Thursday, April 12, 2018

Here’s Why Brands Won’t Dump Salman Khan Despite the Court’s Conviction

The main highlights of the last week was Salman Khan being convicted by a Jodhpur Court and the actor being sentenced to 5 years in prison for killing an endangered animal. However, after spending just two days in jail he was out on bail. The incident was enough to ruin a person’s professional career and cancel all his brand endorsement contracts.

Several media reports pointed that ‘Brand Salman’ was slated to take a hit and the share prices of brands associated with him could witness a drop. Trade analysts estimated that Rs 400-600 crore could be at stake with Khan.

However, none of the brands associated with Khan have even flinched. How is that possible? Is brand ‘Sallu Bhai’ (as he is popularly known as) so powerful that despite being found guilty in court, a brand such as Relaxo Footwears could release a new TVC featuring Khan just yesterday like nothing ever happened?

AdAge India team spoke with a few brand experts in the industry as to what makes brands stay with Khan despite his actions.

Fan Following Matters

It is no secret that Khan has a massive fan following. Fans make a beeline outside theatres when his films hit the screens no matter how good or bad those films are. He is the bad boy of Bollywood and has been a frequent visitor to court for several cases. However, youth still relate to him and it is this following that the brands that have hired him as the endorser look at.

Shubho Sengupta, Brand Consultant (Digital) says that everyone knew that Salman would spend one night in jail and get out. “Every year he seems to be spending two nights in jail. Brands have become very immoral. They will move only when there is some public outcry. They will never take a step on their own. Despite the man being clearly guilty, the brands have not moved. He is still a super hit, so why rock the boat,” he says.

Another brand expert also pointed out that many brands in India do not have strong conviction as majority of the people in India too don’t have a strong conviction regarding anything.

Ramanujam Sridhar, Founder and CEO, Brand-comm says, “If we see what happened with the Australian cricketers who were recently caught in the ball tampering issue, there was a huge outcry in Australia after which even their Prime Minister too had to intervene. I don’t see that sort of outcry from people in India. Khan has a huge fan following in the country. There are people like me on Twitter who are not influenced by Salman, but we are few and are not the target audience of the brands he is endorsing. So, it doesn’t impact him and brands continue to endorse him.”

There is also the fact that unlike large multinational brands that have strict guidelines for their brand ambassadors, many Indian brands do not. They care about how much mileage they can get from a brand ambassador regardless of how it is achieved. MNC brands that Khan endorsed such as Thums Up have gradually moved away from him. Now, what remains in his kitty are largely Indian brands such as Relaxo Footwear, Emami, Dixcy Scott innerwear, Appy Fizz, Astral Pipes, among others.

K V Sridhar, Founder and CCO, HyperCollective says that if he is physically not in jail and his films do well at the box office then brands will endorse him. “At the box office, he is doing well and he started Being Human organisation to try to redeem himself for things he did wrong. So, there is still demand for him in advertising, because he is still in the free world. Everything is only a question mark right now. Multinationals will have an issue. Only smaller brands will be willing to back him as they want to gain awareness and popularity despite anything he does. Most of these will be the Indian brands who are not answerable to anyone. But international brands have strict guidelines,” he says.

The Wait and Watch Approach

Many of the brand experts say that the brands that endorse him may have adopted a wait and watch approach as they know he would be appeal and get out of jail.

Lulu Raghavan, Managing Director, Landor says, “I think partly it is because no one knows what is happening. One day he is jail, the next day he is out. It has to do with the law of our land and how long it takes for these verdicts. He does seem to have a huge popularity. But the hesitation of brands is maybe nobody wants to be hasty, because it is not clear what is going to happen to him.”

However, it is this wait and watch approach by brands that has put into question the credibility of the Indian legal system, points out Saurabh Uboweja, CEO and Chief Brand Strategist, Brands of Desire.

