Increasing examples of quite a few leading brands that have done away with celebrities indicates that companies can thrive even without engaging movie stars to talk about their products.
As the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) steps up its investigations into the alleged drugs connection with Bollywood, it would be interesting to watch how companies whose brands are endorsed by actors who have been called in for questioning by the NCB react to this development.
Will corporate groups temporarily choose to stop airing ads featuring these actors to insulate their own brands from getting dragged into any possible controversy while stopping short of replacing such endorsers immediately? Or would companies just wait it out till the results of the NCB investigations come in before taking a decision on the subject.
Undoubtedly, this would be a tough call for business organizations, and making a choice one way or the other could largely depend on an individual company’s perception of the value being brought to the table by the celebrity endorser, particularly in this tough economic environment.
Be that as it may, the bigger questions, though, that some already established brands should ask themselves are whether they really need endorsers from Bollywood(and if so, to what extent)and if marketing budgets are not better utilized,instead, ramping up spends on improving the quality of the offerings. Since the increasing examples of quite a few leading brands that have done away with celebrities does indicate that companies can thrive even without engaging movie stars to talk about their products.
Moreover, given the growing awareness of Indian customers, banking on them to lap up a product/service simply because some hotshot actor is its brand ambassador no longer remains the sure-shot formula for success as used to be the case earlier for many companies which banked on ‘star power’ to make their offerings stand out from competition. These days, the mere use of celebrity endorsers may briefly get people to discuss the commercial but not necessarily lead them in droves to buy the product or avail the service being mentioned in the advertisement. Especially, if two high profile actors are endorsing rival brands or the celebrity who is now endorsing product A was till the other day championing the virtues of competing product B.
Reputed companies could be far better off by making the value proposition of their products/services take centre-stage in theads instead of reducing this critical element to that of a support actor in a commercial involving a Bollywood personality. After all, hardly much purpose is likely to be served by an ad (even if it goes on to win some advertising award in future) if the message that the company wishes to convey through it gets lost due to the target audience vividly remembering the celebrity and not what this endorser had to say about the product/service offering.
Challenging times as the present requires that a company be prepared to dump its existing brand marketing playbook for a new one if such a need so arises. Continuing to stick to the template of using a popular Bollywood actor in commercials (ostensibly for achieving a higher brand salience) purely out of a sense of ego and little respect for the intelligence or sentiments of prospective customers could only end up hurting the interests of business organisations.
At the end of the day, companies owe it to themselves, and by extension all their stakeholders, that they are getting the biggest returns for every marketing rupee spend. If brand ambassadors drawn from Bollywood are not providing this currently, enterprises should not hesitate to start looking at options that do.
[The author is Advisor at the Gurgaon-based advisory on communications and stakeholder advocacy R M Consulting https://rmconsulting.in . Views expressed are personal.]
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