Celebrities in India are considered to be role models—mostly doing the right things, setting examples and participating in social causes.
However, what happens when a celebrity is seen to be reckless and only caring for his/her position, money and convenience?
Globally stars such as Tom Hanks decided to go into self-quarantine even before it was confirmed that he had coronavirus.
But in India celebrities such as Kanika Kapoor, who was tested positive for coronavirus, managed to dodge self-quarantine after returning from abroad and even decided to attend parties, further risking lives of many more.
Case in point, #KanikaKapoor hid her travel history after landing in #India (goddess knows how),attended events in Lucknow,Mumbai,went partying while staying in a 5 & has the virus!So all of U giving me gyan about how ‘simplistic’ PM’s speech was,was it really?#WeThePeople ???? https://t.co/k7SbFyNvr8— SONA (@sonamohapatra) March 20, 2020
Ace boxer Mary Kom also broke the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine protocol after returning from Jordan on March 13. She was supposed to be in self-isolation till March 27. But the 37-year-old, also a Rajya Sabha MP, attended a breakfast get-together hosted by President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan on March 18.
Should responsible brands be engaging with such celebrities?
According to Anirban Sen, VP and Head of Business (Chewing and Confectionery) of Godfrey Phillips India, consumers are far more aware that brands use celebrities to influence choices. In the case of Kapoor, it will be tougher by a brand to pick her as a brand face anytime soon as her irresponsible move has impacted the mass. She has been careless about something that the entire country is caring for. “Of course celebrities who come across as more forthright have a better chance to influence brand choice. But her chances for engaging with brands soon is substantially reduced,” Sen said.
Gautam Madhavan, CEO and founder MAD Influence, said it’s crucial for brands and agencies to think of brand safety and not involve themselves in the controversy. “From the brand safety point of view, it will not be the right time to make her a face of any brand campaign as people are already in angry about it,” he said.
“A consumer perception of brand endorsement itself is undergoing a shift. They want to test quality and value far more,” Sen said.
Any publicity is good publicity.
Many celebrities, however, who have earlier been on the right side of rules and regulations, are now the face of some big reputed brands.
"If Salman Khan is still a favourite why should Kanika Kapoor have a worse fate? If she continues to deliver hits she will rise back to the top and Covid-19 will be pushed to a distant memory,” said Ambi Parameswaran, Founder, Brand-Building.com
“It will only take a year for people to overcome the irresponsible behaviour of the singer, things will be normal and she will be accepted again by the people after that,” said Madhavan.
Experts said that controversies give a good amount of popularity to celebrities.
“Many people who didn’t know about Kanika Kapoor now know her very well. Her Instagram engagement is booming unlike before and the engagement has gone up to 11%, which was 6 % before. Any PR is good PR, and this controversy has given a good boost to her analytics,” said Madhavan.
An FIR was filed against Kanika Kapoor under IPC Sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).
“Often celebrities gain popularity through their ‘wrong’ doings,” emphasised Parameswaran.