Bucking the norm in India, Vivo has replaced a young brand ambassador with an older one. Does it have anything to do with Aamir's rising popularity in China?
"Exceeding expectations, outdoing the ordinary, Aamir Khan is the new face of Vivo, #he'smadeformore," - these were the words that greeted us along with an image of the 'Dangal' star who, as the details indicate, has been pronounced the new brand ambassador for Vivo. The Chinese smartphone manufacturing giant roped in Khan as a replacement for Ranveer Singh. Singh has emerged lately as a youth icon and there are many brands willing to punt on him. Also, in India, we are accustomed to witnessing the younger breed replacing the older when it comes to endorsements; recently, we have seen Ranveer Singh replace Salman Khan as brand ambassador of Thums Up. Rewind a little, and other examples of youngsters replacing their senior counterparts surface, such as: Ranbir Kapoor (in place of Shah Rukh Khan) for Pepsi, Alia Bhatt (after Priyanka Chopra) for Garnier. Thus, this announcement emerges as one of those exceptions to the rule where an older celebrity has replaced a younger one.
Vivo is the title sponsor of the upcoming cricketing extravaganza - the Indian Premier League (IPL). Numerous brands will put their ads up on TV and all will attempt to be creatively different from the other. An announcement like this, almost on the eve of the IPL, makes it clear that Vivo wants exclusivity, is what co-founder of Kwan Vijay Subramaniam feels. He says, "Aamir adds credibility to anything and everything he does, he is a symbol of authenticity. Also, every big star today has 19-20 brands, but you can count Aamir's endorsements, over the last 10 years, on your fingertips. He has always been sacred about his brands." A point well made because during the last IPL, Ranveer, Alia and Deepika were taking selfies in a loop, every second ad had either of the three. Harish Bijoor, brand guru and founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. also believes that Khan is a standout, "Aamir stands out on the count of being a rare star brand endorser as opposed to Ranveer, in whose case, endorser promiscuity is high," says Bijoor.
Samsung has been ruling the Indian market for the last six years as the largest selling smartphone manufacturer. But the South Korean giant is now heavily challenged by Chinese counterparts. As per Canalys, in terms of shipment, Xiaomi has beaten Samsung in the final quarter of 2017. According to the technology market analyst firm, Xiaomi has shipped 8.2 million smartphones in the final quarter of the year while Samsung shipped 7.3 million. The same firm states that in 2017, Samsung led the market with 24 per cent market share, followed by Xiaomi with 19 per cent and Vivo with 10 per cent. Vivo's market share in 2016, in India, was 5 per cent so the brand doubled its market share with Singh as brand ambassador, so why would they replace him? "It is a mystery and it best remains that," says Harish Bijoor. He adds, "Aamir is a most unlikely replacement for Raveer in terms of the image of IPL."
Khan's growing popularity in China has 100 per cent played a role is making him the smartphone manufacturer's brand ambassador, feels Subramaniam. "Look at the recent Secret Superstars number; Dangal was a phenomenal success, so his popularity in the local market indeed played a role in the decision making," he adds. The 2017 movie, Secret Superstar, was released in China in early 2018 and the movie grossed $117 million. Before this, Dangal did business of about $193 million.
A senior analyst, on condition of anonymity, says, "The biggest challenge for Chinese brands in India is to garner trust. People consider Chinese phones akin to content on torrents. Since the last six years, Samsung has been selling itself by promoting it as India's most trusted brand. Also, Vivo today, does not need an ambassador to ensure reach, the IPL, PKL are enough to get them that; they need weight, a respectable stature across all age-groups. Ranveer is limited to the youth; Aamir is respected by all age-groups."
The analyst also feels that Vivo wants to establish itself as a premium brand in India, something that OnePlus has also been trying to accomplish and Khan brings in the premium quotient simply because of the numbers he is normally associated with. "You won't see Aamir in a flop; you won't see him associated with a cheap brand like Pan Masala; you won't see him doing dirty comedy or talking nonsense on 'Koffee with Karan', so he is a premium, respected by the youth as well as the CXOs."
Khan charges a premium too when it comes to brand endorsements; his per day charges are close to Rs 6 crores, while Ranveer's is estimated at around Rs 3 crores. "Only getting Aamir won't establish Vivo as a premium brand in India; Xiaomi too is after similar positioning," says Bijoor. Vivo has been spending heavily on marketing in India, the biggest one is the Rs 2199 crore IPL contract. Xiaomi, which is number two in India in terms of market share, has hardly spent anything on advertising blitzkrieg. They followed the 'flash sale' model where a limited number of products were sold on a particular day on e-commerce platforms like Flipkart and Amazon. The flash sale generates word-of-mouth and brands are using it as a marketing tool.
While Khan's film numbers are undisputed, he, as a brand ambassador, did face dispute after making statements about a "growing sense of disquiet and despondency in the country." #AppWapsi was trending for several days on social media platforms and people were uninstalling the Snapdeal (the brand he was endorsing then) app. "It's just in the past now," says Subramaniam. Bijoor also echoes the sentiment, "Yes, all that is beyond Aamir. I am sure he will be doubly careful."
Khan is set to make his first public appearance as the brand ambassador for Vivo at the launch event of Vivo's flagship variant the 'V9', today, in Mumbai.