Decoding the brand endorsement matrix: What works and what doesn’t

There are ads where celebrity endorsers perfectly match the traits of the brand, while there are others where the image of the endorser falls low in terms of relatability. exchange4media finds out what makes a celebrity endorsement work

e4m by Sarmistha Neogy
Updated: Oct 23, 2015 8:07 AM
Decoding the brand endorsement matrix: What works and what doesn’t

The recent Ambuja Cement ad with the Giant Khali broke the internet, it not only got picked up by international publications, but Indian ad honchos have even appreciated this unique creative route, ever taken by any cement brand. The ad conceptualised by Publicis, depicted a comparison between the strength of the celebrity wrestler and the strength of the brand. The outcome was such that, the image of the endorser perfectly matched the traits of the brand.

There are ads where celebrity endorsers perfectly match the traits of the brand, while there are others where the image of the endorser falls low in terms of relatability. exchange4media finds out what makes a celebrity endorsement work.

Actor Paresh Rawal, in the Polycab wire commercial conceptualised by RK Swamy BBDO group, too makes the cut. As the middle-aged man who emphasises on the fact that people tend to waste electricity subconsciously, he replaces the ordinary wires with Polycab wires, which can provide up to 25 per cent power savings. The comic image of the actor in the ad film makes it believable owing to the kind of roles in which people usually see him.

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Amitabh Bachchan who endorses several other brands, was recently roped in as the face of the new kid’s brand It was a well-thought-out move because people are aware that he is a grandfather in his real life, but they haven’t seen him as the ‘indulgent grandpa’ before in any film or ads. So the ad conceptualised by Lowe Lintas, Mumbai, generated a lot of buzz and the audience loved seeing Senior Bachchan in this never-seen ad avatar.

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There are also few ads, where consumers find it difficult to connect with the image of the endorser. The new Big Basket ad, with Shah Rukh Khan as the face of the brand, fell a little low on the credibility level. Consumers found it difficult to relate his ‘superstar’ image with the ‘ordinary’ man handling groceries at home as shown in the ad film.

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Exchange4media spoke to brand experts and found that while these ads may be weak in terms of the believability factor, but there is a lot of thinking which goes from the brand’s side before finalising the endorser. The difference in approach by each brand is mainly because of their different motives.

Big Basket Vs Ambuja Cement:

Brand and celebrity management heads delve on the strategy behind getting Khali on board for Ambuja Cement and Shah Rukh for Big Basket ads.

Manish Porwal, MD, Alchemist Marketing & Talent Solutions said, “For e-commerce businesses, money is not as much as a constraint, so if for e.g. they have a marketing budget of Rs 10 crore, then what is the harm in paying Rs 1 crore to the celebrity? It is like a minor insurance. But if you are spending x on your celebrity, you should be ready to spend 7 to 15x on the media, and then it will have the right impact. Big Basket has done a good job and they have used Sharukh Khan in the creative as the actor himself. These online grocery buying sites, be it Big Basket or Grofers, they are trying to break the clutter, by pushing men to go and do the groceries. So I didn’t find anything wrong in it.”

Talking about the believability factor, he cited, “People are smart enough to distinguish it. For e.g., if Amitabh Bachchan is the face of a cycle brand, they know that he himself won’t be riding it. Advertising is always more than the truth, it is hyperbolic. Consumers know that a brand has money, if they see Amitabh as the face of the consumers, it then automatically stands of credibility in their minds.”

Echoing similar thoughts, Afsar Zaidi, Founder and Managing Director, Exceed Entertainment (Celebrity Management Company), stated, “Big Basket has actually taken a very wise decision to get Shah Rukh Khan on board as he is one of the most recognised faces in the industry. The advantage of having a celebrity is that, it acts like a driver, so for a comparatively new brand like Big Basket he would assure the brand, certain ‘x’ number of exposure. On the other hand, Ambuja Cement is one of the oldest brands and they have taken a very unique creative positioning to stand out. Both these approaches work well for the brands.”

