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Celebrity endorsements: Formula for success

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Brand endorsement by celebrities is one of the most popular ways of drawing the attention of a buyer toward a product or service. It not only aids the recall value, but also takes the perceived quality of the product up by several notches. Salon India brings you a report

Celebrity endorsement has been identified to be one of the most viable methods of advertising in recent times. In the beauty and wellness space per se, it’s almost like a winning formula that ensures success. However, the underlying prerequisite is that the brand and celebrity fit should match in order to lend credibility and influence the buying behaviour of a consumer. Let’s begin with Pond’s Men, The Body Shop, Naturals, Garnier Men, Pantene, OxyLife Men Crème Bleach, Fem Bleach, Fair & Handsome…the list of brands roping in celebrities appears endless. It is one of the most popular ways of drawing the attention of a buyer toward a product or service and aids the recall value of the product by several notches.

Reasons to take on a celebrity
Mohit Bakshi, CEO of Thought Bubble, a successful brand management consultancy in Mumbai, feels that humans identify far better with definitive shapes and forms, rather than the abstract. “Selecting a brand ambassador, perhaps, stems from the same theory. A brand usually picks a celebrity who they believe will best represent the core values of a brand and give the brand name and its logo, a living breathing (successful and winning) personality. This personality (they hope) will become an intrinsic part of the buying decisions of the potential clients that will reinforce the buying decisions of fi rst-timers with those who repeatedly buy the brand,” shares Bakshi.

Elaborating further he says, “Most brands involve a celebrity at three crucial stages – launch, just when they seem to plateau out and when they are slipping in terms of awareness or sales. In all three cases, the celebrity gives them the much-needed impetus and brand recall/ awareness with their target groups. Whether this translates into sales and justifies the multi million dollar celebrity pay cheques or not is
another matter altogether. Therefore, the decision of when (and if) to take on a Brand Ambassador clearly depends on the brand strategy, the kind of brand plan they have post launch, and of course, the marketing budget.”

Image building exercise: “Brand Ambassadors have a huge fan following and serve as great advocators of the brand. Consumers always turn to their favourite stars for the latest styles and trends. In the case of Drashti Dhami, who is the colour amabassador for Matrix SoColor, she has the ability of inspiring and connecting with audiences across differing consumer groups. Signing on a brand ambassador amplifies our values and communication to a large section of our target audience and helps build the brand’s image through the key communication messages,” shares Mona Lisa Dowerah, Marketing Manager, Matrix India
Help in re-call: Stressing further, Mohit, opines, “A brand takes on a celebrity because people take those who are successful, seriously. When such people talk, you listen because somewhere deep down you wish to be like them and emulate their success. This, they believe, is a clutter breaker which helps them stand out and makes it so much easier for the end consumer to make a buying decision in favour of their product or service. A Brand Ambassador helps the brand appear taller and be easily identifiable in certain market sets like perhaps the B and C centres. For example, instead of asking for Navratna Tel, a buyer may say, ‘Arre bhaiya wo wala tel (oil) dena jo Bachchan lagate hain’. Or Sachin has boost and if I have to be like him, I must have Boost, too, or Hrithik looks so dashing in a J Hampstead suit, maybe I should invest in it, too.” Dabur India Ltd, too, has joined the fray and signed up several stars to endorse their various brands – Madhuri Dixit Nene, Karishma Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha and Ali Zafar for OxyLife Mens bleach. Says a Dabur India Ltd spokesperson, “While celebrity endorsement, be it from the world of sports or cinema, helps in creating topof- the-mind recall, the fact also remains that celebrity endorsements is a means to an end and not an end in itself. What’s most important is how a brand uses a celebrity. It’s only then that the connect will get better.

Dabur identifies brand ambassadors for our products after a great degree of research. We have used fi lm stars and sports celebrities to successfully endorse products like Dabur Amla Hair Oil, Vatika, and others, for many years.”

