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BW Businessworld

Analysis: The Wall Is Falling

The herd mentality is dead. the consumer is much more evolved, and the time to delve into deeper relationships with them is now.

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The herd mentality is dead. the consumer is much more evolved, and the time to delve into deeper relationships with them is now.

How do I become the No. 1 brand in the consumer’s mind? How do I stay there? These two perennial questions justify billions of dollars spent in branding and marketing by brand marketers. The answers are not simple. Even more so, in the digital age where engagement is personal, it is multi-dimensional and spans Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogs, etc. To enchant the consumer’s wallet and build credibility has become even more challenging.

Celebrity endorsement, or so they feel, has the capability to pull this off beautifully. Whether it is Shah Rukh Khan trying to woo consumers for Hyundai’s i10, Hema Malini endorsing Kent RO, Chetan Bhagat for Shaadi.com — traditional or new-age businesses have tried leveraging celebrity endorsement for building the much-needed credibility in consumers’ minds. Or at least try to.

Psychologically, we humans are hardwired to listen when the message is coming from someone we trust — elder brother, age-old friend, your mentor at work or may be your investor? Celebrities play a similar role — they open the consumers’ ears and eyes, let them get soaked in the message which otherwise would have taken years to penetrate. There is an instant connect with the charming personality that has wooed millions by her/his work in cinema or his brilliant performance on the field. And that connect helps make an impression on the mind of the consumer.

They key is in identifying the purpose of the endorsement, rather than taking the consumer for granted. Modern consumers are not sheep; they do not blindly follow what superstars recommend. They can follow them on Twitter, ‘friend’ them on Facebook, comment on them on YouTube, revel with them on their blogs, and talk to them through zillions of other opportunities today. The wall is down and the modern brands need to understand that.

From the above perspective, I respect the thoughts of Madhav Walia. It is a smart age — an age led by consumers who are empowered and decide what they see and believe. Their cultural orientation is different. Brands need to understand this, instead of forcing a new culture on them by bringing in the celebrity. Culture today is involvement and not a monologue of ‘follow my trend’. The distance between the celebrity and the consumer has blurred so much that the attitude towards the celebrity is no more the aspirational one, like it was years ago — the digital medium has levelled the difference to a great extent.

Madhav also points out the multiple endorsements by an actor — this creates further confusion. Imagine the consumer seeing Ranbir Kapoor talking about downloading Saavn for music, and then telling him to eat Lays chips and also goading him to ask anything! And now multiply that with 10 times, as the consumer would see it on Facebook, TV, YouTube, Twitter, etc.

And boy, what would you do if your celebrity endorser, Tiger Woods, is found cheating on his wife, and you are a global consultancy telling people that you can make them a Tiger as well! Or take the case of Charlize Theron, who while endorsing Raymond Weil watches was found wearing Dior watch at an event! Or back home, would you be comfortable with Arjun Kapoor or Ranveer Singh, after the controversial AIB episode on their YouTube channel — endorsing your brand!

Madhav is correct when he points out to Anila that brands need alertness and not just awareness. By connecting with the consumers on various social media sites effectively and talking to them in the most responsive manner, you may not just achieve that but also build a long lasting relationship to cherish — Flipkart is one such example. As a soap brand, you may rope in a heartthrob like Zara Patel to engage with the youth. But what if she tweets something which your brand does not endorse?

Brand endorsements, therefore, are to be treated very carefully. While they should be long-lasting to ensure that the halo of the celebrity helps the brand that you are leading or starting, it is difficult to ensure that the celebrity remains loyal and ethical to the brand essence that you want the youth to adopt.   

The writer is co-founder, BoringBrands.com, which specialises in integrated marketing and communications for global startups

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 06-04-2015)


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