Single or multiple celebrity endorsers: What works better for a brand?

Brands are known to experiment with multiple celebrity endorsers, who in turn endorse several brands at the same time. Does this lead to lesser brand recall and affect brand positioning?

e4m by Sarmistha Neogy
Updated: Aug 24, 2015 8:36 AM
Single or multiple celebrity endorsers: What works better for a brand?

Brands are sometimes inclined to frequently changing their ambassadors, like the fashion and lifestyle brand which currently has Sharukh Khan as the face of the brand, while only last year it was Farhan Akhtar. and have simultaneously launched their brand campaigns with big-ticket endorsers like Ranbir Kapoor and Farhan Akhtar. Even though the services of both the brands are different, but the campaigns from the same parent company Getit Infomedia, with two of the biggest Bollywood stars do lead to confusion among the viewers. Adding to this, these endorsers are also the face of other big brands, whose ads are also running simultaneously on TV. Ranbir is the ambassador for brands like Oreo, Saavn, Lays, Lenovo and Pepsi and Farhan is seen endorsing brands like Ford Figo Aspire and Pureit Ultima. But there are others as well, who have maintained the same ambassador, like Hema Malini, who is associated with the water purifier brand Kent RO, which she has been endorsing since 2007. Lux always had multiple endorsers, signing on actresses from each era to endorse their products, with their recent ambassador Deepika Padukone. She is also the face of almost 16 brands; to name a few would be Tanishq, Axis Bank, Coke, Tissot and Britannia. An endorser like Amitabh Bachchan is seen promoting products in almost every category. In the last two months, he has been seen in recent ads from and both in the kid’s category, along with Kalyan Jewellers and Cycle Agarbatti.

The concept of celebrity branding has been a common practice for a long time and it helps in building brand association, awareness which eventually leads to driving sales. There are several brands from small to large scale thriving in the market. These brands are spending a major portion of their marketing pie in big ticket endorsements. As a result of this, consumers are offered too much on their plate, which sometimes lead to lower brand recall and unnecessary confusion.

We spoke to few brand experts and creative heads to understand which kind of endorsement works better for brands.

Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults:

In olden days, one brand endorser used to work for a brand. That was the era when a brand endorser was the face of only one brand. The ambassador was essentially loyal to just one brand. A case in point is Ustaad Zakir Hussain for the brand I used to manage called Taj Mahal Tea. But then times changed and today endorsers endorse a brand in literally every category. The most prosperous of these endorsers are the face of as many as 16 different brands. This is what I call ‘brand-endorser promiscuity’ around today. In such an era, a great way to counter brand-endorser promiscuity is by brands having multiple-endorsers. Today, the fact also remains that if brands wish to insulate themselves from brand endorsers and their misdeeds, it is good to have more than one endorser on your rolls.

KV Sridhar aka Pops, Chief Creative Officer, Sapient Nitro:

You can have multiple stars endorsing the same brand, depending on the complexity of the brand and then multiple usage of the brand. But if you say, I have X as brand ambassador and if this guy goes, then I will have Y and then Z. It doesn’t work; back up to back up is not a feasible idea. The best thing is if you have a single endorser- the fit is good and you benefit a lot as well. But if anything goes wrong, the brand and the ambassadors should both stand by each other. It has to be mutual and then only will people respect. It shouldn’t be like the recent Maggi controversy, where a couple of the ambassadors disowned on the grounds that they were associated with the brand a long time ago.

Rajiv Rao, National Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather:

I personally feel that, seeing the same celebrity in almost every other brand, kind of takes away the importance of the celebrity. Likewise consumers also feel the same and you don’t take the brand seriously, because the ambassador is almost everywhere. The advantage of a single celebrity for the entire brand is that over a period time, the celebrity is associated with that product only. For e.g. Hema Malini for Kent RO, but sometimes the endorser becomes bigger than the brand and eventually the endorsement is all about the celebrity and not about the brand. There is no harm in having multiple brand ambassadors over a period of time, but the brand has to stand for something and it can’t be just celebrity associations. The best example would be Nike; they have been associated with the biggest sports celebrities like Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, but the Nike Philosophy doesn’t  change with the celebrities.

Saurabh Dasgupta, Executive Creative Director, Innocean Worldwide:

For me, a brand having multiple faces doesn’t work. The reason is an ambassador gives a certain personality to the brand, it lends a human face and there are certain traits which kinds of gets subtly transferred to the brand. It is not like- since Mr X is using it, so you should use it. But if you keep on changing the face of the brand frequently, then the personality of the brand tends to get diffused. Also consumers start to look at ambassadors as mere consumers of the brand and not as personalities. If a particular brand feels that Mr X is helping them to grow, then it makes sense to invest in him, rather than drop him at the idea that some other endorser is readily available and at a cheaper price.

There is no harm when one endorser is the face of several other brands, but the trick lies in how creatively one can use the endorser. The task is how to use the personality of the endorser to further what the consumer wants. I don’t think it is confusing, if you see the same face for other brands as well, until and unless it is in the same category. Take for e.g. Sharukh Khan- he plays South Indian in one movie, Punjabi in the other, dons different roles and people love him. The trick lies in the power of the story and how well you can match the personality of the brand with the traits of the celebrity endorser.

Samir Kumar, Head of Creative Strategy, Brand Harvest:

The success of any kind of endorsements totally depends on the brand story. For certain brands, like health and nutrition or impulse category brands like Coke or Pepsi, multiple brand endorsements does make sense. It brings a broader appeal to the brand. Just that they have to be relevant to the brand. Looking at the same celebrities endorsing for different brands is not confusing because consumers today understand that it is all about being money. If a brand ropes in Amitabh Bachchan as the face, then the stature increases and people will know that the brand has the money and that it is the reason it could afford him.

Jagdeep Kapoor, Chairman & Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consults:

Single brand endorser works much better because the brand personality of the brand and the personality of the endorser can be aligned and matched to make the impact 1 + 1 = 11.

However, only one brand endorser over the years may bring fatigue. But a single brand endorser, changed every 3 to 4 years brings freshness. I feel that multiple brand ambassadors, do bring confusion instead of fusion. The brand personalities are not aligned even if it’s a couple. My brand mantra is ‘When the consumer is confused, the Brand is refused. Later the endorser is also refused.

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