Bollywood brand power taking a hit | The Financial Express

Bollywood brand power taking a hit

After a string of box-office duds

Bollywood brand power taking a hit
Ad tech professionals point out that marketers and endorsers have many tools in their hands today to bolster campaigns after the celebrity endorser has done the first task of drawing attention.

By Alokananda Chakraborty

As companies and their agencies get on with the job of finalising their marketing strategies and budget for the next year, the question many of them are grappling with this time is whether the A-list of Bollywood actors continue to be value for the enormous money they charge as brand ambassadors.

The reason is obvious: The brand value of these stars may have taken a few hard knocks because of the string of box-office duds that they have delivered in recent times.

The early signals aren’t looking good for the Bollywood brigade as the “southern wave” has reached its shores. Coca-Cola last month launched its first original song, Memu Aagamu, a dance-pop number that fuses Hindi, Korean and English lyrics with a Telugu hook phrase “memu aagamu, asalu aagamu” (meaning “we won’t stop, we really won’t stop”). And Telugu actor Allu Arjun, one of the highest paid in India, was roped in for it. The Pushpa actor also features in the new KFC campaign.

There’s more. McDonald’s has named Rashmika Mandanna of Geetha Govindam fame as its brand ambassador; and Parle Agro has signed on Ram Charan and Junior NTR to endorse Frooti and Appy Fizz.

Arvind RP, director of marketing and communications, McDonald’s India West and South, says “this is an exciting time for marketers since the pool of brand ambassador choices has really grown”.

A parallel development is that many brands have started looking at social media influencers as viable endorsers. According to GroupM INCA’s India Influencer Marketing Report, this market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25% till 2025 to reach a size of `2,200 crore. “Over the last few years, brands have shown significant interest in influencer marketing. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of influencer marketing by brands, making them an important part of our media mix recommendation to brands,” Prasanth Kumar, CEO, GroupM South Asia, said.

Various agency dipsticks show that an overwhelming majority of millennial consumers are influenced by the recommendations of their peers in buying decisions. Surveys show about 25-30% of consumers are likely to buy a product recommended by a non-celebrity blogger as they can relate more to these influencers and value their opinions more than that of celebrity influencers.

“Prices (of Bollywood A-listers) have not really dropped,” says Sandeep Goyal, managing director at Rediffusion. “But the impact will be felt in a few months as most brand owners are exploring options and researching alternatives. Then the negotiations will begin.” Observers say there won’t be a crash but a price correction is inevitable.

There are some who do not agree with this theory of fading brand power of Bollywood A-listers. A brand communication strategist says, “star power is not as fragile as it is made out to be.”

“Look at how Amitabh Bachchan came back from the brink in his acting career and is still the most sought after brand endorser. When Cadbury had to assuage consumer concerns after the early 2000s worm infestation crisis, they got Amitabh. Maggi followed the same route. That pull factor persists. He is the host of KBC, which is into its 14th season, based on a format that is 25-year-old,” he adds.

Ambi Parameswaran, brand strategist and founder, says, “some flops will not diminish their appeal – all of them have had flops in the past. I am not sure if a mass market brand will want to give up on a Bollywood star and rope in an OTT actor. In the past, stars used to demand what they felt was their god-given right. Brands now will get some elbow space to negotiate better.”

Ad tech professionals point out that marketers and endorsers have many tools in their hands today to bolster campaigns after the celebrity endorser has done the first task of drawing attention. They are leveraging artificial intelligence for lead scoring to determine who their most profitable customers are. The marketing teams can then send campaigns with targeted incentives and rewards to these customers, and spend less time on those with low purchase intent. Net-net, they say, the success or failure of a brand campaign today is not exclusively dependent on the celebrity per se as was the case before technology changed the rules of the game.

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