Endorsement Market in India: Its Time to Shake It Up
Yes, it is time for a new recipe for the celebrity endorsement market in India. The current formula is unexciting, tired and overdone. A-list Bollywood actors and cricket stars endorse everything from paint and carpets to gasoline. Typically, given the right offer, celebrities will endorse any brand across any category. As of 2009, the celebrity endorsement market in India was estimated at about Rs 450 crore or $ 120+ million, with a steady growth of about 15% to 25%. The top two or three movie stars can command anywhere between Rs 6 crore and 10 crore, or close to $2 million a year, for certain endorsement deals.
The endorsement market is completely saturated, diluted, and in need of a shake-up. No matter where you look in India – billboards, radio ads, TV commercials, buses, posters, newspapers or magazines – you inevitably find celebrities randomly promoting just about any product. There are two inherent problems with this model, especially because Bollywood celebrities are becoming global names and Indian brands are now marketing to a global consumer. They both have to do with brand dilution and brand direction:
The problem for celebrities is that suddenly the personal brand identity that they have spent years developing doesn’t stand for anything anymore because it has stood for everything. When a top Bollywood star revered by millions does endorsements for oil, paint, cars, pens and computers, s/he is putting their brand promise at risk.
The problem for brands is that despite the huge spends to tap into some of the brand equity these celebrities have created with the consumer, it is no secret that globally such endorsements rarely lift sales.
So why do they continue to do it?
Evidently, celebrities do it for the money, and brands do it because they think the rub-off effect will establish them as a major player.
Tactically utilized, celebrity endorsements do have the power to influence purchase decisions. How can the endorsement market in India be spiced up so that everyone benefits?
For one, celebrities could be pickier about endorsements. Leading Bollywood and cricket stars should associate themselves with brands that have similar attributes. If you are a celebrity that is known to be a perfectionist, associate yourself with brands that try to project that in the market, such as Apple, IBM, Coke or Pepsi. If your brand attributes are identified with being an action star then opt for brands that encompass that positioning in their brand mantra, like Gatorade or Nike. If celebrities are choosier about their endorsements and work with brands where there is a natural connect:
- There will be a positive brand reinforcement for the celebrity because of this association.
- The brand will be using a celebrity who is credibly marketing their message.
- The celebrity can command a higher price because their brand stands for something specific and not just its glamour quotient.
Secondly, brands on their part can shake things up and begin to use international A-list talent in their campaigns. While it is common for recognizable Hollywood faces to appear in European and most Asian countries, it hasn’t really become a trend in India. Obviously, budgets are not the issue. The issue is that most Indian brands are scared to take risks. India is a global economy and the consumer is a global consumer, who should be marketed to accordingly. I guarantee there would be more buzz if a popular Hollywood celebrity suddenly showed up in an Indian fashion campaign than if the same old Bollywood brand ambassador did.
With Indian celebrities verging on over-exposure and Indian brands now reaching out to a global consumer, it is time for both parties to step back and rethink their strategies. Assessing their brand and its values, how they want it to evolve, and what they want to achieve by specific associations, would lead to more focused and directed campaigns in sync with market trends, rather than shortsighted stabs at reflected glory.