Stars endorsing brands have become a part of every company’s marketing process. Outlaying crores of rupees for engaging them as brand ambassadors has become a reality. This happens in respect of almost all the products, and it does not require understanding and knowledge like CE products, shoes, apparels, food and beverages, cosmetic products, etc. But, today, the stars are seen throwing weights on the IT products as well.
The trend of star engagements started with vendors’ attempts to invite more and more media personnel and shutterbugs so that next day the product gets published on the front page of the newspapers and catches maximum eyeballs of the readers.
I think vendors like Samsung and LG have been engaging in this exercise more often than others. Sometimes, Samsung brings Boman Irani and Mandira Bedi duo to launch their lifestyle products; at other time Raima Sen and Pariza Zorabian are pulled in to launch IT products for them. Similarly, LG has brought in Esha Deol and Deepika Padukone to create a similar impact. Some time back, Microsoft had pulled in Akshay Kumar to launch Xbox 360, who made an entry on to the stage from the sky. Even though these are the smaller stints of the Bollywood super stars with the IT companies, but these small engagements also make holes into the marketing budgets of the enterprises.
This has, however, inspired the vendors to engage the celebrities for a longer time as brand ambassadors. It perhaps started with Lenovo and HP, who engaged Saif Ali Khan and Soha Ali Khan, and Shah Rukh Khan. This perhaps started the trend of engaging stars for IT companies. Soon, Acer roped in Hrithik Roshan for its range of notebooks and PC products.
Engaging Bollywood stars for a longer period for a brand is not a mean task as it involves crores of rupees. The net impact is also huge. It positively reflects on the balance sheet.
According to V. Ramachandran, Director – Sales & Marketing, LG Electronics India Pvt. Ltd., “Celebrities have always added special value to brands. Celebrities create positive feelings towards brands, connect user to brand and are perceived by consumers as more entertaining. Using a celebrity in advertising or for any other type of communication for brand building is likely to positively affect consumers’ brand preference, brand attitude, brand association and purchase intentions. The impact of celebrity endorsement on any brand as well as on consumer’s purchase decision is very critical.”
LG, at the moment, has Abhishek Bachchan as the brand ambassador for consumer durables.
He adds, “The reason behind such effect is that Bollywood stars and the cricketers help in high retention of message in the psyche of the audience for a longer period. Also, the brand images built through these celebrities achieve a higher degree of attention from consumers, which eventually leads to higher sales.”
In fact, globally, HP has signed up with bigger sports stars but as far as India is concerned, it has the Bollywood power. Shubhodip Pal, Head of Consumer Marketing, Personal Systems Group, HP India, says, “Globally, HP has signed up Tennis Serena Williams, supermodel Petra Nemcova, cultural icon Jay-Z and in India we have associated with the Bollywood’s No.1 star Shah Rukh Khan for endorsing our Compaq Presario range of notebooks and desktops.””
He adds, “We are the market leaders in computing devices across all categories and the outcome of association with Shah Rukh Khan has helped us in creating a better brand positioning by reaching out to the masses. With Shah Rukh Khan, we have been able to build our proposition of empowerment and education, enabling people to recognize their dreams with their PCs. We are glad that our messaging has helped us foster trust and draw attention…all of which has translated into higher sales for our brand.”
Actually, Hindi films have maximum reach throughout the world and also the fact that SRK acts as one of the key influencers for the Indian consumers, the star power comes into picture. And, with SRK, HP has taken the brand closer to the consumers.
Shubhodip says, “With the very fact that we have associated with Shah Rukh Khan is because he embodies success, confidence and smartness. Immensely stylish, smart and the choice of one and all, he has made his mark in every field he has chosen. Compaq Presario is the No. 1 brand in the country and it was but natural to be associated with the No. 1 actor in the country. As an actor who has always believed in making movies with a universal appeal, we felt him to be the apt choice to promote a brand which is loved and admired by all.”
If HP had taken help of the celebrities to consolidate its market, Lenovo, on the other hand, had some compelling reasons to do so. After being dissociated from brand IBM, Lenovo had almost crash-landed on an identity crisis because of the Chinese connection. And, they had picked up Saif Ali Khan and Soha Ali Khan who are known to be creating new standards in the Bollywood circuit.
For some time now, Hrithik Roshan has been endorsing Acer branded notebooks. S. Rajendran, Chief Marketing Officer, Acer India, says, “Acer as a company has grown at a phenomenal rate over the 5–6 months. Our growth across product categories like NBs and TFTs has tripled and on DTs we would have doubled our numbers from Q1 07. Part of the credit for this phenomenal growth can certainly be attributed to increased brand recall and connect with the target audience resulting from our association with Hrithik Roshan.”
In the meantime, the digital camera major Kodak has signed up Katrina Kaif, the cine diva, as their brand ambassador. It is clearly to give a push to the weakening market of Kodak digital cameras in India. As per the company sources, Katrina has class and attitude, besides her Bollywood and modelling credentials. And, Kodak stylish range of digital cameras also exuded class, performance and a unique and exquisite user style. Katrina has a dreamy and innocent look, which well goes with the range of cameras of Kodak.
However, the value of the product is the greatest endorser of the brand and the example of Acer. If one analyses the growth of Acer products, one should check the reality that Acer has added a lot of features to each line of its products in order to stand different than the competition. He also agrees, “A significant part of this growth also is due to the new product lines which we have introduced, streamlining of our channel operations and claims processes, expansion and consolidation in our retail operations apart from focussed programmes like the SMB/SME focussed Star VARs programme. In summary, it has been a good mixture of marketing backed by solid product strategy that has worked in our favour.”
