Saumya Tewari and Ashwini Gangal

Backlash Against Aamir Khan; Will Snapdeal Suffer?

Miffed by a statement Aamir Khan made about India's social reality, several angry netizens swear never to shop on, a brand the actor endorses, again. From the brand's perspective, is this kind of backlash entirely unfair? To what extent will brand Snapdeal suffer, if at all? And what should Snapdeal do in this regard, if anything? afaqs! explores.

Not very long ago, when Nestlé's Maggi came under the scanner for its ingredients, the celebrities who endorsed it faced some heat. At the time, we asked experts on the subject whether brand ambassadors are in any way liable when the products they endorse get into trouble.

Today, we're asking a related, yet different, question: When celebrities find themselves in controversies of their own - ones that have nothing to do with the brands they endorse - to what extent do these brands suffer?

Recently, at a public forum, actor Aamir Khan made a statement about the social reality of our country - a statement for which he has been facing a fair amount of 'virtual lynching', if you will, on social media. Angry netizens are vowing to uninstall the Snapdeal app and return to the site only if Khan is replaced.

Yesterday, Snapdeal issued an official statement on the matter. It reads: "Snapdeal is neither connected nor plays a role in comments made by Aamir Khan in his personal capacity. Snapdeal is a proud Indian company built by passionate young Indians focused on building an inclusive digital India. Every day we are positively impacting thousands of small businesses and millions of consumers in India. We will continue towards our mission of creating one million successful online entrepreneurs in India."

#BootOutSnapdeal is the hashtag angry Tweeple have taken to. Team Snapdeal has floated a hashtag of its own, #SnapdealForIndia. It was trending on November 25.

From the perspective of the online marketplace, is this sort of backlash entirely unfair? How best can Snapdeal extinguish this digital fire? Most importantly, will Snapdeal suffer any real damage?

We asked a few brand experts to opine on the subject. Edited Excerpts.

Shripad Nadkarni, co-founder, MarketGate, a brand consultancy

Backlash Against Aamir Khan; Will Snapdeal Suffer?
Will Snapdeal suffer? I don't think so.

Social media has provided a terrific platform to otherwise repressed souls; they can now have their two seconds of fame in this world. Today, take any statement or point of view.... you'll have the other side crying blue murder.

Twitter is an anonymous medium. It allows you to have a voice and people get excited by 'hearing' the sound of what they write. These are all voices which have to be ignored completely.

What has Snapdeal got to do with this? The official statement made by Snapdeal is a professionally worded disclaimer.

None of the e-commerce players is really building any kind of brand; they are just building transactions. Once a site offers a discount, people will go right back to it.

Leroy Alvares, president, digital services, GREY group India, an advertising agency

Backlash Against Aamir Khan; Will Snapdeal Suffer?
We are an emotional nation, and, in the short term, will be reactive. However, the benefit of the service and the value it brings to a consumer will always reign supreme in the long run.

When emotions run high, the best thing for a brand to do is to weather it out while offering a point of view. Appealing to the rational side through service and value brings the conversation and buzz back to the brand.

Love and hate are the only emotions in the social space and brands need to learn to live with it.

Manish Porwal, managing director, Alchemist Marketing & Talent Solutions, a marketing & talent solutions company

Backlash Against Aamir Khan; Will Snapdeal Suffer?
When brands hire celebrities, there are minor but associated risks involved. Sales went down for the brands Tiger Woods was endorsing when news about his infidelity went public. Brands get massive popularity because of celebrity endorsers but a downward spiral is also a possibility if things go wrong.

Social media's biggest disadvantage is that it is not controlled; everybody has equal share. Every single Twitter handle is a voice. In Snapdeal's case, the outrage could be fuelled by competitors.

This outrage is driven by the internet generation and a digital start-up like Snapdeal is an easy target. There is mob mentality at play here.

I do not think Snapdeal should do anything. It is business as usual; there are ups and downs.

Nimesh Shah, head maven, Windchimes Communications, a digital agency

Backlash Against Aamir Khan; Will Snapdeal Suffer?
Snapdeal has not done anything wrong. When you hire an ambassador, there are advantages and disadvantages. The personality of the ambassador brings consumers closer to the brand, but there are chances of a backlash too.

This is something every brand must be cognizant of when hiring celebrities. Celebrity endorsers have an emotional connect with consumers. This brings them closer to the brand. At the same time, it might trigger a backlash. Brands invest in the emotional connect, which can swing either way. There is no control that the brand has in such a situation.

Hence, Snapdeal need not do anything. Consumers who are giving the app a low rating (on Google Play Store), have been citing Aamir's statement as the reason. There is no direct remark on Snapdeal's service or products.

Backlash Against Aamir Khan; Will Snapdeal Suffer?
Saurabh Uboweja, CEO and chief brand strategist, Brands of Desire, a brand consultancy

Netizens' decision to shun Snapdeal is reactionary, irrational and laughable. It is herd mentality... or 'herd morality'. People have built pseudo consensus based on shallow reasoning.

This won't do much damage to Snapdeal in the long term. But the brand will have to temporarily suspend the endorsement of Aamir Khan to limit immediate damage.

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