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Guest Column: The cult of personality - Carlton D'Silva

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Guest Column: The cult of personality - Carlton D'Silva

According to Wikipedia, ‘a cult of personality’ arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealised, heroic, and at times, God-like public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Personalities have been responsible for many movements and in the good old days where the medium of communication was limited to a few vectors, it was an extremely difficult task where word-of-mouth played a big role in the development of the same.

In the age of social media, creating a following is a much easier affair. An audience is no longer restricted to a specific location. Social media has given rise and worth to people power. It’s common knowledge that companies attach public personalities with their brands when they match their values (well not all the time) to help sell. These public personalities have a huge following and the brand hopes to rope in that audience too through the association. But does the investment really translate into real business. In most cases it just might not be.

Today’s consumer is a lot more discerning and a lot more informed. Though a celebrity might bring a certain amount of gloss to the brand, it might not translate to a sale. I believe that the consumer of today relates to a person who is a lot more real, and by real I mean a person that he/she aspires to be.

Take the case of Virgin
Richard Branson = Virgin

Or the case of Ryanair
Michael O'Leary = Ryanair

Or Apple Computers
Steve Jobs = Apple

Or closer to home, Infosys
Narayan Murthy = Infosys

Richard Branson represents Virgin and over the years has developed such a following that whatever he does directly or indirectly affects Virgin. Michael O’Leary and his maverick approach towards marketing has garnered him quite a reputation, and in turn a following that even when Ryanair was receiving bad publicity surrounding the story on the company ‘charging to use the loo’, ticket sales did not drop.

Steve Jobs was the lifeblood of Apple and so was Narayan Murthy to Infosys. When Jobs passed away, you could feel a part of the company depart with him, which was the case too when Narayan Murthy retired from Infosys. Post his retirement the company did face a slump and it was only a matter of time till the Co-Founder came out of retirement in a bid to revive Infosys. Apple has struggled to find another person to replace (or even come close) to a personality like Steve Jobs and hence, you see the declining popularity.

Personalities are being created everyday online. Twitter has given rise to a new kind of following and this in turn gives rise to a new means of advertising. Reputation online is a priceless commodity and if used correctly can reap exponential benefits. If a single personality cannot be identified to be the face of the brand, the alternative would be a number of like minded personalities that embodies the values of the brand. Like the big personalities, there are also a cluster of small personalities building up. These personalities need to be identified early on to enable the brand grow with his/her popularity and following.

Social media enables you to get closer to the personality of choice and more and more the discerning consumer is greatly influenced by this very real and convincing interaction.

So who will you choose to be the face of your brand?

The author is Chief Creative Officer, Hungama Digital Services

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