From using them as crutches to boosters, for time immemorial, brands have relied on celebrities as endorsers. Most of them have tactically gained on awareness and credibility and some have made celeb presence a strategic pillar in their marketing. Very little research in the area has made celebrity decisions far more gut and ‘top’ cadre ideology driven than evidence or research driven like how media decisions are mostly based. At the onset of 2017, we have put together an Alchemist POV on the top 10 trends you will get to see in celeb usage.
More stakes in the deal: Top celebs are now looking at a balanced portfolio of brands and the money they get out of them. While the traditional sources of endorsements [viz Skin care] will continue to be all ‘here and now’ deals for celebs, new age and services brandscan lure a few celebs into future heavy agreement. In such cases, some or all part of the deal could be based on company performance. Digital equity deals will also have a variable component. Quite literally, celebs are expected to have more stakes in some deals. The trend started in early 2010s and will now see a full bloom in the next 3 years.
Responsible lending of equity: With the new bill on consumer protection standing as a threat, celebrities will be very cautious in making choices on brands they endorse. Indemnity would be an even more important part of celeb contracts and like the cost of anything which involves higher risks, the contract values and time taken to close them will go north for this single reason.
Softer season ahead: Nor debating whether it is the right strategy or not, communication is still considered a revenue expense by finance and business barons. In today’s time, they have far more hold on the strategic and large investments of most businesses. Celeb endorsements, with the lack of imperial understanding of its impact, will be pressured in this time of challenged growth and cash strapped economy. As stated earlier, while costs will go up only for the fear of laws and lawyer interfaces, the endorsement market is expected to stay soft especially in the first half of the year. There would be a clear slip in the appearance (tactical association) market. The same would be the case for ‘performances’ like in weddings and corporate events. Year-end celebrations of 2016 anyway saw a huge dip in celeb usage and a lot of female stars were left twiddling their thumbs wherein the other years they had choices and were all occupied and working the last night of the year.
Continuances over newer deals: While the already inked celeb engagements will continue and may get renewed with minor or no hikes, each new deal is likely to be slightly rare. Fewer brands who have not tried celebs earlier will change their strategy. If they have tasted success with celebs earlier, there is a chance the next line of stars will earn some endorsements over the top celebs who may be slightly ahead in popularity but come at far more a price tag. The reasons are pretty much the same as in the earlier points.
Bollywood and Cricket hegemony to continue: In spite of sporting movies and biopic successes like Chak De, Mary Kom, Sultan and Dangal, the dominance of the mass stars of Bollywood and cricket shall remain in 2017. We shall have additions as well but not too much from alternative sports. Not having Olympics or Asiads this year is going to add to brands sticking to the usual favourites.
Global criss cross : With stars like Hugh Jackman and Pierce Brosnan making waves by being part of Indian brands ads, we expect more of them to join the bandwagon this year. As novelty, we expect a few Indian stars to make way to international ads too. The territory of most deals signed by multinational brands these days anyway includes South and rest of Asia. With Indian TV going popular in the rest of the world beyond NRIs, expect dollar earnings for Indian celebs.
Shorter terms of engagement now in play: We, at Alchemist, suspect shorter endorsement terms to come to light this year. We are expecting at least 2-4 big endorsement deals this year where the term is likely to be less than a year. The wait and watch times will be the key catalyst to this trend where a celeb becomes a tactical endorser.
Ambassadors over endorsers: We also see a reverse or a contra trend to the earlier one, co-existing. We see either very long term or large usage of a few stars for a handful of brands. The stars will become far more a part of the overall communication including the digital communication which was so far quite unmarried to the main communication.
Models not stars: Like how Bollywood relies more and more on songs which are not lip synced in movies, brands will use celebs far more in a role rather than as themselves. This shows the maturing of the market and its moving to ads knowing the responsibility to first entertain
Celeb decisions becoming more than just bedroom and boardroom decisions : It is surprising that while media decisions are based on thorough research, the next large ticket purchase like a celeb endorsement is still a decision based on gut feel or AC room understanding of what she can bring to the brand. We expect more dependence on researches like Celeb Score which shall foretell the impact of celeb endorsement for a particular category or genre if not a particular brand itself. Responsible advertising as a concept will also shift to the brand managers and CMOs through research.
Often people ask us if celeb presence can compensate for lack of creativity. Our answer doesn’t change in 2017 and is – what your one son scores cannot compensate for what the other doesn’t. But you don’t feel as bad when at least one helps keep the family pride. However, the celebrations can manifold when both win gold.
(The authors are Manish Porwal, MD, and Malaica Abreu, Head of Celeb & Entertainment Agenda, Alchemist Marketing Solutions)
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com