What do celebrities Virat Kohli, Alia Bhatt, Shruti Haasan and Diljit Dosanjh have in common? Well, a Gionee smartphone. All of them are brand ambassadors for the Chinese smartphone vendor in India. In a country where Bollywood and cricket are two reigning aspects of pop culture, Gionee sure has got its strategy right by betting on so many brand ambassadors to connect with Hindustanis. The brand roped in Kohli and Bhatt, and also got on board Shruti Haasan (for Tamil and Telugu markets), Diljit Dosanjh (for the north Indian market) and Dulquer Salmaan (for the Malayalam-speaking audience) to further strengthen its regional connect with consumers and the trade. “With careful selection and preparation, we are happy to keep our customer base engaged by associating with these luminaries as our brand ambassadors,” says Arvind Vohra, MD and CEO, Gionee India.
Gionee has plans to almost double its marketing budget to around Rs 750 crore in 2017-18 from Rs 400 crore in the last fiscal. It further plans to focus largely on offline retail in India and not venture into the online sales channel, unless e-commerce players agree to sell at the price set by the manufacturer. “Our focus is on establishing a strong customer-connect, which has been a key growth driver for us in the country,” says Vohra while highlighting that today Gionee has a presence in 42,000 retail outlets across 2,200 cities pan India. It foresees a growth of 2.5 times in 2017-18 after securing revenue of $1.4 billion (Rs 9,500 crore) since Gionee’s inception in the country in 2013.
Part of pop culture
For a brand entering a new country, it is very important to be a part of the pop culture if it wants to claim a sizeable market share. Thus, Gionee associated with the top youth icons from the biggest religions in the country today — cricket and Bollywood. Apart from getting the celebrities on board, it has been associated with the Kolkata Knight Riders team of IPL since 2014 and also secured the jersey sponsorship of Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2017.
According to a study by GroupM on IPL 2017, Royal Challengers Bangalore had been the second-most favoured team this IPL season and Kolkata Knight Riders had the highest social media presence. “All of these have acted as direct value additions and made a mutually profitable association for us with both these teams,” says Vohra.
But with a fistful of brand endorsers, is there a risk of high brand noise and clutter? Brand guru Harish Bijoor believes that today is the day and age of promiscuity, so signing on multiple ambassadors is better. “Gone are the days when brands would depend on a solo brand ambassador. Brands such as Taj Mahal tea depended on Ustaad Zakir Hussain for years. But then those were the good old, dependable days,” he says.
Multiple brand ambassadors, all talking the same brand language and messaging works well for a brand as it helps the brand get a larger-than-life feel. It can make consumers believe that there are a whole host of celebrities rooting for the brand.
Also, with Oppo and Vivo chasing and investing heavily on cricket and sports leagues, it is sensible for any brand to look at other options.
The company believes that its association with ambassadors and the peppy tune of #Selfiestan featuring Bhatt and Kohli, has helped Gionee to hit a user base of 1.25 crore in India. Following the launch of A1, which coincided with the rollout of the Selfiestan campaign, it had received pre-orders of 74,682 units, worth around Rs 150 crore in the first 10 days.
Catering to a customer segment that is young, dynamic and expressive, Gionee’s various campaigns under the umbrella of Selfiestan aim to give ‘Hindustan ki selfies’ to every selfie lover in India. All of these celebrities highlight the core values of Selfiestan which is about expressing and celebrating one’s moments and feelings. There are many who believe that a multiple ambassador strategy along with focussing on its core ‘selfie’ feature will work well for the brand. But there is another school of thought. “The whole ‘selfie’ marketing strategy has been done to death by numerous brands. This won’t let any brand stand out,” says Navin Khemka, managing partner, Maxus India. However, having multiple brand ambassadors hedges the brand’s risk from the ill-doings of any one star. “If one of your brand ambassadors gets involved in a controversy, your brand still has many other stars to bank upon,” adds Bijoor.
This, of course, has its share of disadvantages too; the brand swims amidst multiple imageries that these brand endorsers bring to the party. Therefore, while selecting brand ambassadors, one needs to keep in mind the binding link between the brand and its core brand proposition. With India being a homogeneous market, connecting with consumers across geographies is critical. This explains Gionee’s association with select and dynamic celebrities under the #Selfiestan banner as it hopes to bring consumers closer to the brand.