POV: Are low-profile celebrities viable brand endorsers?

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | November 15, 2011
Can endorsers like Chetan Bhagat, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, A R Rahman, and Karan Johar create the kind of brand association that Bollywood and sports stars do?

K S Chakravarthy
National creative director, Draftfcb Ulka

For certain products, and certain audiences, they are better choices than irrelevant 'stars'.

For aspiring music aficionados who actually understand what sound quality is, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy (SEL) are true stars -- not just for their talent, but also for their technical virtuosity and passion for technology that enhances sound quality. They give a company like Philips credibility when it comes to advertising sound (and video) quality.

Rahman was originally used to launch the iconic Airtel tune, and it worked like magic. Music downloads continue to be a huge revenue stream for telecom companies, so Rahman still fits the bill.

Karan Johar is the common man's connoisseur. He will be good for people with more money than taste, and eager to correct that situation, and hence perfect for Bru Cappuccino and Dulux. But, Alfred Dunhill? Hmm.

The bottomline: When the idea is to bring in credibility through an expert's endorsement, the right experts work better than pretty faces, however popular.

Prasanna Khare
Vice-president, Percept Talent Management

I would like to agree to an extent that 'behind-the-scenes' or secondary celebs are viable endorsers. They are identified for high achievements in their field of work, and are credible because of what they do, who they can reach out to, and at the same time, project a sense of sincerity to the brand.

Brands acquire images from the type of people who are seen to be using them. Images of prestige or success are imbibed when brands are associated with glamorous, yet grounded personalities.

In this age of exploitation, smart syndication of a brand and an endorser is imminent. Celebrities can be acquired for brands under an umbrella that is larger than the one that their 'behind-the-scenes' counterparts endorse.

Different stars appeal differently to various demographic segments (age, gender, class or geography). The behind-the-scenes celebs help brands position themselves differently.

Anand Halve
Brand consultant and co-founder, Chlorophyll

No! What does SRK (Shah Rukh Khan) bring to the party when he recommends a product? Is he an expert on TV technology? Or, toothpaste? Or, paints?

Yet, many otherwise-sane people buy products endorsed by him -- even though they know that he merely says what he's been paid to say!

We smear strange unguents on our face because Priyanka Chopra tells us to. Mahendra Singh Dhoni tells us to switch our lubricating oil, and we do it without a murmur because film stars and cricketers are our gods. They KNOW IT ALL. And, we will follow them blindly to the cash counter.

Chetan Bhagat on the other hand, is just rain on Hirani's parade. Shankar is probably recognised, but who are Ehsaan and Loy? Having spent enough time in front of the camera, Karan Johar and Farhan Akhtar are on their way up Mount Kailas. And, tomorrow, you will happily buy anything they ask you to. Maybe even movie tickets.

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