There was a time not too long ago when one couldn’t possibly watch TV for 10 minutes at a stretch without bumping into an ad featuring Amitabh Bachchan. Oh no, switching channels didn’t help either. Over the years, a whole clutch of celebrity endorsers from Big B to Aamir Khan to Sachin Tendulkar (and his Visa power) have been manna to brands looking to catch consumer attention in a quick fix way. The problem arises when too many brands want to piggyback on one celebrity at the same time.
Consider how the latest army of celebrity endorsers — with Bajirao Mastani star Ranveer Singh leading from the front — is the face of several brands across a multitude of categories. Interestingly, the flavour of the season Ranveer Singh isn’t just delivering hits on the big screen — he endorses a whopping 15 brands currently (see table).
Sure, consumers are creatures of habit and the best way to get their attention is to draw them into comforting territory, which is where a familiar face a.k.a the celebrity steps in. But does familiarity breed contempt? When your endorser of choice is employed across categories all at the same time, can the risk of overexposure step in? Is your brand struggling to be heard above the din? Most of all, what are the chances of the consumer actually recalling your brand, as opposed to thinking of ‘that ad where Ranveer Singh danced so well’?
All over the place
Although not exactly promoting exclusivity, a school of thought propagates, ‘In a world where everyone is overexposed, the coolest thing you can do is maintain your mystery’. For a brand using a celeb endorser, this is equally hard or easy to achieve depending on the amount of attention it wishes to attract. Recent years have had brands experimenting with a variety of celebrity endorsers, like comedian Kapil Sharma, cricketer Virat Kohli, and actors such as Ranveer Singh, Kangana Ranaut, Ranbir Kapoor and Sushant Singh Rajput to name a few.
Most recently, Ching’s’ Ranveer Ching Returns created ripples for bringing back the brand’s protagonist Ranveer Ching, in a Rohit Shetty ad film (that’s a first). As its core consumers are the youth and young housewives, the zesty My name is Ranveer Ching campaign was launched in 2014.
The brand’s research showed that although the product was being consumed, the brand name was not getting the exposure it needed. Ajay Gupta, MD, Capital Foods (makers of Ching’s Secret), provides, “The objective was to plant the brand name in consumer minds and to increase the width of distribution. From being present in two to three states, we ended up accessing about six markets. Our business grew by 40-45% post the first ad film.”
The takeaway here? Ching’s credits Singh for having helped give a tone to the brand.Singh has been endorsing brands since 2014; that’s a lot of screen space covered within a very short span of time. Another brand that Singh endorses is Marico’s Set Wet deos, which he helped relaunch. The Sada Sexy Raho Dear campaign was launched in March 2016.
Anuradha Aggarwal, CMO, Marico says, “Subsequent to Set Wet’s association with Singh, we have witnessed a substantial positive movement on both the brand business and imagery parameters. We clocked the highest market share in the past two years,” she says.
Fair enough, but is there any such thing as too much of a good thing? How much exposure is overexposure?
KV Sridhar, CCO, SapientNitro, opines that brands need to decide for themselves how they define an ‘overexposed’ celebrity and how they plan to use the personality in their communication.
Let’s not forget, the main reason for bringing a celebrity on board is to get instant recall for the brand, which can then be further amplified by marketing efforts. “Suppose you have a campaign for R30 crore. Add to that another R20 crore for a celebrity,” Sridhar muses.
“Without a celebrity, R30 crore might give you R40-50 crore worth of impact. With a celebrity and a well crafted strategy, you may even stand to get R100 crore worth of impact. Amplification makes commercial sense,” he adds. Maximum bang for the buck can then be gained by deciding on how to utilise the celebrity — either you make the celebrity endorse your brand or you use them as a character.
Dheeraj Sinha, CSO, Leo Burnett, feels the trick is to not let the brand get overshadowed by any personality. “The best strategy is to use a celebrity as a part of the storyline rather than as themselves.” Else, staying true to the endorser’s personality is the key while having the story of the brand as the hero, he adds.
The fault in our stars?
Not all decisions of signing a celebrity are driven to connect straight to the consumer, believes Kiran Khalap, co-founder, chlorophyll. “Some of the decisions are made to influence the trade. It is a brand making a statement that I can afford a celebrity and advertising on television therefore I am a brand that trade should respect,” he notes.
Understanding the value of celebrity association to the brand is very important. Antony Rajkumar, EVP, integrated strategic planning, Leo Burnett, says that marketing organisations can sometimes be guilty of not giving it much thought. “One may appreciate a celebrity’s performance in movies or sports, but that cannot have any bearing on whether that particular celebrity would make the best endorser for your brand,” he states. “Ultimately the celebrity is not your brand!”
However, if the strategy is sound, overexposure might not necessarily be a bad thing. Ashish Patil, VP, Yash Raj Films, suggests, “There are content pieces that add value if you make the right choices in creating a more interesting personality outside of the films that you do.”
Hitesh Gossain, founder, Onspon.com, raises concerns that while celebrities are signed on enthusiastically, they are not utilised to their full potential. “Quite unlike the US where the contracts are for three-five years, we in India usually have one year contracts. That’s the challenge. Brand managers are not thinking strategically enough. There are some brands in India that have longer contracts. But overall, the thought process is short-term.”
For an A-category star the fee can range from R40 lakh to R4-5 crore per day. The Aamirs and Salmans would obviously start from the higher side. For a reasonably big celebrity like Singh, the value comes between R80 lakh to R1-1.5 crore per day.
Indranil Das Blah, COO, CAA KWAN notes that overexposure shouldn’t be treated as a deal breaker while deciding upon a celebrity. “There are ways to deal with it. Either you endorse a select number of brands or you sign on for more brands but portray widely different characters in those campaigns. Either way, you differentiate,” he says.
The hurdle then is not how often we see the oft-repeated celebrities, but how the brand recall factor comes in. Therein lies the trick.