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Byju's pulling out ads is a knee-jerk reaction; SRK's relationship with brands unlikely to be affected in long term: Marketing gurus

One of the top brand ambassadors in the world, Shah Rukh Khan's relationship with brands may be affected in the short term because of his son Aryan Khan's alleged drug episode. India's top marketers feel some brands may go slow on ads featuring SRK because of fear of trolls but they're unlikely to jeopardise their long-term association with the mega star

Movie stars and their relatives having a run-in with the law is not new or not something that Indian audiences aren't familiar with. 

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Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt has served a jail time and so has super star Salman Khan. However, both have come out stronger in terms of their brand value. 

Despite several cases against Salman Khan in the past, the superstar commands the highest price on Indian TV. Be it a reality show or an ad commercial.

However, in the case of Aryan Khan, the 23-year-old-son of Shah Rukh Khan, who has been arrested by the NCB for allegedly consuming drugs, brands that feature the mega star are being trolled on Twitter and other platforms. 

In one such instance, Byju’s has temporarily taken down its advertisements featuring actor Shah Rukh Khan amid the growing backlash on social media. The actor and the platform were being trolled for over the past few days due the investigation against his son.

The actor is also the face for a number of companies such as Hyundai, LG, Dubai Tourism, and Reliance Jio.

However, LG continues to carry ads featuring Shah Rukh Khan and his wife.

According to the latest Duff and Phelps Celebrity Brand Valuation Study 2020, Khan commands a brand value of $51.1 million.

Brands should not succumb to trolling

Brand leaders believe Byju's decision to pause the ads is unfortunate and that the mega star should not be put in a spot for what his adult son has allegedly done.

It is reported that Shah Rukh has called off his upcoming advertisement shoots and projects, including one with Ajay Devgn, amid the on-going probe.

Lloyd Mathias

Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and Investor, said that Byju’s decision will not mean a monetary loss for the brand. While they may have stopped advertising using Shah Rukh Khan for now, given all the noise around his son’s judicial custody; they are likely to defer their spends and may recommence with fresh creatives.

“I’m sure Byju’s has a lot of creative resources and communication planks that do not require using SRK. If they have no creative ready, it will not take them long to launch a fresh one. Many brands will play the wait-and-watch game and may not drop SRK from their campaigns,” he said.

Samit Sinha

Samit Sinha, Founder, Managing Partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting, believes the choice of Shah Rukh Khan as Byju’s brand endorser is hardly of any strategic relevance, except to purely cash in on his celebrity status, and the choice may have been dictated more by valuation related considerations, rather than marketing ones.

Now that they have already got the valuation and raised the money, he doesn’t think they will be that concerned about finding a replacement for the actor in the immediate future. And if they do look for one, it could be any reigning superstar from the world of Bollywood or Indian cricket, and that, per se, will make little difference to Byju’s fortunes.

However, he added, “There are likely to be other brands who will also run scared in a kind of mob mentality that we often see. Some may wait to see how much traction the attempts to malign Shah Rukh Khan get before taking a decision. I really can’t say how Vimal Elaichi will respond to this development. I can only hope that it won’t be another knee-jerk response.”

These days it is very easy to be trolled on social media, and rivals can definitely fan the flames of any controversy surrounding a famous person.

In this instance, he said it is either being politically orchestrated or is just a product of the idle minds of the self-appointed guardians of society’s moral compass.

Trolling can be manipulated. A few hundred trolls working in conjunction can create a visible trend on social media. So, they cannot become the barometer of the national mood.

Sandeep Goyal

Sandeep Goyal, Chief Mentor, Indian Institute of Human Brands and Managing Director at Rediffusion, added that other SRK endorsements should really not succumb to the trolling, that would be unfortunate.

Nisha Sampath

Nisha Sampath, Managing Partner in the Bright Angles Consulting, pointed out that brands such as Vimal Elaichi don’t have the same issues that Byju’s faces.

SRK is a much better fit with the brand (Vimal Elaichi) and with the category. The category is not bound by morals and values the way education is. It has nothing at all to do with good parenting, or being responsible, she said.

Apart from the brand endorsements, it was reported that the actor is also on the brink of a big announcement in the OTT space. It was being speculated for a few weeks as was seen in the recent promos of Disney+ Hotstar for #SiwaySRK.

Siway SRK | Disney+ Hotstar:

So, will this deal also be postponed?

Experts said it is not SRK who has been arrested or questioned for drug use. It is his adult son. And he is not in the same spot as a Lance Armstrong or a Tiger Woods, who had personally committed transgressions.

Having said that, India is a very judgmental country. Even in today’s day and age, we hold parents accountable for the behaviour of their adult children, which is unfortunate.

Sampath said given that Disney targets kids, they could be sensitive to SRKs current situation. Hotstar should be more immune to it.

Sinha added, “I will be very surprised if the issue of Disney+Hotstar running ads featuring Shah Rukh Khan is not being furiously debated inside the company. My guess is that they might reduce the frequency in the short term till the whole thing blows over, but will not stop running them, not wanting to jeopardise their long-term relationship with Shah Rukh Khan.”

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