Rajiv Dogra

Reaching beyond a niche market and generating larger awareness is a challenge for luxury brands. That’s when appointing a popular film celebrity as a brand ambassador fits in the larger scheme of things.

Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna
Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna for Amara

In the age of social media, a celeb’s reach is amplified several folds. Luxury brands are cashing on stars’ following, designing different marketing and promotion campaign, incorporating offline and online platforms.

In 2001, Coca Cola found that the recall rate of its campaign featuring actor Hrithik Roshan went from 20 per cent to 40 per cent among the target audience.

Recently, to double the sales target to $1.5 to $1.7 billion in October 2018, Flipkart, the Walmart-backed homegrown start-up, reportedly pumped in about Rs. 200 crore on festive media expenditure alone. A big part of which was celebrity endorsements. From actor Amitabh Bachchan to Deepika Padukone and cricket celebrities and regional stars, Flipkart had gone all out to make its presence felt in the market.

LuxeBook speaks with experts from across the spectrum about how the power of a film celebrity drives the Indian luxury market, which is touted to touch the US $50 billion mark by 2020 from the current US $30 billion, as per an Assocham report.

Why Bollywood?

Amitabh Bachchan, Flipkart endorsement
Amitabh Bachchan

A film celebrity’s credibility, market perception and attraction contribute to brand’s popularity and reputation. The aim of celebrity endorsement is not just propagation but to also convince potential buyers to trust a brand. Its recall value is reinforced by a celebrity influencer, points out Viral Oza, Chief Marketing Officer, Lodha Group, which appointed actor Akshay Kumar as its brand ambassador a year ago. “Kumar’s reputation as a trust-inducing star and his passion for achieving his dreams are an extension of our core vision of building a better life,” says Oza. “We have traversed the globe to bring in the best-in-class practices and partners to ensure the highest standards of services to our residents.” The team has communicated the same in their campaign with actor Akshay Kumar. The film shot at their different building complexes showcases a lifestyle that every Lodha resident is living for real.

For bath fittings and sanitary-ware major Jaquar Group, the need to create a unique identity for its lighting vertical made them appoint actor Deepika Padukone as the face of Jaquar Lighting. “Since 1960, all these years we believed that our products speak for themselves,” says Sandeep Shukla, Head – Marketing and Communications, Jaquar Group. “We changed the thought process while marketing Jaquar Lighting because we wanted the brand to come into its own and not remain in the shadow of Jaquar.”

Deepika Padukone for Jaquar Lighting
Deepika Padukone, Brand Ambassador- Jaquar Lighting Solutions

Premium matchmaking service EliteMatrimony wanted to appoint an actor who is uniquely portrayed in Indian cinema while cutting across regional boundaries, which is why the company appointed actor R Madhavan. “The elegant actor is known for his pan-India appeal, which was a perfect fit for us,” says Murugavel Janakiraman, Chief Executive Officer of EliteMatrimony.com.

The star effect

While it may not be possible to quote the exact numbers in terms of growth, the association with a film celebrity positively helps in establishing a brand identity, say industry experts. “Perhaps not in terms of value or volume alone, but the investments in celebrity endorsements have a recurring effect,” says Shukla. “In our case, the brand was established as a premium brand.” Jaquar Lighting expects to reach almost Rs. 1,000 crore in the next four-five years in the lighting category. “Our two years of association with her has helped the brand reach the next level. Today, we are recognised as among the top four brands in the category,” says Shukla, adding that first they chalked out a strategy and then went looking for a face that would do the job.

Similarly, EliteMatrimony got several more inquiries after they aired the television commercial in 2018 across major channels.

R Madhavan for Elite Matrimony
R Madhavan for Elite Matrimony

In keeping with the current times, marketing dynamics have changed, and brand positioning has become quite critical, says Mumbai-based Harssh Chheda, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Corporate Collars, which provides bespoke tailoring services. The company has associated with a plethora of celebrities and influencers such as cricketer Ajit Agarkar and several television celebrities in terms of styling collaborations.

“A Bollywood face or any celebrity propagating the brand with their strong persona works as a great tool to reach out to the target audience and create a holistic brand recall value.” 

It’s about the attitude

Luxury is not a notion, it is an attitude, says Harish Bijoor, Bengaluru-based brand domain specialist and Founder of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. “It is a rather uncommon attitude, flaunted by people at the top of the pyramid. Choosing a brand ambassador in the luxury space is more about choosing an attitude rather than choosing a persona. You choose the attitude first, and then hunt for that attitude among the personas available globally,” he says, adding that luxury is yet being defined from a pure Bollywood perspective in India. “However, true-blue luxury is really not regional. It is something that spans across the globe, across the world of celebrities, who level out the world of luxury – flat and clean,” he says. From the Bollywood perspective luxury is still represented by the likes of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan or Priyanka Chopra.

According to Janakiraman, there’s an instant connect created by the popular celebrities for the brand. Hence, the association works well, provided that the brand has chosen the right star.

Shahrukh Khan and Gauri Khan
Shahrukh Khan and Gauri Khan- Brand Ambassadors, D’Decor

Counter view

Bijoor, however, is quick to point out that working with celebrity also has a risk factor. “If the celebrity’s popularity reduces or he/she gets into some sort of trouble, it can and commonly will reflect on the brand being endorsed as well.”

In conclusion, luxury brands will continue to choose endorsers and influencers for multiple reasons: launch, sustenance and revival. The right brand-celebrity partnership will continue to be a successful tool in building brand equity and establishing believable connections with consumers in India that continue to remain starstruck.

The numbers at a glance

  • India’s top 20 celebrities have a cumulative brand value of $877 million and Deepika Padukone’s brand value is highest among Bollywood stars, reports India’s Most Powerful Celebrity Brands report, released by consulting firm Duff and Phelps.
  • The overall number of product/brand endorsements of top 20 celebrities has increased from 272 endorsements in 2017 to 314 endorsements in 2018, up approximately by 15 per cent. Whereas the number of endorsements by top five celebrities has increased by approximately 9 per cent from 96 in 2017 to 105 in 2018, as per Duff & Phelps (D&P) Celebrity Brand Valuation Report 2018.
  • In the 2017 edition of the list, Kohli – who endorses products ranging from Puma’s sport shoes to Audi’s luxury cars and Tissot watches – dethroned Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan (53) as India’s most valued celebrity brand for the first time. While SRK ranked second in 2017, his position slipped to the fifth spot in the 2018 list, with a brand value of $60.7 million.
  • Deepika Padukone is on the second spot in the list. With a brand worth of $102.5 million, Padukone is now the most valuable Bollywood celebrity trumping the likes of her husband Ranveer Singh (no.3), Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan (no.6) and Amitabh Bachchan (no.7).
  • Film stars account for a lion’s share (76 per cent) for the endorsements, followed by sportspersons (12 per cent), and television stars (9 per cent). Also, when it comes to ad spend on television, 24 per cent of the total advertising budget, or Rs. 6,700 crore was spent on celebrity endorsements in 2017. This percentage has risen 500 basis points from a decade ago in 2007, though it has fallen from the peak of 27 per cent in 2013.

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