Telecom product vendors and service providers have taken full advantage of these celebrities. And, Abhishek Bachchan, I think, is at the forefront of the race. AB baby is grown up now and after his heroic and swashbuckling stints in almost all the flicks, has stood out to be the favourite choice of the vendors and service providers. Apart from Motorola and Idea, he has now been roped in by LG Electronics for their overall branding. Similarly, Shah Rukh Khan known as SRK is now the brand ambassador for Airtel. And, Ajay Devgan and Kajol are seen in the promos of TataIndicom. Some time back, Reliance Infocomm had Virendra Sehwag on board as their brand ambassador. But, with the fading of Viru’s form with the bat, Reliance Infocomm distanced themselves from the Viru brand.
On the other side, sports stars are also roped in by various IT brands. For example, lesser known PC brand Chirag, which is based out of Kolkata, has launched Sourav Ganguly as their brand ambassador. Similarly, Canon has appointed Sachin Tendulkar as their brand ambassador.
It is a fact that cricketers are not seen so attractive investment as far as IT companies are concerned compared to the film stars because the sports stars have good phase and bad phase. And, their winning and losing actually swings the mood of the consumers and their affinity towards them.
However, Canon is going gung-ho with Sachin Tendulkar.It is a fact that Sachin is an idol of cricket fanatic nation like India, whether he is on the field or off the field.
Alok Bharadwaj, Vice-President, Canon India, says, “Our objective in partnering with Sachin was to create a brand appeal for Canon in the hearts of consumers. I can confidently say that we have been very successful in doing so. For the past one year that this association has existed, Sachin as our brand ambassador has worked immensely in our favour not only in terms of increasing brand recall among the consumers but also in terms of proving beneficial to the business across all our digital imaging products.”
He adds, “The strategic endorsement deal has managed to equate Canon products with Sachin’s appeal. For us, Sachin has not only been instrumental in increasing the brand awareness but this increase in the awareness and the emotional connect between the consumers and the Canon brand, facilitated by him, has indirectly translated into an increase in our market share.”
In 2007, Canon India was celebrating its 10th anniversary and for the past nine years, Canon has been making significant investments in launching new products, appointing channel partners, expanding its infrastructure, growing the Canon employee base and developing them. And thereafter, there was a need to appoint a brand ambassador and the company roped in Sachin Tendulkar, who represents and reflects the ideals of Canon. Canon stands for a perfect mix of performance, care and reliability. Sachin is a national hero with universal appeal, who compliments Canon brand values of being trustworthy and innovative. He is undoubtedly a cricketing icon who has been recognized worldwide for his cricketing performances. His consistency and appeal reflect the dependability and excellence that Canon stands for. Sachin is the pulse of India who appeals to all the segments of the Indian society – young and old, urban and rural, fashion-conscious and the intelligentsia. Canon feels that he can connect and carry on the brand image very well to the–‘middle of the pyramid’. Alok adds, “Sachin Tendulkar is the corporate brand ambassador for Canon for three years in the first phase. We signed him on in the beginning of 2007.”
Do celebrities influence the channel sales also? The answer is yes, because the channel sells those products which are in demand. And, because of the brand awareness created by the celebrities, it becomes the channel to push the product easily. Alok endorses this reality, “Since 2007, Sachin has been a part of different Canon advertising campaigns, corporate events, 10th anniversary celebrations as well as retail, press and outdoor campaigns. We have also leveraged this association for our distributors and trade colleagues. Sachin is a brand and essentially it is a long-term association that we are initiating with this brand.”
Secondly, these days, sales in Acer-branded notebooks are on the rise through the channel market. It is because of brand ambassador Hrithic. Not only that, the LCD monitors and projectors of the company are on the rise also. The resellers only need to push the products a little.
But ambassadors can have a negative impact on the brand. BenQ India’s Marcomm Head, Ish Bawa, says, “An ambassador must communicate the persona of the brand. Though celebrities help in getting quick recognition, but there could be a problem of multiple endorsements. Often, celebrities become more popular than the brand they endorse, which is known as ‘dwarfing of the brand’. Unless the celebrity’s values, the category benefit and the brand values are closely linked, there are chances that the celebrity is remembered more than the brand he is advertising for. Unless category and celebrity are closely linked (like Nike and sports stars), the power of a celebrity’s word is questionable.”
He adds, “Celebrities get associated with too many products and therefore it is difficult to relate them with one particular brand. In fact, it could be dangerous for a brand if the celebrity is not careful while selecting the brands that he would like to endorse. Here, I don’t mean just competition brand but also the persona of the different brands whether or not they are similar in audience profiling and also personality.” Secondly, the personal life of the celebrity can have an adverse effect on the brand he/she associates with. Hence, while identifying a celebrity, it is important to understand both the on- and off-screen lifestyle.
Even though there are various thoughts attached to engaging the stars with IT brands, it is a fact that stars create a positive impact in the minds of the consumers about a brand. The star power can easily lift the entire brand, leave apart a single product line. And, on the issue of celebrity’s adverse impact, the brands are clever enough to handle these issues. Therefore, brand Shah Rukh Khan is considered more powerful than brand Amitabh Bachchan.
Shubhodip’s explanation on engaging Amitabh Bachchan means exactly the same: “We are the No. 1 brand in India across all the categories in the PC space and we already have association with the No. 1 personality in the Bollywood. As said, Shah Rukh Khan is the Bollywood King. We are very happy with his association with the brand and lately we have also extended our contract with him. It is this unique blend of qualities like success, performance, perfection, professionalism, passion, universal appeal and the best in class that also personify the Compaq Presario range of products and bring alive the association with each other. In a nutshell, he is best suited for our range of products.”