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'Will Akshay's possible association with pan masala cause a dent in his brand persona?

With the actor's past work as the face of the government’s anti-smoking campaign and women’s hygiene products, this association may attract some trolling but won't impact his brand value, say experts

e4m by Mansi Sharma
Published: Apr 15, 2022 8:51 AM  | 5 min read
Akshay Kumar

It’s yet another day and the internet has found yet another reason to feel offended: this time because of Akshay Kumar reportedly joining the esteemed list of celebrities endorsing a pan masala brand. While there has been no official confirmation from the brand or Kumar yet, the internet has picked many visible hints from a promo released by Vimal Pan Masala, on Thursday, showing Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgn discussing the entry of a new “khiladi” in the town. 

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A post shared by Vimal Elaichi (@vimalelaichi)

Soon after, the netizens dug out an old video of Khiladi Kumar making a strong statement against actors promoting pan masala brands saying that because people watch and follow actors, they should not advocate these items.

Now, as expected, this started a meme fest on Twitter. 

But will this meme fest and trolling stop at just that or is it going to have a long-term impact on Kumar’s public persona and brand image – that he has very meticulously been working on to make of a nationalist and responsible Indian citizen. He has also been the face of the government’s anti-smoking and Swachch Bharat campaigns. 

The ad experts feel that the controversy is not big enough to have any dent in Kumar’s image or brand value. 

A senior branding expert, on conditions of anonymity, commented, “The ad world and Bollywood have never been away from such controversies. The brand loyalty for any endorser remains till the paychecks keep coming in. Surely, Kumar will attract some trolling because of his past comments around pan masala brands but the audience memory is fickle. The discussion will die down soon. There is no dearth of controversies waiting to happen.” 

Pink Lemonade Founder & Chief Creative Storyteller Tina Garg further elaborates, “Pan masala is a hazardous product and any choice to promote such a brand must be carefully thought through to avoid impacting a celebrity’s public image. Akshay Kumar has been curating a model citizen, patriotic sort of image for himself over the last few years, so  I am not sure if it was the right choice to endorse a brand that could flip the image for him. For one, it’s against anything he’s done (except the provocative ramp walk for a jeans brand). Secondly, his goody image of being the perfect saviour, country-loving cop/army man/RAW agent speaks of virtue, merits, standing for the right -- endorsing a product that cares little for human health is against these values.

“While Vimal is a well-known brand in India, especially with its past association with very highly acclaimed celebrities, its product is not a fit for Akshay Kumar in my mind. With his past work as the face of the government’s anti-smoking campaign and women’s hygiene products, this Padman may attract some flack for the brand association.” 

Grapes CEO & Co-founder Shradha Agarwal agrees, “As an actor, he is known for his famous cinema ad endorsing sanitary napkins, promoting anti-smoking campaigns or carefully picking his movies. He has a very clean image in the industry and enjoys a high brand recall value. However, his image won’t be impacted in the long run but definitely for the time being people will talk about his choice and preferences. Not to forget, in a media conference the actor only said that he won’t endorse harmful products.” 

Speaking about the impact of the negative attention for the brand, Garg adds, “Vimal is one of India’s leading pan masala companies. For a brand like Vimal, any publicity is good publicity. Typically brands look for congruence in their own values and the product’s values - I find this missing between Akshay Kumar and Vimal. The brand will get a lot of attention from people who idolize Akshay Kumar nonetheless. As a nation of predominantly Bollywood watchers and comprehensive movie fanatics, a big actor like Akshay is definitely going to bring them attraction like Ajay Devgn did earlier. As far as public image goes, Kumar stands to lose more than the other actors. He has even been vocal about the hazards of taking pan masala earlier and endorsing it now is a clear breach of ethics too.” 

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