Tag Archives: celebrity endorsement

We know what it takes to be a Tiger. Yeah?

We know it too

Ask Accenture said my last blog and they have spoken, albeit, silently. Search for Tiger Woods in their website and it comes as page not found (on Sunday). Accenture dropped the contract with Tiger Woods on Dec 13. According to me one of the best celebrity branding episodes draws curtains now. With due respect to the supporters of celebrity branding- My deep condolences. Gillette has dropped tiger from any further promotions. AT&T is evaluating further move to keep him or not. Gatorade had dropped him prior to the scandal. Nike and TagHeuer are still backing him or at least not reacting in an adverse manner. So from now on you won’t see Accenture telling that ‘We know what it takes to be a Tiger’. Instead its website now reads – Accenture wishes only the best for Tiger Woods and his family.

 There was a time when he was called “The world’s most marketable athlete.” By many marketing research firms. Wonder what they would say now. This just makes me again and again reiterate my clichéd point that celebrity endorsements is a worthless risk that whose cost benefit analysis is clearly unfavorable. There are too many uncontrollable elements in there. And as a marketer, you don’t want too many uncontrollable factors.

But then what are the implications for Accenture? And why is EA and Nike still making sense by supporting him?

EA sports support Tiger

Let’s say there are two factors- the Hard (core) factors and the Soft (complementing) factors. In Tiger Woods case the hard factor is simply his Golf. Any brand he endorses strictly due to his game and nothing else, would have hired him because of his hard factors and any brand hiring him for his qualities like humility, personality and other qualitative aspects would hire him because of soft factors.

So it’s clear to see that Accenture was more of a soft factor decision as compared to EA (Tiger Woods golf game) and Nike (Nike golf). This means as for the hard factors, Tiger Woods still remains the one of the best in the history of golf, even if he becomes gay but as for his soft factors, he is not exactly the ideal idol anymore. So it makes sense for Accenture and Gillette to drop him. So according to this AT&T should be dropping Tiger as I don’t see any mutual benefit the association can deliver. Even TagHeuer makes sense as they and woods collaborated closely to develop the world’s first professional golf watch, released in April 2005. The lightweight, titanium-construction watch was designed to be worn while playing the game. However, TagHeuer won’t rush for a renewed contract for sure.

Tiger woods Cadillac Escalade crash

Funny thing was he had an accident in GMs Cadillac Escalade, the brand that he endorsed earlier. As if GM had lesser woes already.

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Save the Tiger

There is something about Tiger Woods. It is the same thing that Barack Obama has too. It transcends money and fame. It transcends the power they confer to whatever they associate their name to.
They connect. No matter how much they earn in a year and if it is more than what all your earlier generations may have earnt till now, still you have a feeling that they are like you only. I don’t know if its got something to do with the brown skin but I get more motivated by the stories of the woods, the obamas, the Williams and so on. They connect because they represent a much larger minority voice. The voice of the underdog.
For tiger woods it had reached a point from which he could not do anything wrong in his career or more so with his brand. Tiger woods stood for something. It stood for honesty, straightforwardness, humility, reliability and other synonyms. Tiger woods was much more than a perfect golf swing. People need not understand the sport to marvel at the iconic legend. Even if you did not know what a birdie, bogie or a bunker is. You did not know how he was playing but you just knew that he was always trying his best. You just knew that he could not do anything wrong.
So what went wrong with woods? All I knew was there was an accident and after that the press slaughtered his image with juicy rumours of his mistresses. An image bomb as similar and as big as bill Clinton affair. And there is something that tiger could very well learn from that scandal. Accept the mistake and move on. Public memory is, as always, short. There is no denying the fact that the damage has been done but the damage control to the brand tiger woods has been really off course. It is surprising to see how badly celebrities get managed sometimes. They bask in all the glory and are willing to talk and write books on how they made it to that level but when something nasty hits them they run without caring for their shadows. There are reports of him quitting golf and trying to revive their marriage. GREAT. But the sad part of being so public and having been so public in the past is that, it is exactly what the public expects you to be now. Be public.
Again we learn from this that celebrity endorsements should always been looked at extremely critically. Because you can not control their events but they can control yours. And that is not a great leverage for your brand. Ask Accenture.

