Does a celebrity influence your buying decision?

RNM BG

Dhiraj kumarDuring the current lockdown my TV viewing has been at an all time high. Most of you would also be spending your maximum time in front of your TV.

News channels are getting maximum eyeballs. Reporters are risking their lives to provide as real content as possible amidst the current situation. The ad breaks are full of advertisements.

I observe, 8 out of 10 ads on the television today be it a vest ad, AC ad, detergents, household products, online education, pan masala, etc, are being endorsed either by a Bollywood actor or a cricket star. There is hardly any space for a third person these days in the ad films.

That prompts me to wonder, have I ever bought Ghadi or Nirma washing powder, have I ever remembered the line “Fit hai Boss” or “Ye araam ka mamla hai” and bought a Dollar Bog Boss or a Rupa Frontline, did I choose Mutual Fund because a cricketer endorsed it, saying “Mutual Fund Sahi Hai”? Or after watching a high profile recent one Bail Kolhu Kachhi Ghani Oil being endorsed by three top names in the industry, am I going to change my Mustard Oil brand.

The list is endless. There are many such categories and brands being endorsed by big celebrities which are used in every household. But do we actually remember them and get influenced while we purchase them.

Then why most of the brands especially in some categories are depending on top actors or a cricketing face to sell their product while they may not be using their endorsed brand for themselves. Possibly because every product in a said category wants to become a brand overnight and increase its market share while few others have to be in the top of mind recall to maintain their dominance in the market.

During my agencies days, I remember, we all used to make big pitches to clients with all possible routes where one safest route used to be that had a film celebrity. And the Ist thing every agency used to sell was a TV Film. “Boss TV pe aa gaye to brand ban jayega”.

Well for few categories; to be on the TV does help in brand recognition. But many of the clients had a feeling that if they’ll take a celebrity, their product will be widely accepted by consumers and sales will multiply manifold within months. Ironically it’s not the case anymore.

After moving to client’s side, during my stint with few real estate developers, I remember that most of the top developers of NCR were having a brand endorser from top line film actresses to high profile onscreen Jodi and badshah’s of Bollywood. But today, we know the reality, many of them who would have built a brand then are struggling to deliver the project. Few have landed in courts as well.

So just hiring a celebrity is not enough if your brand can’t sustain them.

In some categories specially FMCG & Consumer Durables, one of the major deliverables used to be Point of Purchase (POPs) collaterals for every brand. There used to be a massive photoshoot with the celebrity endorsing that brand, so that nicely designed posters, danglers and other POPs could be developed. These collaterals used to command extra respect in a grocery shop or a supermarket as it used to be for high brand recall. But with the ever growing online groceries stores from Big Basket to Grofers and even the local kirana with online options, the POP designing has lost its sheen and is the last deliverable today needed by the brand managers from the agencies.

So why do brands sign a celebrity?

First and foremost, a TV ad gets confirmed. Agency is happy because they will successfully add the new film in their portfolio which will help them win client’s confidence in the next business pitch. Brand manager is happy that it would add a weightage on his last assignments and production house is excited since they had convinced the client to have an International location for the shoot. But has it helped push sales volume substantially.

As per some study with a high profile endorser sales figure jump by 4-5%. Even if that’s true, it depends on the sustainability. And most importantly how the brand has performed in after sales services and its reach to every market. Is the product available only in supermarket or the local kirana or is it available only on the online grocery store?

A brand endorser might be a risky affair as the endorser may also overshadow the brand.  That’s why while one would remember that Shahrukh or Akshay comes in a deodorant ad, but he may not remember the deodorant brand. Celebrities who endorse too many products may lose credibility with the public also. It is important to match the product or service to the right celebrity which many brands fail in their selection. Also too many brands endorsed by a single celebrity lowers the brand value and seems unauthentic. As many of them can’t be related to that brand.

To me, the USP of the product is most important and the clutter free communication always makes a difference to the brand. That’s why communication of Fevicol Chutki mein Chipkaye, Vodafone You & I Hutch Dog ad, Men will be Men (Seagrams’ Imperial Blue), Amul Doodh pita hai India, etc have worked for their brands and still the most remembered ads.

MDH being the market leader in spice category never used any celebrity, still it has been dominating the Masala category. The other classic example is Patanjali range of products which sells due to the belief of purity & price and the way the brand has been positioned as “Made in India” products endorsed by none other but Swami Ramdev Ji himself.

I got surprised to not find Shahrukh in the Byju’s current film, that’s on air.

Therefore for marketers handling brands with celebrities, it would be interesting to understand whether a celebrity really helped the brand being accepted more by the customers or a brand without a celebrity growth figures are higher than its competitor’s with a known celebrity.

Also not let the brand get over shadowed by the brand endorser. Instead have a USP which can drive sales and brand always ahead. Every communication agency looks for a USP so that the communication developed around it can bring out the uniqueness in the product and that is what consumers remember most while making their purchase decision.

And next time when you go to buy a vest, think whether you bought it because of Akshay or your wife bought it because there was a discount offered on it by the shopkeeper. Therefore do celebrities come to our mind actually or it is the shopkeeper who is our Akshay most of the times.

After all the consumer will always remain the king and the celebrity might not be an influencer always.