Celebrity endorsements: Why Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘trust’ factor should become a touchstone

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New Delhi | Published: October 29, 2018 5:08:28 AM

SRK saying trust in brand key to endorsement shouldn't be made the touchstone of celeb endorsement.

Shah Rukh Khan said in a recent interview to The Indian Express that celebrities should “trust” a product before endorsing it. (File photo: AP)

Film star and ambassador for a bunch of brands, from soaps to cars, Shah Rukh Khan said in a recent interview to The Indian Express that celebrities should “trust” a product before endorsing it. While it is unclear what Khan meant by trust, this opens the doors for a dangerous regulatory approach on celebrity endorser’s liability, one that makes the endorser liable for a product’s shortcomings. The Maggi controversy—at great cost to the brand, given the motivated campaign against it—exposed the failings of the food standards regulatory regime in India and how vulnerable it is to getting gamed. But, even before the full facts of the case were out, activists were dragging its celebrity endorsers to court and a parliamentary standing committee was recommending punitive measures against celebrity endorsers in case a claim made by a brand was incorrect. Backing this was the bizarre logic that since an endorser made a hefty sum off an endorsement deal—in other words, profited from making claims about a brand—they should be held to in case the claim was found to be false or the product unsafe/below standard.

To be sure, there is no dearth of brands making false claims and celebrities unwitting endorsing them, but the solution there can’t be to hold the brand ambassador responsible. If a product receives regulatory approval while being flawed, you can hardly blame a Khan or Bachchan for it! The solution has to be greater diligence by standards bodies and regulators. Thankfully, this is something that a Group of Ministers realized late in 2016 and scrapped the Parl panel recommendations. However, Khan’s statement on trust and brand endorsement risks setting the clock back.

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