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Recession and Brand ambassadors

According to Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge “In a recession, consumers become value oriented… But a downturn is no time to stop spending on marketing.”

Recession is the time when one can gain on the competitors’ weakness more than any other phase and consumers are willing to switch and test new brands rather than sticking to one. If they feel that their brand doesn’t connect with them then this is the time that the risk of switching over is more. A consumer who sticks with you even in a recession is loyal.

A downturn is no time to stop spending on marketing. But neither is it to continue wasteful spending. In a downturn the consumer is more likely to buy your product rather than your brand. Therefore until and unless you communicate the value that your product gives rest all efforts would be wasted. One method of communicating the value is through brand ambassadors. Here the question is much beyond recession. Choosing a brand ambassador does not depend on recession or boom but reviewing your brand ambassador during recession keeps a brand updated and ready to face new challenges.

Pillsbury Doughboy
Pillsbury Doughboy

A brand ambassador is generally the companys face to the consumer. It can either be a person like Amitabh Bachchan for Cadburys or a character like Fido Dido of 7up.

A human ambassador is generally someone who is famous or well recognized. The company gets the advantage of instant recognition and recall and top of the mind awareness. The loyal sets of fans adopt products wholeheartedly given the purchasing power. A celebrity endorsement can be helpful for a brand to maintain attention to its brand and category. People would be more keen to watch a celebrity on screen. However if given a choice an organization should always restrain from it simply because most of the celebrity endorsements tend to follow the hockey stick effect – they rise for sometime to fall forever. A marketer or any businessman for that matter would like to control the risks as much as possible and everyone knows that a celebrity endorsement is often uncontrollable off the screen. Michael Phelps was videotaped smoking Marijuana, Kellogs for whom he was the ambassador pulled him instantly following public outcry and protests. The damage is reversible but expensive. Back home, Hansie Cronje endorsed Siyarams, soon to be hooked in a match fixing scandal. The cost and damages far outweigh the benefits, if things go wrong. Such incidents can be alarmingly damaging and a recession would just deepen the wounds.

Tweet bird
Tweet bird

On the other hand, a character is a reliable option. It is totally controllable and has no risk of being replicated. The incremental effect of a brand character on the consumers is also significant. The brand character can be extremely effective for smaller and medium sized companies who do not have cash resources to fund a celebrity, especially in a recession. Moreover a character can be molded over a period of time, especially, when you need to communicate a new position that marketers often take during a recession trying to undo the mistakes that they had previously accumulated. Hence Onida could easily change its devil character over the period of time to add more value into their communication, as they are targeting the conservative and cautious consumer. Hence Ronald Mcdonalds face remains synonymous in the minds of its young target audience who are being wooed unsuccessfully by Burger King and other outlets. Things can not be better if your consumer is loyal to you even during recessions because they want fun and nothing signifies it better than McDonalds Ronald McDonald, the ever smiling ambassador, recession or not. A brand character over a period of time can hence help you own a word in the mind of the consumer and enhance your positioning or maintain it. Hence, Ronald Mcdonald  relates to “fun”, the AMUL girl signifies a “healthy and happy child”.

Recessions are times when a company needs to thoroughly examine its brand associations. A check needs to be done to ensure that the association is a source of equity. However, thoughtless marketing has more often than not, wasted company’s resources on extravagant brand endorsements. It gets painful when the consumer realizes lack of synergy between him/her and the brand primarily due to its erroneous secondary associations. This dissatisfaction hurts the company the most during recession when the consumer has more choices to switch and there are competitor brands repositioning themselves to woo the undecided consumer.

mE? Really?
mE? Really?

