Pranav Kosuri
Guest Article

Do brands stop thinking of ideas once they onboard a celebrity

Using a celeb only to beat media clutter, isn't just counterproductive, but also lazy marketing, says our guest author Pranav Kosuri.

What's it about celebrity-led campaigns that draw brands in? No doubt they give instant results to the brands over the short-term, and media push does become easier with a celeb onboard. However, in reality, celeb endorsement is a double-edged sword.

With the focus more on the celeb than the brand, these campaigns often lack authenticity, creativity and uniqueness, turning them into celeb-first rather than brand/idea-first. As a result, the brand fails to establish an authentic connection with its audience. 

Moreover, the conversation around the brand shifts when the celeb moves on to do another campaign, raising the question of his/her brand loyalty and making the peak of the marketing curve unstable. A case in point: Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Over the last three weeks, the two beverage giants have signed each other's brand ambassadors and released ads, without waiting a year or at least a couple of months. Ranveer Singh, who once was seen promoting Thums Up, can now be seen promoting the latest Pepsi ad. Shah Rukh Khan, too, has left his long-term partnership with Pepsi for Thums Up. 

We're at the last leg of festivities, and the past couple of months have seen many celeb collaborations. Reports suggest that between July and September 2022, 29% share of ads shown on TV, were endorsed by celebs. So, how come brands knowingly continue with the same strategy and not evolve it?

The biggest problem is thinking 'who' and not 'what' can best represent the brand. We live in a social media world where you're accountable for everything you say, endorse or do on the Internet - more so for people in the public eye. So, when there is an absolute personality mismatch between the celeb and the brand, it becomes hard for the audience, who can see the obvious contradiction, to believe in the brand. 

We look at the failures most brands make when working with a celeb and the myths that make brands repeat the same mistakes, below:

The pressure of trends and managing a celeb

Campaigning for an upcoming festivity or jumping on a trend often gives marketers much less time to brainstorm out-of-the-box ideas. Celebs are expensive and take up most of a campaign's budget. In such budget constraints, marketers are left with only generic options.

Brands also have to struggle with celebs' packed schedules, allowing them only a limited day for shooting. The ads' scripts are also reworked around the celeb so that they get substantial screen time and look good on screen, taking away the required detailed attention from the actual product. As a result, managing a campaign in a hurry often fails in quality. 

The need to be seen

There's a general belief among brands aspiring to grow and become market leaders that they will only be able to reach that height by associating with a celeb. Such pressure drives more and more celeb collaborations without any presence of mind.

Using a celeb only to beat media clutter, isn't just counterproductive but also lazy marketing. It's essential to ensure consistency, authenticity and relevance, where it appears that the celeb genuinely believes in the brand's proposition. 

The biggest competitor of marketers these days, is the availability of good online content produced by the general public. Today, everyone with a smartphone is a creator in some sense.

The most viewed clips on Reels, aren't the paid ones featuring celebs, but the user-generated ones. Content creators on Instagram Reels and TikTok have raised the benchmark for better quality content, making the public picky about the content they want to consume.

It's not enough for brands to be 'good' anymore. They need to be 'exceptional'. Sometimes, it's okay to assume that brands don't always have the best ideas, but they do have a pool of talent at their disposal - their audience, that most need to utilise.

What brands can do, instead of trying to compete with millions of talented people on the Internet or spending millions getting a celeb onboard, is to source public creativity and create content through a user-generated perspective. User-generated content will give the brand thousands of unique and organic content pieces it can choose from.  

Above all else, brands need to trust their idea over tweaking them to fit their respective ambassadors. If the brand's idea is strong, you can use anyone (celeb or not) that resonates with it.

If the overall creative idea has power, it can be amplified further using the power of the brand's community. By putting the power in the hands of the users, a brand can drive the message to many consumers and, thereby, increase revenue, build brand awareness and drive recurring sales.  

(Pranav Kosuri is co-founder, Brandie)

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