Celebrities don't build brands, ideas do, says Bates study

By , agencyfaqs! | In | November 08, 2002
The Bates study tries to track consumer opinion on 'relevance and effectiveness of celebrity advertising in building brands'

A note of caution for advertisers: Celebrity endorsement may not be the answer to all your branding problems. That is the conclusion of a recent study by Bates that was launched to track consumer opinion on 'relevance and effectiveness of celebrity advertising in building brands'. The study, conducted during June-July 2002, has thrown up one unanimous verdict - that celebrities don't build brands, ideas do.

The study looked at the star value of India's top brand endorsers including Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan, and the categories that used the most number of star endorsers. The study clearly identified the best celebrity 'fits' and the cases where celebrities overshadowed brand-building efforts.

Sachin Tendulkar tops the list of multi-branded stars (those celebrities who are able to enhance/maintain their equities in their respective professions). He seems to be India's hottest celebrity with the maximum consistency in competence and performance, followed by Shah Rukh Khan.

In the year 2002, Sachin Tendulkar endorsed 12 brands (including Pepsi, Boost, Colgate Total, Gillette, Britannia Tiger, Fiat Palio, TVS Victor, Fiat Sienna, MRF, Adidas, Visa Cards and Home Trade). Of these, Sachin seems to have been best leveraged by Palio and TVS Victor, both of which used India's ace cricketer in the launch phase.

Shah Rukh Khan was salient with seven brands in 2002 (Pepsi, Clinic All Clear, Top Ramen, Santro, Mayur, Omega and Home Trade). On his part, Amitabh Bachchan had five under his belt (Pepsi, BPL, Maruti Versa, Parker Pen and ICICI Bank). Of these, Bachchan added the most recall value to Pepsi followed by ICICI.

Among the multi-starred brands (those that used more than one/two celebrities at a time), Coca-Cola's Thanda Matlab Coca Cola ads with Aamir Khan scored very high among consumers in terms of recall value. However, most consumers felt the use of celebrities is clichéd and therefore they don't feel 'persuaded' by such a strategy.

Consumers also identified a clear difference between a good script and a good brand idea. For example, while Pepsi's Sachin and Bachchan (kite flying) ad was seen as one with a good script, Coca-Cola's Thanda Matlab… was seen as an insightful and strong brand idea. For all the flak it drew in its vainglorious attempts to run down competition, Thums Up was seen as the only example of seamless linkage between brand positioning and brand celebrity.

The study reveals that services as a category embraced celebrities with great enthusiasm. But most services celebrities failed to deliver the persuasive power. Except, of course, the Hutch Hi campaign that proved one could break clutter with sharply focused ideas - even without the use of celebrities.

The Bates survey shows that in cars celebrity endorsers helped the brands in attaining almost instant recall. For example, Hyundai Santro is strongly associated with Shah Rukh Khan, followed by Sachin with Fiat Palio. This is mostly because these celebrities never really overshadowed the brands in question. One brand that ended up doing just that in its bid to leverage the brand pull of two celebrities - Saurav Ganguly and Hrithik Roshan - at one shot is Hero Honda. As the study infers, "By allowing Sachin to endorse TVS Victor, Hero Honda may have lost an opportunity to align with the best." In fact, Hero Honda's market success is linked to technology - features and benefits. So Hero Honda should do better "to trust continuum and not any celebrity".

The study rounds up by urging brands that have done great campaigns in the past to "de-celebritise" their advertising strategies and focus on ideas. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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