Jagdeep Kapoor, Chairman & Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants added, “The Ambuja cement Ad is credible, as an earthy sense of humour, has relevance between the strength of the brand and the strength of the brand endorser Khali and has superior execution. Regarding the Big basket Ad, the concept of Big basket is utility oriented and useful to the consumer and the ad brings out the range and the home delivery aspect. The acting of Shah Rukh Khan is good. However, while being entertaining, the ad is low on credibility. But overall the ad will work.”

Pravin Thakur, Digital Media Consultant, ibrand elaborated, “ The Ambuja Cement's "Khali ad" is little exaggerated but looks believable for a common man that a heavy weight champion is having problem with his house infra and is looking for a solution that can withstand his great strength therefore, opts for Ambuja cement. It is interesting, but little longer in length. Big Basket ad with Shahrukh khan’s statement that "ordering groceries at home is my role" contradicts his image of "King Khan", consumers find it difficult to believe that the person titled as “King” having a rich lifestyle ordering groceries at home instead of his chef/cook. But this side of his image has never been projected before, so it is a story communicated well in time.”

How should brands ideally use celebrity endorsers?

So what qualities should brands look for in their celebrity endorser to maximise the results? Commenting on it, Jagdeep Kapoor, Chairman & Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants said, “There are four factors to decide the choice of the brand and the endorser to achieve good results. Firstly, the brand and the brand endorser should have relevant brand personalities so that there is consumer connect. Second is that of credibility- the brand endorser while endorsing the brand should bring credibility to the advertisement. Thirdly, it is related to non controversial aspect of the brand endorser so that the brand’s image is enhanced.And finally there should be no conflict of interest, so that the same brand endorser does not endorse another brand from the same category.”

He further added, “Ideally, brands must choose brand endorsers who are selective in endorsements. This is because if the brand endorser endorses too many brands, there would be confusion in the consumers mind.My brand mantra is 'When the consumer is confused, the brand is refused.”

Porwal highlighted, “There are two ways of using a celebrity in a brand film, as the celebrity himself, like Sharukh Khan for the Big Basket ad; or where celebrities are seen enacting roles. A creative is either thought before the celebrity or is built around the celebrity, the latter is usually dangerous. I felt the Aamir Khan ad for Snapdeal was a complete waste of money, because when you have got one of the most talented actors of the country, you could have been a little more creative with him.”

He said, “Using a celebrity in the marketing mix actually works better and it runs longer. In any commercial, the first 2-3 seconds are usually spent to build the character in the film. So if you have a marketing budget of Rs 3 crore for a 30 second commercial, and you are using a celebrity, your first few seconds are actually saved. However, there are also brands, which end up using celebrities without giving it a proper thought. For e.g., using a Bollywood celebritiesfor endorsing kitchen appliances doesn’t make any sense, insteadone can use TV stars because they would look more believable owing to the kind of roles they play.”

Zaidi mentioned, “There is a certain amount of thought process, which goes into it before finalising a celebrity. Some brands can easily decide on it, while there are some who may, go in for a four-hour long meeting prior to finalising the association to understand, if the celebrity is in sync with the brand. The motives can also vary; there are brands, who would like to use a celebrity only for big seasonal marketing activities, which is called tactical marketing. On the other hand, if the intension is to build on the celebrity and develop a long-term association, then it is for strategic purposes. For e.g. Saif Ali Khan was with Lays for more than 12 years and Sharukh Khan has been with Hyundai for more than 16 years.”

In this day and age, when one celebrity is the face of many other brands, it gets difficult for consumers to identify the celebrity with any particular brand. How should brands work to break the clutter? Speaking on this, Thakur from ibrand said, “Well I don’t see a challenge in one celebrity endorsing multiple brands because in real life an individual consumes multiple products but what is important is that, brands should select celebrities who have an appropriate personal brand image that compliments their desired brand positioning.”

According to him, some of the well-done celebrity endorsements would be Salman Khan for Thumsup, the brand’s projected image, i.e. ‘tough persons drink’ goes well with Salman’s image created through his movies.John Abraham’s image of fitness conscious person goes well with a sports brand like Reebok.Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as the face of the Eye Bank Association of India is great, because she is known to have one of the most beautiful eyes. Saif Ali Khan as the endorser for Asian Paints Royale blends perfectly with the brand 
"Royale" which suits the actor’sreal image, i.e. ‘Nawab’ (From Royal Family).

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