“Despite the conviction, which basically means you are a criminal even if you are out on bail, it is quite amazing that brands have decided to stick around and take a wait and watch approach. Honestly speaking it is a tight slap on the Indian legal system. It shows how ineffective it is at trying hold people accountable for their crimes. And if brands are comfortable with endorsing him, it doesn’t speak very highly of the brands themselves. I think brands should have taken a slightly stronger action,” he says.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Yeh brand maange more

Time and again brands have leveraged upon the charisma and star power that celebrities, especially Bollywood stars and cricketers, bring. And more often than not, many brands have gone ahead and simultaneously signed on more than one sports or movie star as ambassadors.
Brands (like Pepsi) have hedged themselves by having a mix of cricketers and Bollywood stars as ambassadors, “to appeal to different segments of consumers,’’ says advertising and branding veteran Ramanujam Sridhar.
But in this digital economy, where social media rules the roost, the role play of celeb ambassadors has undergone a transformation.
Appointing more than one celeb as a brand ambassador is known for driving in greater market penetration, securing larger consumer mindshare and raising brand salience, says Vijay Subramanian, founder partner and co-CEO, Kwan Entertainment. “But brands need to have a well-defined strategy in place before signing on multiple ambassadors. They need to define the purpose of the association.”
Experts say more than promoting a product or a service, the key role for multiple ambassadors is to get interactive with the brand’s existing and potential customers. To convey the brand’s message through an engaging story that appeals to different demographics.
“The evolution of the digital era has changed the way marketers approach their consumers. From an era of mass communication and broadcast messages, it is now more about mass personalisation and being interactive,” says Pavan Padaki, brand practitioner and author of Brand Vinci: Decoding Facets of Branding. The brand ambassador is now much more than a mere clutter-breaker or a brand recall tool. From a time when celeb ambassadors merely held the product and eulogised its positives before the camera, it is now about the celebs sharing credible views and connecting with their fans with their emotions and beliefs “in the context of the brand they are endorsing,” says Padaki, explaining that brand ambassadors need to be deployed thoughtfully to bring the brand story to life in multiple fresh ways for an active engagement, bringing in relevance to the ever-changing (digitally-savvy) consumer’s habits and interests.
The recent MakeMyTrip commercials featuring Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh in different get-ups is a convincing attempt at using the might of two stars to promote the brand in a meaningful fashion, feel experts. Despite their distinct personalities and the different roles they play in the commercials, they engage with the audience in a quirky manner and tell the brand story (of how to be a smart traveller by booking through the MMT app, getting discounts, great deals, etc.) through their own ways.
Using multiple ambassadors is no longer about playing safe, nor is it a show of strength, feel experts. “The question is can the brand story be expressed better with a single or with multiple ambassadors? Brand ambassadors are an asset and a channel to address different segments of the audience,” says Padaki.
Therefore, having a well-defined agenda is vital, says Subramanian. ‘’Without it, it doesn’t matter how many celebs brand signs on, for the bevvy of stars will have little to no tangible impact on the market outreach without an overarching strategy.”
Padaki says multiple celeb ambassadors can be deployed to connect and build relationships at a more “micro level, catering to varied cultures and tastes. Each ambassador can connect with his/her own fan base to inspire, induce trust and weave their personal lifestyle and beliefs around the brand story. With multiple ambassadors, it is now possible to address the brand story in multiple ways, both collectively and as individual celebrities.’’

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


Ball-tampering: Bucks don’t stop here as a host of sponsors snap ties with Australian players, Team
It is business as usual for IPL and Indian cricket. The fans cheer Chennai Super Kings, back in the league after a two-year suspension for role in 2013 spot-fixing scandal, during practice recently
Unlike Australia, sponsors care two hoots about Indian cricket’s controversies as its stocks keep rising

The recent ball-tampering episode caused tremendous outrage among the Australian public, and sponsor response in the country was swift. ASICS ended its ties with David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, LG dropped Warner as brand ambassador, and Weet-Bix dumped Steve Smith. While these were individual tie-ups with the banned trio, even one of Cricket Australia’s major sponsors, Magellan, terminated its three year deal signed last August.

