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Evolution Strategy Advisors Marketing Consultant

TrendZ : Are celebrity endorsements effective?

February 18, 2014

Indians go crazy over celebrities and why not - the world does too. Endorsements have been known to have benefitting brands with an increase in their top line and improved image. But mutually beneficial results happen only when we get all the factors right. Many a times the use of a celebrity is wasted due to a wrong strategy, a bad creative or under exposure of the celebrity due to lack of marketing budgets. A wrong selection of celebrity for the brand is a wasted resource too.


What we see today is an over exposure of celebrities, it’s become a fashion to have a celeb and every marketing head has proposed a celebrity for their brand just to emulate his peers or competitors. While sometimes it’s the company promoters who want a celebrity just to show that they have arrived. They all hope to solve a marketing problem with a celebrity, while little thought is given to the real issue which a brand faces.


Some celebrities have been brought out from retirement and many others who had never endorsed a brand during their hay days are looking to make a fast buck. There is peer pressure amongst the celebrities too, when their contemporaries get fat bucks from endorsements - why shouldn’t they? Knowing they have a short life as a celebrity - some are willing to associate themselves with brands which may not help their image but will surely get them a lot of money. The need to use a known face is giving new opportunities to the TV stars too, who were ignored earlier. You can find celebrities endorsing anything from retail: jewellery, saris/clothes, fashion to real estate projects. Some brands have even crossed the border and signed up international sports stars or movie stars in an attempt to improve their image.


One wonders whether this really works Is the Indian consumer so gullible. There is hardly any research done by small and midsized companies to measure the effect of a celebrity endorsement. The mad scramble to find a celebrity is forcing people to sign up whoever is available from the sports and entertainment industry. It's really hard to find a celebrity who is known and not been already signed up by a brand. This is now leading to increase in  endorsements value.


When does it help to bring in a celebrity?


a) When a new brand is to be launched in the market and uses the celebrity’s recognition and image to rub off on this new brand.
b) When one wants to change the image of an existing brand and the image rub off from celebrity helps. This also works sometimes for repositioning brands.
c) Meet and greet for your customers, trade support and employees
d) Public service campaigns to spread a social message which is generally ignored.
e) A continued use of a celebrity with time also helps the brand’s image.


When is a celebrity endorsement wasted?


a) Not using the celebrity as a celebrity diminishes return on investments; the reason for using a celebrity is for their fame and image rub off on the brand. But if they are treated as commoners then the rub off on the brand reduces. Consumers pay to see their celebs and have a larger than life image of their heroes, they idolise them. Making them behave as a common person doesn’t help. Neither does it help to make them unrecognisable with a new look.
b) When there is an image conflict between a celebrity and the brands target consumer, it will be counterproductive for both. If we are using a mature celebrity to endorse a youth brand or vice versa it doesn’t bring out the best for the brand. Neither does using a comic to sell a serious product which has an involved purchase decision like banking or investment.
c) A major reason for waste is when a company has a low marketing budget and doesn’t have enough monies left after signing a celebrity to expose the creative’s. One needs to have a significant share of voice when using a celebrity else he/she will not be visible in the clutter. Ideally one should spend at least 5 times of the cost of signing up in exposing the celebrity creative.
d) When the celebrity has already transferred his image to the brand and doesn’t add any more value it doesn’t help to continue with the same.
e) Bad execution of creative, imagine showing a beautiful actress or the No.1 sports celebrity in a poorly done photo shoot or a film. This devalues both the celebrity and the brand. Quite often one can see a famous celebrity in a low quality TV commercial or a badly designed hoarding or press ad.
f) There are other reasons like: over exposed celebrity (endorsing too many brands) or a using the same celebrity who has endorsed a competing brand in the recent past, or a controversial celebrity which are detrimental for the brand.


Often brands are “Me too” products who are only looking at an image driver. Thus improving image and getting more attention for your brand is the reason to use celebs. However when there is no connect between the two then the celebrity becomes a prop and it’s a waste. Open any newspaper and you can see this. The celebs endorse offers, festivals discounts and even consumer offers.


With changes expected on product claims, celebrities will have to tread with caution as they along with the company will be expected to pay up for any false claims. As advertising in India being mostly about exaggerated claims or dramatisation of product benefits, this will surely be a concern. The celebrities can never get enough evidence from companies to make a strong claim  thus building a claim benefit using a celebrity will become difficult for brands. Product claims are mostly questionable as neither they are statistically valid nor is the right equipment or process for testing claims available to all. Eventually stricter laws like in the EU or Japan for staking claims will help avoid false claims.


It’s important to understand brand issues, available budgets, execution ability and then look at different solutions some of which may involve a celebrity rather than signing a celebrity and then deciding how to use them for your marketing problems. This would save companies precious marketing budgets which are currently being wasted and thus give higher return for their marketing investments.


Vineet Trakroo


CEO


 

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Bang on! Can recall only few instances where there was some positive contribution from celebrities. Most cases seem to just running with the tide and getting a known face is all that requires to get the brand going. There are few ocassions when the celebrity brand misfits is glaring but most times there seems to be no impact. No value addition from the celebrity and to the celebrity.

The advertising fraternity believes celebrities bring in familiarity, higher acting standards and immediate attention to the communication and brand. But does this work when celebrities endorse some very mass market brands and then endorse very premium wrist watches or cars. The usual issue is bad creative or story or underexposure of celebrity.



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