To grow and expand: In the beginning of the year, Kérastase, the international luxury hair care brand, launched the Kérastase Couture Styling range in India. Says Smira Bakshi, General manager, Kérastase India, “A new offering in the Kérastase portfolio, the Kérastase Couture Styling range is definitely unique as it offers products that are a fusion of care and styling. In a market where styling is still nascent, with
people being apprehensive about styling their hair because of the notion that styling products are damaging, the objective of the Couture Styling launch was to alleviate such concerns and to build the styling market in India, which is only 4 per cent of the salon business. With the introduction of products like Powder Buff, the dry shampoo, Lift Vertige, the root uplifting gel, Kérastase Couture Styling aims at consumer-friendly Do-It-Yourself Styling. The range bridges essential need gaps existing in the current styling offerings in the market and facilitate the ease of self-styling.” Kérastase has signed up Kate Moss, the British supermodel for two years and she is the face of Kérastase Couture Styling range. A few months ago, Naturals Salon had signed up Kareena Kapur Khan to be the face of the brand. On the shift from Genelia
D’Souza nee Deshmukh to Kapoor, says CK Kumarvel, CEO and Co-Founder, Naturals, “Kareena Kapur Khan is now the Brand Ambassador of Naturals salon chain. While Genelia helped us to move the business from 80 salons to 340 salons, Kareena will take it forward from 341 to 3,000. She will be the face of Naturals and has signed a two-year contract.” Kumarvel feels that while celebrities help build the brand, whether it is on a national or global scale, the point is to pick a strong and popular celebrity who will be a definite hit with all age groups and has global appeal.

Brand’s perspective
From a brand’s perspective, Dowerah elaborates, “Brands take on celebrities because it has a unique identity that is communicated to the consumer through various marketing efforts. Brands aim to forge a direct connect with their target audience by bringing a celebrity on board that is relevant and embodies the brand attitude and values.” Says Bakshi, “Kérastase is the worldwide leader in luxury hair care brand with its inception way back in 1964. It has been the pioneer and innovator in the hair care industry and has been introducing avant-garde hair care
formulations, which not only create new frontiers in hair care, but also anticipate the needs of consumers and hairdressers.”

Zeroing on a celebrity
Dowerah shares, “While selecting the face of Matrix Color, we had no doubt in our mind that Drashti Dhami would be the perfect fit! Drashti’s energy, confi dence and accessibility make her a perfect fi t with our brand values. She is a beauty icon and we were keen to have this strong and talented personality join the Matrix family. Drashti has evolved as a household name, capturing the hearts of audiences over the years through her versatile performances on television.”

While several nitty-grittys are looked into while deciding the responsibility and role of the star for a product endorsement, Kérastase has laid it down simply – Kate Moss is an avid user of Kérastase products and within the hair care and styling categories, she solely represents brand Kérastase. Says Bakshi, “Kérastase associates with Kate Moss, the universal fashion icon, for its Styling range. She has been an ambassador with many fashion and beauty brands, for the fi rst time represents the image of a luxury hair care brand. The alliance of Kérastase’s expertise and Moss’ audacious glamour will change the way styling is perceived, celebrating beautifully styled hair with freedom of movement and the pleasure of high tech, sensual textures. Moss symbolises bold glamour which Couture Styling represents.”

Pond’s had unveiled the Pond’s Men range and collaborated with Varun Dhawan, actor, to be the Brand Ambassador. Srinandan Sundaram, Vice President, Skincare and Colours, HUL at the time Dhawan was being signed up, revealed that while launching a men’s range for the Indian market had been on the cards, they had been waiting for the right time and the right celebrity to come along to endorse the brand. Varun Dhawan is the right fit as he’syoung and enthusiastic and takes care of himself in every way. A good choice, I must say, as Dhawan is popular with the youth, is known to take care of his skin and is a rising star of the Indian film industry.

Talking about taking on Ali Zafar, actor and musician to endorse Dabur’s OxyLife Bleach for men, Sanjay Singal, Head of Marketing- Skin Care, Dabur India Ltd says, “We believe Ali Zafar exemplif es and brings to life the values and the proposition of OxyLife Men and we are confident of the success of this relationship.”

Actor-activist, Jacqueline Fernandez has been taken up by The Body Shop, as the new Brand Ambassador, and has replaced Dia Mirza. Commenting on the association, Shriti Malhotra, COO, The Body Shop India, says, “Jacqueline portrays the modern and intelligent woman who is conscious and aware of her beauty needs. She believes in looking good, feeling good and doing good. Jacqueline has widespread appeal and this association will resonate with the aspirations of today’s generation while promoting the brand’s uniqueness through its products and values. This year she will be seen in our body care, skin care and make-up campaigns with loads of new and exciting
launches in the market.”