These actions are in stark contrast to the response of sponsors in India after the Indian Premier League (IPL) spot-fixing scandal of 2013. Even after three players were arrested, Pepsi, then the IPL title sponsor had said that they remained “committed to the property.” Kent withdrew advertisements featuring one of the three players, S Sreesanth, but continued as sponsor of his franchise Rajasthan Royals. Pepsi eventually pulled out more than two years later in 2015 only to return as associate sponsor for home international games.

What explains this difference in sponsor responses in the two countries, when the issue of spot-fixing should have arguably caused more outrage and damage than ball-tampering did?

Mirror spoke on the issue to three prominent advertising and branding veterans, who elaborated on a few broad differences between the two cultures. Among them were the public tolerance for corruption and the way celebrities are treated, which in turn determines how sponsors react.

“We are complacent about corruption. We don’t have moral spine,” Prahlad Kakkar said. “The common man understands figures up to a lakh. We don’t even understand the astronomical figures that are thrown about in scams. Someone such as Nirav Modi escapes abroad after not repaying thousands of crores to banks. We make some noise about it for a few days and then it is back to normal.”

Not only is outrage in India weaker, its nature is also different, according to Santosh Desai. “Power seeks to extract its price in India. Negotiating for opportunities is a part of life here. Rules do not apply and it is not seen as a big betrayal. Outrage is not deep in India. There is a gossipy element to it. It becomes a talking point in the news, people start talking about how much Indian stars are paid. Nobody did that in Australia. So the nature of the outrage in India is more transactional than moral.”

Both Desai and Sridhar Ramanujam said the outdoorsy, sports-playing culture of Australia was also a factor in their fans’ immense anger.

“Even the Prime Minister got into it in Australia. Steve Smith did not understand the extent of the negative reaction in Australia initially when he said he would not resign as captain,” Sridhar said. “The sponsors did not have an option at all. National pride was offended.

“And if you do a random sampling of Indians, the majority will say the Australian reaction was over the top. We are a lot more forgiving about these things as Indians. We are fairly casual.”

Kakkar gave the example of Salman Khan and Desai that of Mohammed Azharuddin when talking of how India has lax standards for its celebrities. “It is a relationship founded on admiration. They are held to a celebrity code, and not a hero code,” Desai said.

“The celebrity culture is different in India. A celebrity abroad has to use the products they endorse,” Sridhar said. “But a Shah Rukh Khan can sell a Santro when his preferred car may be a Pajero. A celebrity is viewed as an entertainer in India. And advertisers are guided by consumer preferences.”

Would Indian cricket consumers, and in turn, advertisers react differently had the spot-fixing happened in an India match as opposed to in the IPL?

Desai said it would not have made much difference, but Kakkar said it would, for then patriotic feelings would have been hurt.

“Fixing at national level would have been different. But if it is Hyderabad v Pune who cares yaar? That kind of fanatical following has never been there for cricket anyway, the kind that you would associate with say, East Bengal or Mohun Bagan in the past. And now, especially with the IPL, it has become tamasha or entertainment.”

All three experts agreed that cricket was too important a property for advertisers to ignore in India, ethical considerations notwithstanding.

“Cricket is too big in India, you cannot afford to miss out on it,” Sridhar said. “Large mass brands cannot miss out on the game. ‘Cricket is king’ is an understatement in India.”

Essentially, because the Indian public does not get too worked up about corruption and celebrity behaviour, advertisers follow their lead in being more tolerant of taint.

“In the heat of the moment, there may be calls for doing something drastic in Indian companies because there are people involved after all,” Desai says. “But eventually saner minds prevail, calculation overrides ethical considerations, that ‘let us wait and watch, let us be pragmatic.”

Outrage is not deep in India. There is a gossipy element to it. It becomes a talking point in the news, people start talking about how much Indian stars are paid. Nobody did that in Australia