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Guest Article: Prabhakar Mundkur: Why Brand Ambassadors Get Dumped

Aamir Khan's removal as Incredible India's brand ambassador is not a unique case. We talk about what celebrities can learn from the fiasco.

Amitabh Kant of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion in India justified why Bollywood actor Aamir Khan had to be sacked as the brand ambassador for Incredible India.

Guest Article: Prabhakar Mundkur: Why Brand Ambassadors Get Dumped
"A brand ambassador promotes a brand. People will come to India and the tourist flow will increase only if the brand ambassador of Incredible India promotes India as incredible India. But, if the brand ambassador of India says India is intolerant, he is surely not working as a brand ambassador of India," Kant says.

In other words, Incredible India, according to him, had lost its incredibility!

I sometimes think that it is not so easy being a brand ambassador. Because when you sign up a brand you pledge allegiance to the brand. As the number of brands that you endorse keep growing, you pledge your allegiance to several brands.

Guest Article: Prabhakar Mundkur: Why Brand Ambassadors Get Dumped
Is the removal of Aamir Khan as brand ambassador a unique case? Not really.

Rihanna and Nivea

Guest Article: Prabhakar Mundkur: Why Brand Ambassadors Get Dumped
Singer Rihanna, who is mostly known for making headlines for wardrobe malfunctions, was caught leaving Ashton Kutcher's house at 4 am, and throwing up outside night clubs. Following such incidents, Rihanna was sacked as the brand ambassador for Nivea.

"Rihanna is a no go... I do not understand how to bring the core brand of Nivea in conjunction with Rihanna," said Nivea's CEO, Stefan Heidenreich. He explained, "Nivea is a company which stands for trust, family and reliability."

Now, it would seem that he should have known that Rihanna does not exactly stand for trust, family and reliability even before she was hired as an ambassador for Nivea. In this case, it just seems like a bad fit of brand and ambassador that was justified only at the time of sacking Rihanna.

Sharon Stone and Christian Dior

Guest Article: Prabhakar Mundkur: Why Brand Ambassadors Get Dumped
Hollywood actress Sharon Stone, known for her (in)famous interrogation scene in the film Basic Instinct, in which she uncrossed her legs under the suggestion that she was not wearing underwear, was sacked by Dior when she made an inappropriate comment about the earthquake in China. Dior felt that she had made insensitive remarks about the earthquake that killed 68,000 people. "They're not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who is a friend of mine," Sharon Stone had said. "And, then, this earthquake and all this happened and I thought, is that karma? When you're not nice, do bad things happen to you?"

Adele refuses endorsements

Guest Article: Prabhakar Mundkur: Why Brand Ambassadors Get Dumped
Adele recently detailed all endorsement deals she had refused. She said she didn't want to be the face of anything because she doesn't need anything but her music to contribute to 'self-branding'.

Some lessons to be learnt by celebrities

1. You can never be yourself. You have to be watchful in the public eye, because you are always going to be under scrutiny.

2. The more the number of brands you endorse, the tougher life is going to be at a personal level. After all, the ramifications of every statement have to be examined. Who would have thought that Sharon Stone's remark about karma could affect the whole Chinese market for Dior?

3. Anything which you say, either direct or indirect, which has an implication on the brand, its market, its target consumer, or its reputation, could make you liable to get dumped as brand ambassador.

4. Improper personal behaviour as in the case of Rihanna means that your public image as a brand ambassador is very important to the brand. If that image is not morally of the highest order, is indecent or vulgar, it could affect the image of the brand you endorse. Tiger Woods is a good example, where his personal behaviour jeopardised many an endorsement.

And, of course, there is a high price to pay in terms of personal behaviour for the atrociously large fees that celebrities are known to charge for brand endorsements.

If you are a spokesperson for a brand, you may just have given up the freedom of expressing your innermost feelings and being a spokesperson for yourself!

(The author is chief mentor, Percept H)

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