Challenges for the star and brand

For a celebrity to be a brand ambassador they must be consistently on top of their game, and of course, their moral and social status and actions get highlighted, too. Mohit gives us an insight into the gaps when he says, “The challenges with most fi lm and sports celebrities is that their popularity and ratings go up or down vis-à-vis their performances and, therefore, the pressure to perform is consistently there IF they are to garner more brand endorsements (which interestingly amounts to a revenue of anything between 80 to 150 per cent of the money they make) over and above the fee for the roles they perform in their professional arena. So the buzz words are to perform, perform and perform, which invariable places an immense amount of pressure on the individual. For instance, Revital dropped Yuvraj Singh, the cricketer
as their Brand Ambassador the moment he was diagnosed with cancer. They hired superstar, Salman Khan, to promote the brand. As luck would have it, Singh fought and won his battle with cancer and after a successful domestic season got back his India cap. Revital, of course, had a few harrowing weeks when Khan flew out of the country for a facial nerve treatment. Case in point: if Revital had stuck with Singh,
it would have reinforced the faith in the brand manifold. The consumer would have attributed the cricket hero’s recovery to his use of Revital. But that is where the brand custodians of Revital went exceedingly wrong. Another example is the hurry with which brands dumped Sania Mirza when she married the Pakistani cricket start, Shoaib Mallik. These are certain circumstances, which are challenging for both the star, as well as, the brands and these require a long-term vision and not knee jerk reactions. Some beauty brands prohibit women from getting pregnant while under a contract, while others make that into a strength. Case in point: L’Oréal who has recently restarted their campaign with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, post her pregnancy.”

How different is it overseas
Mohit makes a point when he shares, “It’s not that different in terms of chasing the successful. The difference only comes in with the battery of lawyers and law fi rms that represent both sides and each and every thing is looked into and accounted for. Safe to say, it’s a lot more professional. Abroad the attitudes and attributes towards a brand and a brand ambassador are vastly different and India, as a market, is catching up in its own way. For example in India, brand ambassadors tend to be drawn from either fi lms or sports and in 99 per cent of the cases, the celebrities do not have to use the products they endorse. Abroad this isn’t the case. Also when it comes to  advertising for cigarettes and alcohol, we have a hypocritical stance. We allow for the advertising to go on in the garb of mineral water and music, swim suit calendars, fashion and sports, but not as the actual product, case in point Royal Stag, Kingfi sher and Seagram. I fi nd it exceedingly strange if a brand ambassador has a principled stand to not promote alcohol and then he has no qualms about doing a brand campaign called ‘Make it Large’ for an affiliate brand promoted by an alcohol company. Abroad this is not the case as the laws are stringent, but they respect a citizens free choice and aren’t hypocritical. The celebrities, of course, choose to or not choose to endorse the product, but in any and every case, they act responsibly.”

Deciding the professional fee
Mohit gives us a lowdown. “Deciding the feel of a star for brand endorsement is a complex formula that is based on past or recent successes, market cost, average pay package given by other non-competing brands, size of the market where the brand ambassador has to be unleashed, tenure of the agreement and the number of hours or days covered in that agreement. Recently health records, marital status and run-ins (or lack of them) with the law. have also become important key stones for these contracts.”

Expert’s view
According to a paper titled Impact of Celebrity Endorsements on Brand Image presented by Debiprasad Mukherjee, Business Process Management Consultant, “Through analysis and research, it was found that the celebrities’ acceptability, availability, regional appeal factors, popularity, attractiveness, image, belief system are some important factors that impact celebrity endorsement on brands; the customer wants a variety of aspects from the endorsement like the credibility and acceptability of the endorser; multiple endorsements create cluttering the minds of the consumer; in case of multiple endorsements by a celebrity, the success of celebrity endorsement for a particular brand depends entirely on the power of the brand; apart from fi nancial gains from the endorsements, brand and own image matching is also vital from celebrity’s point of view; professional and planned performance of the endorser is important in deciding the success of the endorsement; association of the celebrity with a controversy or ill-behaviour can negatively impact the endorsements; a celebrity endorsement is useful in the Indian scenario as the amount of impact of the effect varies with the celebrity and the product profile; and lastly, celebrity endorsements cannot replace the comprehensive brand building processes.”

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