Monday, May 2, 2016

The Celebrity Endorsement Tamasha

When we use the term Brand Ambassador, what all does it connote?

According to an article posted on “A brand ambassador is someone who promotes a brand and its products to their network with the objective of increasing brand awareness and driving sales.” In management classes a Brand Ambassador is often cited to be one who is representative of corporate identity in appearance, demeanour, values and ethics. More often than not historically a brand ambassador was typically a celebrity or someone with a good amount of name recognition who was paid for their efforts. Celebrities and other well-known personalities are still employed as brand ambassadors.

If we look within our marketing stories, there has been representation of products like food and beauty products by celebrities through the ages. Lux beauty soap has been using faces of Hindi Cinema actresses like Leela Chitnis in 1941, Hema Malini in 1980s, all the way till Katrina Kaif in recent years. While beauty products were the most sought after categories to be endorsed by celebrities, of late there have been many products and services like banks, insurance, real estate, cars, et al that have also jumped in the celebrity game.
At one point of time any brand that wanted some recognition wanted to be represented by a celebrity, would do a fitment test to ascertain the value of the association. For instance Dabur being a brand since 1884 has attributes like reliability and credibility associated with their brand. They then went on to hire Amitabh Bachhan - who reflected similar personality traits in his box office performances -  as the face of Dabur.
The scenario these days..
.. has however changed and there are many media agencies that work as mediators between the celebrity and the company. The fitment analysis is done, but a lot more is about movie and sports stars who are looking at getting a certain number of endorsements as also certain product and service category endorsement in their kitty. According to a study published in Vikalpa, Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar has been the most featured celebrity with 57 ads, followed by actors Amitabh Bachhan and Shah Rukh Khan with 46 and 44 ads respectively. And the products could be as common place as hair oil, toothpaste or exclusive like luxury watches and condominiums.
Issues that have arisen..
Recently, poor product quality has left many disgruntled customers unhappy with the celebrity endorsers. MS Dhoni due to the barrage of social media trolls against his endorsement of Amrapali projects, had to eventually resign as its brand ambassador. Amrapali apparently had a history of lateness in real estate project delivery. In an earlier instance, there were PILs filed against Madhuri Dixit and Amitabh Bachhan during the Maggi controversy as they were the brand ambassadors for Maggi.
Then again there have been cases where the company has removed celebrities as their brand ambassador due to a misdemeanor, as was the case of golfer, Tiger Woods who was removed as the endorser for Accenture after his infidelity episode became a raging controversy.
The case to watch out for now is with respect to Salman Khan who has been appointed India’s brand ambassador for Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro. There is a nationwide debate that has ensued on the credibility of his ambassadorship. The nation’s technically divided 50-50 for and against his selection. We all await the outcome of the debate.
- Ms. Monica Mor, Sr. Faculty, INLEAD

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