The 101 of using Celebrities in Marketing

With this piece, we take a look at the 101 of using Celebrities in Marketing Promotions. The author, Saurabh Bajaj, is a Marketing Head (Dairy) at Britannia. He’s contributed several pieces at Casereads – you can find them all here. We start by understanding the 4 reasons for using a celebrity in your communication, goals, and conclude by understanding a few examples of cases where it has worked really well – the best practices.

Alright, let’s now take a look at the piece.

As a marketer, I am always appreciative of Celebrities, because they are individuals who have successfully reinvented themselves as Brands. And hence everything that we hold true of Brand, holds true for Celebrities. They can be represented by a Brand ladder much like conventional brands so they have attributes, functional & emotional identifiers.

For example, Shah Rukh has a certain swagger, a favourite pose, and associations as a romantic hero as his attributes. Which ladder up to functional benefits of enjoying an emotional family drama with all the narratives that we as Indians love. He even ladders up to a clear emotional identifier of an ideal embodiment of Indian middle-class values.

While Akshay Kumar, with his presence of Khatron ke khiladi and his bold act with Levis represents a cool action hero. His functional identifiers ladder up to a comical action figure. And his emotional signature is often that of simplistic patriotism.

And hence if it’s easy to decode Celebrities as Brands, it’s no wonder that Brands find them very useful in seeding the right values or personalities associated with their Brands. I guess the key uses of Celebrities with Brands can be bucketed into 4 following areas.

The 4 Uses of Celebrities in Marketing:

1. Be Noticed!

2. Improve Communication Efficiency

3. Strengthen Brand Values

4. Solve a Problem!

Let’s discuss each of these in detail

Be Noticed!

I guess this is the simplest reason for Brands to leverage Celebrities. The advantage of such an approach is that while you may have to pay a large sum to a Brand, you can make a splash and arrive on the scene. The advantages that brands get from such an approach is a high talk value and buzz amongst consumers.  This can be followed by curiosity and a number of consumers may even investigate the services that the Brand offers. A few top examples of the same are:

CRED: I guess many of us are still scratching our heads on what the fuss is all about! In a country where few people trust & use credit cards, let along proactively bank and use points. How can services like CRED actually gain so much attention both of investors and marketers, am not too sure about the consumers.  However, whether it was the Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dikshit series or the recent Rahul David. CRED definitely ensured that it was noticed!

Pan Bahar: Clearly achieved it with Pierce Brosnan, though I don’t think that Pierce Brosnan was particularly happy about it. This example also demonstrates the power that PR has to provide a multiplicative effect to any Celebrity linked spends.

Levis: Ofcourse Levis achieved the same impact in style when they tied up with Akshay Kumar in 2008 as a part of their ‘Live Unbuttoned’ campaign. They paid a king’s ransom to Akshay however this was a time when Levis rarely did any marketing at a country level and only global campaigns. They were noticed by the youth of the country especially after the act of Twinkle unbuttoning Akshay’s jeans.

Improve Communication Efficiency

I guess this is one of the most common reasons for leveraging a Celebrity. When a Brand has very limited cash, they fear that their communication will get lost in the media clutter or they worry that they won’t be able to outshout their key competition. In this case, the use of a Celebrity would ensure Creative Cut through. This is the ability of communication to be noticed or recalled by the Brands target group. The key question that a Brand manager needs to evaluate here is would the cost of the Celebrity justify the equivalent reduction in media expenditure that it would lead it.

Brands that use Celebrities for this purpose are:

Harpic: Now insecticides are not the most glamorous of categories, and would have limited spends for their outlay. Even in such a category, Harpic is perhaps a stronger brand than others and roping in Akshay Kumar would definitely be helping their case. At a daily cost of a couple of Crores, he would cost them reasonable media weight but make it up in the cut-through that he would bring.

Balaji Wafers: Definitely not the most aspirational brand in the category, but when you have a solid promise in terms of much higher grammage of the product, perhaps you only need to ensure that the limited spend that you deploy on media works hard. Guess that’s where the logic of using Ayushmann Khurrana come in.

Lux Cozy: Scent wali vest hain sub se best! Now that’s a product and advertising that is crafted to ensure boredom. Clearly Varun Dhawan does a good job or bring some traction in a category that’s likely to be of least attraction to most of us.

Strengthen brand values

This is perhaps one of the only reasons why I would personally advocate using a Celebrity. The reason being, this is one of the few reasons that not tactical but truly strategic. Celebrities represent values and if you have a Brand that truly belongs to the same archetype as a popular celebrity then the mix ends up benefiting both the Brand & the Celebrity. The top examples of a Brand that have striked gold through their associations are:

Lux: The brand has literally crafted its Brand proposition on the power of celebrities as ‘Filmi sitaron ki pasad’, and hence it was no surprise when the Brand tied up with Deepika Padukone, the most successful Bollywood actress of our time.

Thumbs Up: The Salman Khan, Thumbs up combination for me is still my personal favorite of the power of finding the sweet spot between the correlation between a Brand and a Celebrities personality.

Mountain Dew: An iconic but niche brand with a distinctive personality. It’s no wonder that the brand has rarely had to struggle in finding the right endorser. Its partnership with Hrithik Roshan makes for a compelling fit.

Too Yumm: And finally, I feel Too Yumm did a great job of roping in Virat Kohli for an ideal proposition fit of their healthy snacking proposition.

Solve a Problem!

However, sometimes tying up with a Celebrity is not just a choice but even a requirement. It comes in handy when a Brand faced a public relations backlash and there is an urgent need to provide reassurance and re-establish trust with their consumers.

Cadbury: The biggest example of such a campaign for me is Amitabh Bachchan 2003-04, where Cadbury was facing a massive credibility challenge owing to the worm’s infestation issue. After seeing a huge loss of face with its consumers and business collapsing, the Brand made all the right moves by tying up with Amitabh in the launch of its “Purity Sealed” pack. Amitabh brought back massive credibility for the brand and helped them tied over what was perhaps the largest challenge the brand had ever faced in the country.

Related: Take a look at story of Mondelez India 

Vicco Vajradanti: Is perhaps that brand that we are all aware of but have perhaps never used. It was the staple ad that we would see in the cinema halls in the 80s & 90s and hence, it can be no doubt that the brand was seen as jaded and so the last generation. They have attempted a rejuvenation through their tie-up with Alia Bhatt.

The Ground Rules

Guess as we have gone through a number of examples there are a few ground rules that Celebrities must follow to be strong assets for Brands:

1. Consistency: To be of real value to Brands, consistency is key. Whether you are an A-lister from Bollywood or an Instagram influencer, the key asset that Brands look for is consistency. So you represent a set of value that the Brand can leverage.

2.  Differentiation: Chose your niche carefully. There are a thousand influencers that appear mirror replicas of each other and hence for a Brand to truly find value in a Celebrity, the clear niche that they own is critical in building a meaningful connection.

3. Exclusivity: Now this goes against the grain of what a Celebrity would want. A celebrity would want as many endorsements as possible not just as a source of earning but really as a way of extending his or her fame. However, what Brands truly seek is a celebrity that is not already overexposed so that the connection gets clearly attributed to the Brand. Hence, tying up with an Endorser is always a crucial decision to be done carefully and with diligence. It’s no doubt that the right collaboration can provide huge gains for the Brands and the Celebrity, but not using the Celebrity well can cause wastage of money that could have been better deployed elsewhere.

The Author

The author of this piece is Saurabh Bajaj, we hope you enjoyed the piece, if you did please head on to LinkedIn, and drop a thank you to the Author. You can also share the piece with your best friend on WhatsApp.

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