Daniel J Boorstin has rightly remarked that “A sign of a celebrity is that his name is often worth more than his services”. Marketers have acknowledged this fact and have roped in popular faces to create instant brand awareness, credibility and aspirational value. In a country like India that is celeb crazy, associating with a celebrity makes a substantial impact on the purchasing behaviour. But what if there is a mismatch between the celebrity and the brand, what happens if a celebrity endorses one brand but is spotted using the other?
In a chase to capture ‘India’s most saleable face’, brands sometimes do not endorse with the right celebrity in a right way and at the right time. Brands should wake-up and understand that the consumers have started understanding the tricks of these dream-weavers and cannot be fooled by showing Salman wearing Relaxo, Hrithik dancing to the tune of Liberty or Kareena flaunting her Metro shoes.
Lifestyle and even luxury magazines leave no stone unturned in capturing these celebrities in their day time and evening time avatars often wearing Jimmy Choo or Christian Louboutin.
Style debonair Hrithik is the face of Liberty and it makes sense for the brand to bring the actor on board with his immense sense of style and connection with the youth. Hrithik might say that the collection is superbly stylish and comfortable; however, the blue-eyed boy in reality creates a fashion statement with his pair of Versace or Salvatore Ferragamo.
When Virat Kohli says ‘Think on your feet’ for Red Chief shoes, depicting heroism and ruggedness yet comfort of Red Chief, it makes the shoe brand the best buy. But will Virat ever wear Red Chief shoes for running, is a question that haunts us.
This makes us ponder over innumerable questions such as are brands adopting the right path by investing in celebrities for footwear brands? Do these heartthrobs actually wear the brands endorsed? Have we approached the era of shortage of creative ideas? Can the sale of a product be affected by celebrities performing dare-devil stunts or doing a silly dance?
Harish Bijoor, brand expert and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults said, “I don’t believe any of these celebrities use any of the brands that they endorse. It goes not only for footwear but also soaps and soft drinks. There is a certain lack of creativity and integrity in the entire brand endorsement process but we have to be realistic because this is the way the world is.”
He further added, “Brands are doing this because they need establishment of quick awareness levels from celebrities. These brands would otherwise take 50 years to build that brand equity but they build it in just 50 days by using a celebrity.” He thinks it is a very intelligent use of money because the kind of salience that a brand brings is excellent and that salience is brought by a star.
He also said, “If a star has a lot of positive strokes then the same gets accrued to the footwear brand as well. In small towns, film stars are not only worshipped but people actually (aspire to) live like them. So people love the brands being endorsed by a star – be it a ‘chappal’ or a ‘dhoti’. If you take normal people, it will take a lot of time to build the brand but if you focus on a star, it builds the brand in very less time.”
However, he feels, celebrity endorsement is not enough and one needs to get the distribution, local advertising, the local point of purchase and the local events right.
Ramanujam Sridhar, Founder CEO, Brand Comm said, “Celebrity endorsements instantly build awareness and people notice that but there is always a question of moving from awareness to purchase. It works and everybody seems to be adopting this. It seems like a rat-race and if one brand is using it then the others feel that they might be left out, so they also use it.”
He stated that celebrities don’t wear the brands that they endorse. “If a celebrity in the West was to endorse a brand, then he has to use it. But here we don’t have such restrictions. Indians feel that a celebrity has come to entertain them in the context of a product that he/she is endorsing, so they don’t analyse it too much like a customer in the West.”
He added, “In a low-involvement and cheap product like a pair of ‘chappals’, if one sees the image of Katrina, he/she might go and buy it unlike a product which is expensive. Hence, celebrity endorsement for expensive products is a waste of time.”
On the shortage of creative ideas, he said, “Clients and agencies are doing very lazy work and their scripts are very ordinary for a brand that has celebrity endorsements unlike a normal commercial where a script has to be really good.” According to him, “Celebrity endorsement, very often, tends to be a lazy strategy and many clients are unfortunately moving to this strategy.”
It will be fair to conclude that in India, celebrity endorsements for a relatively less expensive brand certainly helps in creating brand awareness and increasing sales whether the celebrity uses it or not. From a marketer point of view however, roping in a celebrity entails spending anywhere between a crore of rupees to Rs 5 crore, depending on the celebrity and required commitment. The question that still remains is whether the marketer could have used this to better connect with his TG instead of making a celebrity dance or climb mountains on TV screens.