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Brands sell, but do brands ambassadors sell the brands?

07-September-2005
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Brands sell, but do brands ambassadors sell the brands?

Brand managers and brand custodians often feel that one of the best ways to sell their brand is to get a celebrity to endorse the same, and why not, when there plenty of successful brands built on this model.

But again, there are many others who have failed to notch anything for the brands as a brand ambassador/endorser is many a time taken on board only on their celebrity meter and not necessarily on the fit with the brand meter. So what happens when there is this strong disconnect between a brand and its brand ambassador?

“The issue here is of understanding your own brand and there are very few brands that recognise themselves,” said Sanjeev Malhotra, Director, Alia Group.

“If there is a disconnect, then the issue is more internal than anything else. It is for the brand managers to understand what their brands stand for and then see if there is a fit with the ambassador chosen. And India being in a starved state of icons, we don’t have many to look up to, there are not many celebrities and icons who can motivate the consumers, so actors become a hot favourite. The challenge then is to play them in a positive manner. If this happens, then great, otherwise it can be quite disastrous,” he added.

Very recently Citizen Watches signed the self-confessed non-watch wearer Kareena Kapoor to endorse its eco-friendly watches. Are we wondering why? Well, it was because watches today are more of a fashion statement and Kapoor fits the bill perfectly there.

Anand Halve, partner, Chlorophyll Consultancy, said, “Brand managers have this common excuse of saying that even if a particular ambassador was irrelevant to a particular other brand, for my brand he/she is very relevant. Having said that, what is the measure of seeing the contribution by the ambassador? Is there any pre- or post-research done? If no, then a celebrity endorsing 20 other brands becomes pretty ineffective. But if he/she has a perfect brand fit then it makes sense.”

Halve added, “Disconnected brand and its ambassador works on two levels – credibility and celebrity pull. So, if it’s a fashion category, then celebrities are fashion leaders, however, if not, then credibility of the ambassador becomes important. If these two are messed up, then the brand ambassador becomes a vampire who sucks away blood from the brand and leaves it with nothing, taking the attention away.”

But again, a brand is simply a mental image that the customers and prospects have about a particular company and which requires a pretty and a popular face. Rmg david’s Josy Paul asserted, “Actors and actresses are paid for their part and consumers are ready and happy to see a good act. However, the script and the act should be well coordinated and it doesn’t matter if its authentic or not, as one is playing to consumer psyche.”

A question that arises here is do customers just go by a pretty face and celebrity pull? Though there is a strong need to be able to measure what value a celebrity adds to the brand as its ambassador, as long as brands continue to do well even if for a short time, marketers will be only too happy to let it continue, even though disconnected.

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