More often than not Brand endorsements, especially, come at the expense of an idea. Everyone remembers when Zoozoos and the Pugs walked away with the honors while Airtel was busy spending crores on Sharukh, Madhavan etc. An idea overpowered the blandness of celebrities. Brand ambassadors mean that you are forced to weave your brand around the celebrity than the other way around. This results in lack of believability and consumers fail to associate themselves with the brand. How believable is it when Deepika Padukone says that she uses orbit white? Whereas, HappyDent had a brilliant idea that needed none to endorse. Does Aishwarya Rai use Lux? Then why does she say “Dus rupaye mein Lux”? The consumer believes that the benefit they promise should also be false. Lifebuoy on the other hand is a brand that communicates the idea of health, without being dependent on the power of brand ambassadors and owns the word “Health” in the minds of its customers. The crucial ingredient  in the success of any brand is its claim to authencity and poor brand ambassadors destroy it.

How brands perform in a recession is a sum of everything that the brand has done in the past to force the consumer behave the way he/she does in a recession. If it is unfavorable, then there is no better time to change than recession. Repositioning during a downturn is lesser obvious than when things are going on fine. Repositioning during recession communicates that the brand is willing to change according to new conditions.

Now suppose a management is adamant on the use of brand ambassadors to revive a brand, how do you enable it.

 The answer is going back to the basics of making a brand ambassador, or, for that matter, any brand association, believable and credible. If the consumer feels that the brand ambassador is the brand itself then there is nothing better than that and that will not be possible until and unless  there is exclusivity in your selection. The only brand that comes to my mind when I hear Vishwanathan Anand is NIIT. But for Sharukh Khan? Brands should hence not fall into the ‘Khan trap’ and should look for more economical sources of equity. Brands should awaken to the power of zero cost internal marketing assets like your customers, internal as well as external, who can represent your brand. Starbucks is what it is today not because of any ads, in fact they hardly

Starbucks  Barista - Got Milk?
Starbucks Barista – Got Milk?

advertise, but due to the service experience that the employees or the Starbucks “partners” help provide. These kinds of brand ambassadors are especially relevant to brands that are service oriented. Even the high end apparel brand Abercrombie and Fitch uses only its sales representatives as its brand ambassadors. Consumers are willing to pay extra for a good service where the employees represent the brand wholeheartedly and hence enhance the brand equity and create a win-win relation. Many product brands are now shrugging of the albatross around their necks of the brand ambassadors and using its consumers or a seemingly normal person as its brand ambassadors. We have seen Dove doing it and Maggi and KurKure do the same with the faces of consumers on its packages. Leveraging on your free marketing assets results in greater efficiency of your communication and more credibility- critical during recessions. It bonds them into a relation that will see you through the recession without any ripples. Real or not, these are much more effective than a celebrity who is never going to eat KurKure or concoct his/her own version of maggi.

Zero Cost marketing asset leverage
Zero Cost marketing asset leverage

Hence, given a choice opt for better ideas more than secondary associations. Incase, you feel that you need a brand ambassador adopt a brand character. If you are still dissatisfied then opt for credible, exclusive as well as zero cost marketing assets like your consumers and employees to be your brand ambassadors. It will create a long term brand equity and better “hard-to-attack” points of differences that the consumers would like to vouch for even in a recession, even if it means a higher price.

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Brand endorsements, Star testimonials (3)

 

Celeb Ads : Thumbs Down

Celeb Ads : Thumbs Down

Now. For all who haven’t read the previous two posts (1 and 2)and are not going to read either. The last two posts have been about why star endorsements do not work generally, about its impact. In fact, many people don’t get affected by star testimonials at all.

Reason – they have lost their novelty. The mediums of communication have increased. Gone are the days when TV did not need a remote as there were no more than 5 channels.

Any great brand ambassadors tries selling almost everything. Endorsing more than 10 brands. Clutter and confusion. People want to associate a brand to a person but when an endorser acts for 15 ads there is no consistent image.

Brand endorsements will always be there. There is some chimeric imagination attached to them. I fail to understand why. When I talk of suits and clothings I remember Raymonds because of their classic teacher student ad and more recently of the business executive with his dogs ad. Check all Raymond ads here. Whereas, Amitabh’s Reid and Taylor hardly registers an impact and SRK’s Belmonte can be brushed off. Both from S.Kumar’s. The stars are way bigger than the brand. They look out of place. While making a brand endorsement, avoid what SRK brands, Amitabh Bachchan brands etc are doing and then its hard to find where one can go wrong. Brand endorsements to charter a different way for sure.

