Celebrities work best when used tactically, not strategically: Ravi Kiran, Starcom

By , agencyfaqs! | In Advertising | September 25, 2006
At the India Brand Summit held in Mumbai recently, Ravi Kiran of Starcom compelled marketers to think again about how they use celebrities to build brands. Some honest feedback from consumers in a Starcom study fuelled the stark revelations

For all those & #BANNER1 & # marketers who thought that the use of a celebrity to build their brands can be a long-term strategy were almost compelled to do a reality check at the India Brand Summit 2006 held in Mumbai recently. According to Ravi Kiran, CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group, Asia Pacific, around 80 per cent celeb-brand combinations that are successful in the market are all tactical and rarely strategic. There are a few exceptions, such as Lux, where filmstars are an essential part of the brand message.

To understand the dynamics better, Starcom conducted a study with 450 consumers in four cities over the last one week. As many as 55 per cent of the respondents claimed they enjoyed ads featuring celebs, whereas a whopping 70 per cent said they found ads featuring celebs more memorable. Around 45 per cent respondents said they believed in trust brands endorsed by celebs, but here is the surprising part: 47 per cent people said that while Bollywood stars had the personality quotient, they rated low on values. Then again, 54 per cent said they liked it when celebrities did social ads. It was discovered that stars added more to their own value this way.

Further, Kiran revealed that 32 per cent people had more confidence in brands that used multiple celebs. "Consumers also told us that endorsements do influence their purchase decision but mainly when it comes to high-value purchases," Kiran stated. Another misconception the study threw up was that many of these consumers believed that brands endorsed by celebs were relatively more expensive, but on the flip side, they were happy to pay a premium in that case.

On the topic of categories, consumers clearly stated that if they didn't feel passionate about a category, celebs didn't really matter. "For instance two petroleum brands, HPCL and BPCL, use celebs in their communication," Kiran said. "As the average person is not passionate about petroleum as a whole, this is a fine case in point." Further, the study revealed that people felt nice on seeing a celeb in an ad for a product they had already bought, even though they didn't buy it because of the endorser.

"Stars should preach in the case of a social message and entertain when it comes to a commercial one and not vice versa," Kiran added. It was also discovered that people are more comfortable when celebrities, especially sports stars, are not forced to do something they look stupid doing. "A cricketer or a chess player dancing around a tree wouldn't go down too well," Kiran joked. "But Amitabh Bachchan, on the other hand, can play a paanwala in an ad, as he is an actor and is intrinsically supposed to don different hats."

The moment of truth arrived when Kiran said that over 50 per cent of respondents knew that these celebrities didn't use all the products they endorse. Further, negative news/reportage on a star didn't affect the way they perceived the brand/product. What the stars did in their real life had very little or no bearing on the brand. This may come across as a relief to marketers who were planning to sack celebs surrounded by controversies. "Consumers are far more forgiving; marketers inspect their endorser far more closely than the average consumer," Kiran signed off.

2006 agencyfaqs!

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