Ananya Pathak

Google Pay’s product director is the hero of the brand’s latest advert

After Trivago and Xiaomi, Google Pay uses a 'Googler' in its recent spot. We set out to find if employees are more credible endorsers than celebrities.

Lately, brands across segments are leaning towards using their own employees in their communications. Google Pay, the digital wallet and online payment system developed by Google, has made its product director the hero in its newly released spot. Sharath Bulusu, the protagonist in the one-minute-35-seconds-long film, talks about the security and safety of using the app and about digital frauds, while roaming in Hyderabad’s Charminar Bazaar. The ad has been conceptualised by Dentsu Webchutney.

Speaking about the ideation of the film, Sapna Chadha, senior country marketing director, Southeast Asia and India, Google, tells us, “As digital payment grows in India on the back of UPI, we think it is critical that user awareness about safety while paying digitally, also grows in tandem. That is the idea behind the film.”

Sapna Chadha
Sapna Chadha

But why an employee and not a celebrity face? “We preferred to use a Googler, instead of a celebrity because we believe we are the best advocates of Google products. This is something we've done across the world for several of our offerings. Our products are used by billions of users around the world, and especially on the topic of trust and safety, we believe the most authentic communication can happen when users see the people behind the product,” Chadha comments.

The ad has a pan India focus, targeting all users of digital payments in India.

When hotel price comparison website Trivago launched its first campaign with the ‘not so cool’ face of Abhinav Kumar in March 2017, everyone took notice. Out of curiosity, netizens Googled - ‘Who is this Trivago guy’, only to be amazed to learn that he wasn’t a model or a celeb, but the brand’s own employee. Kumar a.k.a ‘Trivago guy’, who was the brand's country head at the time, became fodder for memes because of his average looks and comical dialogue delivery. But he became firmly imprinted in public consciousness together with the brand’s name, clearly fulfilling the marketing strategy to familiarise people with the brand.

So, was this a planned move by the brand to use its own employee in the campaign? In an interview, Kumar told us, “We generally don't use famous faces for our advertising efforts. Our brand and what it offers people is more important than putting a famous face next to our name. We want to focus on educating people on the simple ways that Trivago can save them time and money. Having a local spokesperson, who is no different from the people who use Trivago, is more telling than a celebrity endorsement."

While listing brands that are using their own employees to communicate, we also took note of Manu Kumar Jain, global vice president, Xiaomi and managing director, Xiaomi India, who has grown to become the face of the brand. Jain has an enormous following on social media, with two lakh people following his handle on Twitter. He has been with the company since the start of its India chapter in 2014. From communicating with the #MiFans personally over digital medium, Jain has been a part of many of the brand films and aggressively shares offers, discounts and schemes by the brand on his Twitter handle.

In an interview with afaqs!, Jain mentioned, “Our marketing is driven mainly by three things: social media, the Mi Fan community and word of mouth. If you look at our social media pages, including mine or our team members', you'll see that many of our pages are rated as some of the most active pages on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. 85 per cent of people who buy Xiaomi phones in India are between the age group of 18 and 34. While they may or may not be the end users, they are the decision makers. And so, these people are Xiaomi's brand ambassadors. Which is why I have always said that we don't have big Bollywood stars or the Khans - we actually have fans.”

Does this mean that an employee’s appearance holds more credibility than a hot-shot celeb/model face in a brand’s communication? We reach out to industry experts to find out.

Edited excerpts.

Kshitij Rajoria, brand strategy partner, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi

Brands employ ambassadors in order to make the messaging stand out and enhance engagement. While both celebrities and employees deliver on the above two asks, what is critical is the relevance of the communication objective and the expression.

Kshitij Rajoria
Kshitij Rajoria

While decreasing consumer attention spans need the power of celebrities, their effective use is what ensures that the message stays with the consumer. In a world of over-used celebrities, the over-indexed-regular employee ambassador stands out and adds a layer of authenticity. But there is no one formula that fits all brands / categories / mediums because today’s differentiation is tomorrow’s norm. Which takes us back to the one thing that really matters more than employee / celebrity : consumer relevance of the messaging and the expression.

Naved Aqueel, senior VP, Magnon eg+

Brands using consumer endorsements has been an age old strategy. Dentists recommending a toothpaste, or a mother endorsing a brand that sells products for children's nutrition, or a farmer talking of the benefits of a new tractor are all examples of consumers who have used and believe in those products. This has always made the brand relatable for their end users.

Naved Aqueel
Naved Aqueel

It is certainly exciting to see brands taking this approach to the next level now, where their internal employees are an integral part of the brand communication.

If we take an inference from Vineet Nayar’s “Employees First, Customers Second”, employees need to be first convinced about their own brand, which will lead to external customer faith. As a result, making these internal employees part of the communications exudes conviction and trust, and in parallel, makes the product more relatable for the end user.

Arun Raman, head of strategy and planning, Grey Group India

The fact is that credibility comes from people who work within. Who knows what a brand or product is better than a person from inside? You may call it credibility building or anything, but at the end of the day it is an endorsement. And for that, the face needs to be a known face. Imagine a scenario with Microsoft and Bill Gates or Google and Sundar Pichai. Their faces are known and they are extremely credible because they know their institutions well.

Arun Raman
Arun Raman

Using employees as a credible source of what your brand wants to stand for alone is insufficient. That could be a strategy. What’s more important is, who that employee is and who the outside world knows.

If we speak of the Trivago guy, I am sure he was extremely passionate about the organisation, but how many people out there, except for the people in the industry, know him as an employee rather than just a model?

I believe, using employees as endorsers is a great strategy for those brands that are having trust deficit at any point of time, but that employee has to be a known face. The employee needs to have credibility beyond his organisation or industry, if you want to put him on mass media.

Have news to share? Write to us