launch soon – Just F by Jacqueline Fernandez – George said, “I can’t think of anybody else who has curated such a phenomenal social media following. It really is about Jacqueline the person and what she stands for and it is not created by any agency. It has a very authentic voice. So yes, digital plays a very important part when it comes to celebrity-led brands.”

Being Human spends about 3-4% of their turnover on marketing and while Mandhana didn’t specify their exact spend on digital, according to him online constitutes about 10% of the topline.

“We are very digital in our approach and marketing because fortunately Salman Khan has one of the largest followings on social media and we are not going to let go of that opportunity,” said Mandhana.

HRX, the brand by Hrithik Roshan, spends about 5% of their turnover on advertising.

Afsar Zaidi

“We spend almost 5% of our turnover on marketing, which is at par with businesses of similar calibre and scale. The budgets are proportionately spent on customer acquisition, increasing traffic, creating brand awareness and community building. Since last year we have started apportioning up to 20% to community building exercises through experiential marketing,” Afsar Zaidi, CEO, HRX and Founder Exceed Entertainment.

For many celebrity-led brands, launching first on digital makes more sense because it not only does away with the hassle of establishing a brick and mortar store but it also allows them to reach the audience in the tier I and II cities with disposable income but no infrastructure.

“A brick and mortar store is not an easy possibility. From a speed to market point of view, online is a phenomenal model. One must also not forget that India is a country where you may have a very strong brand (a captive interest for a particular brand) but retail is fairly fragmented even now. If you are a star and if you have to address a larger number of people, it is better to be on an e-commerce model in the beginning,” said George.

HRX that was launched in the year 2014 also took the e-commerce first approach.

“HRX was launched as an e-commerce brand in 2014. That clearly indicates our foresight and belief in the e-commerce sector. Our partner Myntra is the largest fashion destination in the country – the digital platform works best in increasing traffic and conversions on the Myntra platform. Community building is for creating the right brand advocacy among the group that matters the most and are the super users. Social media platforms help in garnering fandoms and creating awareness,” said Zaidi.

HRX will also have offline stores by the end of this financial year. The brand intends to have HRX EBOs at least three in number starting from Bangalore.

George also added that offline is a must as one goes along and that omni-channel is a better approach for brands all around.

But just having a large fan-base and captive audience is not enough. It is important for the celebrity to be extremely involved with the brand that they launch.

“The brand has to have the participation of the celebrity. All the celebrities that we have chosen have been involved in every aspect of the creative, the product, the marketing, the distribution of the brand,” said George.

Mandhana agrees that there has to be a connect between the brand and the celebrity and this connect has to reflect in the designs and the product too.

“The brand is very close to Salman Khan. We do a lot of casual wear because Salman is mostly very casually dressed. He also almost exclusively wears Being Human products and therefore people relate with the brand when they see him and it helps with the visibility too. We also ensure that all our products are trendy and up to date as far as the latest fashion goes,” said Mandhana.

Zaidi reiterated the point by mentioning how HRX is Hrithik Roshan’s guiding principles.

“HRX has been created with a very strong foundation, it is a physical manifestation of the attributes, the tenets, the ideology that Hrithik believes and follows in life. It is not him or it is not the star but the individual's experiences that have contributed to the philosophy of HRX. In other words, HRX is Hrithik Roshan’s guiding principles,” said Zaidi.

All said and done, fashion is a very cluttered market and celebrity-led brands don’t just have to compete with other celebrity-led brands but also with already established fashion labels that have been at the game for far longer than these crop of new entrants.

According to George, while a celebrity can give a leg-up to brands in the initial days, in the long run, nothing substitutes quality products.

“Celebrities bring a lot of attention to the brand. They have phenomenal captive base of fans and a huge digital fan following but all this does not substitute for the product. It does not substitute for distribution or all the ingredients which are a given when it comes to retail. I believe that thinking that having a celebrity brand solves every problem, it doesn’t. The big problem that it solves is that it gives very quick attention to your brand which for any other brand would have taken longer but it does not substitute for really being focused on the product,” said George.

A problem that this celebrity-led brand model throws up is the conflict of interest that a celebrity will have to face when it comes to endorsements.

“There will be a conflict of interest. It might not manifest today but it will surely be a problem as we go along. Consumers today are not so gullible today. It will be very important for the celebrities to be locked in their vision of what is their brand and limit their endorsement opportunities in that particular segment,” warns George.

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