Abid Hussain Barlaskar

War of the handbags: Can posing celebrities be a 'strategy'?

Glamorous 'Millennial' actresses brandishing handbags - this seems to be the go-to tack for players in this segment. Is this adequate 'brand strategy'? A look at the trend.

Much of the recent advertising in the handbags and purses segment seem to look the same, that is, all of them show pretty bags coupled with pretty faces from Bollywood. The ads differ only slightly in their narratives but all the commercials showcase Bollywood actors flaunting a range of handbags with, style, attitude, class, elegance and some more.

We went through some of the recent communications from brands within the segment.

War of the handbags: Can posing celebrities be a 'strategy'?

Lavie ad featuring Anushka Sharma

Brand Lavie in its latest ad spot roped in Anushka Sharma for the flaunting. But, the brand stuck with its original narrative of, 'Fickle is fun', urging consumers to buy more from its extensive showcase. It doesn't matter if you have bags for every occasion, there's always room for more. The brand's previous tie ups with stars Kangana Ranaut and Kareena Kapoor played to a similar tune. The ad featuring Anushka asks, 'Why pick one?', while the one featuring Kangana urged, 'Don't stop at one'. While much of the brand's message remained the same, only the endorsing faces changed. For now, it seems like a race to get the buzziest face on board. The brand's ad agency Makani Creatives, calls it an attempt to 'go younger and cooler'.

War of the handbags: Can posing celebrities be a 'strategy'?

Lavie ad featuring Kangana Ranaut - 2016

War of the handbags: Can posing celebrities be a 'strategy'?

Lavie ad featuring Kareena Kapoor - 2012

Caprese, the handbag line from the house of VIP Industries, launched in 2012, underwent a shift in its positioning - from hi-fashion to lifestyle. The brand has retained Alia Bhatt as its face since 2014. Although the fashion brand's ad films feature a native actor for the 'Caprese Girl' campaign, it rides on swanky non-native music as the background score. The ads also showcase the brand's latest collections in an attempt at wooing the young Indian woman.

War of the handbags: Can posing celebrities be a 'strategy'?

The Caprese Girl ad featuring Alia Bhat

War of the handbags: Can posing celebrities be a 'strategy'?

Caprese ad featuring Alia Bhat for Spring Summer Collection

Baggit announced Shraddha Kapoor as its brand ambassador earlier this year. The brand team mentioned then, that it was Shraddha's 'vibrant, exciting and vivacious personality' that made her perfect fit for the brand. Apart from the brand's association with a pop face, its first ad communication post the association took on 'mansplaining', thus putting it in a socially proactive position. Previously, Baggit associated with actor Katrina Kaif just around the release of her movie Bang Bang in 2014. While the latest TVC wasn't much of a product showcase, the print ads from the #PutItOnTheTable campaign made up for the display. The brand's decision to take up a cause does give it an extra edge against others in the crowd.

War of the handbags: Can posing celebrities be a 'strategy'?

Baggit ad featuring Shraddha Kapoor

War of the handbags: Can posing celebrities be a 'strategy'?

Baggit's print ad

War of the handbags: Can posing celebrities be a 'strategy'?

Baggit's association with Katrina Kaif

However, with so much of similar communication in the segment, does it wear down the impact of advertising? Is an in-vogue face enough to boost sales?

Turning to experts

Kartik Smetacek, executive creative director, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi maintains that communication that looks and feels the same is the very definition of clutter.

War of the handbags: Can posing celebrities be a 'strategy'?

Kartik Smetacek

"However, branded bags as a segment isn't as crowded as other categories, so it probably isn't critical to stand apart. Since all three brands have essentially the same core ingredients - a next-gen actress and a new-age tone - I'd imagine consumers would struggle to tell them apart. Having said that, Baggit is definitely more differentiated than the other two, as it tries to own a more meaningful 'empowered woman' space," Smetacek says.

"In the absence of a strong product differentiator, it comes down solely to communication. Having a differentiated point of view and then being consistent with it is the key. It's what brands like Under Armour and Diesel have managed to do in an allied category like apparel," Smetacek adds.

"I think, in a category like handbags, the temptation is to go with the catalogue approach. While that definitely showcases width of product and perhaps spurs sales in the short-term, it also means you sacrifice building a differentiated brand over the long-term," Smetacek signs off.

War of the handbags: Can posing celebrities be a 'strategy'?

Sakshi Arora

Sakshi Arora, strategy director, Digitas, India says, “The quest to create a unique consumer perception by organized players in the handbags category has led to the marketing strategy of roping in different celebrity endorsers. While the intent for brands following this strategy is to create differentiation, the use of celebrities, similar communication themes and visual imagery have actually resulted in the contrary. Onboarding celebrities is a typical promotional tool for categories that do not need strong and unique RTBs. Handbags, being a fashion accessory, is one such category- where purchase decisions are made based on factors such as design and colour, while other parameters such as durability and size take a backseat. While celebrity endorsements may give these brands the initial push and get them noticed, indistinct imageries and a dearth of fresh and unique narratives may make it tough to create a lasting brand recall."

"As a case in point, the approach taken by ‘Baggit’ in their latest campaign is worth noting. Unlike other brands, the narrative here does not revolve around a celebrity. Instead, the focus is on leveraging a cultural context close to the consumer, with the celebrity fitting in the narrative. The brand story is bigger than the celebrity, which in my view will help the brand stand out and establish re-call, especially in a time when such creative communication styles are seldom explored in the category,” Arora adds.

Anusheela Saha, group creative director, FCB Ulka opines that it gets difficult to differentiate between brands with such repetitive and similar execution styles.

War of the handbags: Can posing celebrities be a 'strategy'?

Anusheela Saha

"Roping in in-vogue celebs can't be a strategy, the brand needs to stand for something and resonate a deeper purchase purpose. An in-vogue celeb can help to further that purpose," Saha says.

"All bag communication looks the same. Though there was something different when Lavie had done the original 'Fickle is Fun' or the Kareena Kapoor 'Black' commercial, but not anymore. Currently the commercials seem to be clones of themselves with a different A-list heroine endorsing it. Baggit, at least, tries to make a difference," Saha says.

Speaking on a must-do for brands in the segment, Saha says, "Not template-ise communication. Use a concept, an idea and not create catalogues in the name of commercials."

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