Saturday, 22 March 2008

Celebrity salesmen

Sure, the Devil may wear Prada, but I think Shah Rukh sold it to him…..

Its sad but true. It seems Shar Rukh, Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar can sell you anything. If the death of marketing was ever in doubt, Indian advertising offers enough evidence for all us professionals to lose hope.

Why is this? Here are some hypotheses…though definitely not comprehensive.

a. The products they are selling no longer offer any USP.
b. The marketing man has run out of ideas.
c. Brand awareness needs to be built up in 24 hours.
d. Brands have no meaning.

There used to be a time when celebrity endorsements used to be tied to beauty products, the odd energy drink. Now celebrities are everywhere and I believe, mindlessly.

I am not against celebrity endorsements. Not at all. For example, I think Tiger Woods works well with Accenture and with Nike. The key being, performance and execution as the brand values that Tiger amplifies.

Akshaya Khanna works well with Thumbs Up. Hrithik with Coke. The personas and the brand values match.

But why does Amitabh try and kick a football Pele style for Dabur Glucose? Shar Rukh selling me Dish TV is pathetic.

So I tried to rationalize this. Where does all this celebrity endorsement work?
To start with , I came up with a few scenarios where celebrities can enhance the brand advertising:

• Celebrities can amplify product characteristics
• They can increase product awareness
• They gain product credibility …etc.

a. But in essence, celebrities add value when their own filed of competence matches that of the product. I.e a movie star or model can endorse beauty products very easily. They can endorse ‘lifestyle” products such as cola drinks, fashion accessories.

b. On the other hand Tiger Woods and Sachin Tendulkar are known for performance and can emphasize “performance” products- sports equipment, energy drinks etc.

c. The problem I am seeing occurs when “lifestyle” is being used to sell performance products. Having Amitabh kick a football “Pele” style is a stretch on the performance attributes of the product. And it does not translate any of Amitabh’s brand properties to the product. Mobile service providers such as Airtel are using filmstars. Why? Do they want me to stop comparing product and competitor performance? I suffer with poor service from Airtel. Why should I ignore all this and accept to say “Hello” with SRK? Why does this marketer want me to believe that there are no product differentiators in this category?

There has to be a match between the property a celebrity beings on board (lifestyle or performance) and the property that the product needs to differentiate itself. (whether lifestyle or performance). When these are mismatched, the outcome is a waste of time, money and effort.

Overall, the frequency with which I am beginning to see celebrity endorsements reflects in my view a decline in advertising and marketing standards in India. Brands are built overtime. Through consistent and relevant messages. While celebrities may guarantee quick recall, they cannot guarantee product success in a competitive environment.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you, also I strongly believe that the celebrities should use some sense of responsibility and maintain their "brand equity" before they jump onto endorsing a product. For example If I were SRK or whoever I Wouldnt jump into endorsing crappy products/services, for instance, I barelyt come across folks that have a good experience with ICICI's nri accounts/money transfers. But yet we see SRK endorsing it, last time I know. Dont get me wrong I was the person who loved SRK since DARR when people scoffed off at him, but its really sad and some what greedy when a great actor like him jsut swoops and takes any endorsement offers his way...Sad Sad..


Anonymous said...

"Overall, the frequency with which I am beginning to see celebrity endorsements reflects in my view a decline in advertising and marketing standards in India."

I think I may have to disagree with you on this statement, since the above applies to any country most probably.