Aishwarya Ramesh

Adman Sandeep Goyal's 'Blogbuster' novel

From cars to water pipes to even paint and insurance policies, celebrity endorsers are everywhere. It's not just the endorsers who have changed over the years, the brands, their audience, the audience's tastes and preferences have all undergone tremendous changes as the world has changed with them. Sandeep Goyal, a veteran adman, has recently released a book titled, 'Blogbuster'. The book is a compilation of 100 of his blog posts that were researched and written based on current trending topics. The topics spanned over categories, such as marketing, advertising, brand communication, digital, social media and celebrities as brands.

Goyal began his career at HTA (now JWT, J. Walter Thompson) as an account executive in 1986. After a couple of stints at Trikaya (now Grey) and Interact Vision (part of DDB Mudra), he went on to become president of Rediffusion DY&R (now Rediffusion Y&R) between 1997 and 2001. Between 2001 and 2002, he worked as the group CEO of Zee Group. He has over 25 years of experience in the field of advertising, across mediums.

He calls Blogbuster a 'must-read' for all marketing professionals; as well as those who are interested in business and entrepreneurship. “My blogs are anchored in the real life experiences that I’ve had of handling some of India’s top brands. Also the vast experience I have had, not only in traditional advertising but also in the digital and mobile mediums. Since there was a lot of demand for these blogs as reading material and reference material, I thought of compiling the pieces in book form," he said.

According to him, his target audience is anyone who reads a pink paper, “Anyone in business, young entrepreneurs, students of business management and anyone else interested in topics related to management, marketing, advertising, brand-building and more.”

However, he notes that his blogs are not academic in nature, despite the audience that was reading the blogs. “They are practical analysis of varied subjects with easily understandable and usable perspectives. I try to put down my thoughts on every subject I write as a conversation, not as a discourse. The writing is not jargon heavy; it’s simple English with all arguments in a cogent and cohesive narrative that the reader can absorb without much effort," Goyal stated.

A recurring theme in the book are celebrity endorsements. Goyal writes in detail about how celebrity endorsers affect advertising efforts in various mediums. When asked whether celebrity endorsers still have an impact in today's world, he responded, “Yes, because celebrities have the power to trigger emulative action. That is, customers would want to do what the celebrity is doing. Buy what he is selling; wear what he is wearing; behave like the celebrity. Having said that, not every celebrity has the same ‘pull’ across domains or categories. Part of the problem stems from the fact that the top rung of celebrities are overexposed... they peddle too many brands, hence they dilute their own equity and brand power.”

Goyal opined that the clutter in the celebrity endorsements business has made recognition and recall a big problem. “Far too many brands are using famous faces as crutches. So consumers are wary of both the celebrity and the brand being pushed. It’s no secret that the celebrity is ‘hired help’ and is not endorsing the brand because he actually loves the brand," he said.

He pointed out that the selection of celebrities by brands is seemingly random due to the lack of data to help brand managers make informed choices. Goyal believes that the basis for a brand to select a celebrity endorser seems to be a function of personal liking, budgets and availability of the celebrity in question.

“I recently set up a think-tank, the Indian Institute of Human Brands, to study celebrities in greater detail. We are currently researching 172 celebrities on a sample size of 65,000 respondents. The research data should help brands choose celebrities better,” he added.

When asked if digital influencers can threaten celebrity endorsers, Goyal went on to say that influencers on the digital medium are 'potent forces' who are here to stay. According to him, the difference between celebrity endorsers and digital influencers can be explained through the analogy of carpet bombing versus precision targeting. “Bringing on a celebrity to endorse a brand is like carpet bombing because they are ‘generalists’... no specific interest or affinity. Bollywood stars to cricketers, they endorse anything and everything. But digital influencers are ‘specialists’ like they are into music or cuisine or travel or some such. Auto brands for example lean onto domain experts a lot,” he elaborated. Goyal believes that the narrow focus and specialisation that influencers have makes their work possibly more impactful.

“The only serious downside is the number of followers some influencers have is a bit suspicious. At times numbers are highly overstated. Hence ROI for brands may not be as good as it appears on paper,” he warned.

Goyal believes that there are six distinct lessons that a marketer or creative agency personnel can learn from the book:

1. Every new opportunity can be cashed in today’s environment and built upon. Categories have changed over the years. Established brands can no longer bank on just their lineage and customer franchise for market leadership.

2. Innovation is a short window of opportunity. If a brand is not fast enough to convert it into a competitive advantage, someone else will take it. So, speed of response is paramount.

3. Brands sell not just on image or popularity any longer. They sell because consumers see value in them. That value may in itself be a sheer price advantage. As long as that advantage exists, the brand can be in business. This is amply proved by multiple Chinese brands that have invaded and conquered the mobile devices market. These brands have little recall or recognition but they have an inalienable value proposition that they offer, which the consumer views favourably.

4. Advertising today is not just about informing or making aware. It’s not even about creating preference. It has become a business of dialogue and interaction where the brand and customer communicate all the time.

5. The millennial customer is a new animal. Driven by new stimuli and preferences. Price is important, but purpose is even more important. Functionality is important but sustainability is more important. The new customer begs new strokes, new thinking.

6. Technology will rule advertising, driven by data and data-driven insights. Artificial intelligence will lead to newer customer understanding, leading to better products and solutions across domains. No brand can consider itself safe and inert to the changes technology is ushering.

Sandeep Goyal is chairman, Mogae Media. He was founder chairman of Dentsu India, and former group CEO of Zee Telefilms. His book, Blogbuster, retails on Flipkart and Amazon for Rs. 395/-

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