 

Suicide : Celeb endorsements going wrong

Suicide : Celeb endorsements going wrong

Brand endorsements are mostly not worth the buck passed. Many backfire and there are great chances that the ad fails before it takes off. Ask 7up who advertised in Ireland keeping Roy Keane as the central theme during the world cup. He was sent back without playing a match and 7 up had hardly sold any bottles. Back home everyone knows the Pepsi blue billion campaign fiasco that left millions of Pepsi blue bottles unopened. But still I maintain that celebrity endorsements in sports will continue as long as it is relevant. Sachin and Pepsi’s memorable “Nothing official about it”, ambush marketing campaign during 1996 world cup was one such instance. But I don’t know how effective Sachin was trying to sell Aviva life insurance.

 

The Cost benefit ratio is highly tilted towards the former and spills over to do more damage than just incurring cost, it can even tarnish the image. Ask Siyarams who advertised with Hansie Cronje and suffered ignominy when the match fixing scandal floated. Read related Cronje-Siyarams article. McDonalds and Sprite took a beating when Kobe Bryant was charged with sexual assault. Kobe-McDonalds controversy article for more. Same holds true for Chris Browns Wrigleys endorsement and Michael Phelps for Kellogs, which dumped Phelps after he was seen smoking marijuana, what a brand association.

Then why does Nike and Adidas use brand ambassadors? How are they succesfull?

Ogilvy on Marketing

Ogilvy on Marketing

I would simply like to quote David Ogilivy here “Testimonials from celebrities get high recall scores, but I have stopped using them because readers remember the celebrity’s and forget the product. Whats more, they assume that the celebrity has been bought, which is usually the case. On the other hand, testimonials from experts can be persuasive – like having an ex-burglar testify that he had never been able to crack a chubb safe.” And he was not talking about 2009 but earlier than 1983, when the stars did not hire advertising management companies. They hardly starred in a couple of ads. Nothing has sold Nike more, than three words “Just do it”.

 

Nike as far as I know do not endorse through film stars or entertainment celebrities. They do it through experts of that field. Cricketers, footballers, tennis stars and so on. Their shoes are designed by them, the players and various celebrities. Hence they are connected with the product. M.S Dhoni, I can bet my life on it, did not design any finance plan for GE Finance (still flustered with that association, check out the GE money Dhoni ad and wonder) and neither does SRK eat Sunfeast biscuits for which he advertises.

One of the most successful brand associations have been that of Michael Jordan and Nike. Why?

Because he was connected with the brand. Any successful brand endorsement has to have a direct and strong relationship between the brand and the product and not ride on the popularity aspect. See Jordan Nike 2009.

 

Identify the right endorsers than popular.

Identify the right endorsers than popular.

Another recallable partnership is Tiger Woods- Accenture brand. They haven’t simply put in tiger woods and made him say that Accenture is the best. They have developed a relation with him. Accenture is designated as the exclusive management consulting and technology services partner of both Tiger Woods and the Tiger Woods Foundation. In addition, Accenture advises the Tiger Woods Learning Center on technology support, including the TWLC eLearning system. Plus, I don’t think accentures clients work with them because Tiger Woods is their brand ambassador.

Finally check this report out by the European commissions research.

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Brand Endorsements, Star Testimonials (1)

 

Celebrity endorsements: It was all fine then..

Celebrity endorsements: It was all fine then..

Indians first had a dash of celebrity endorsement when cricket got transformed from dull white to Kerry packers pyjama cricket. Farooq Engineer was roped in by Sara lee’s Brylcreem . Soon Srinivas Venkataraghavan started endorsing  Philips bicycle and  Nescafe, Erapalli Prasanna ,Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi  also followed .

 

A celebrity does wonders to the brand. Celebrity presence gets you the eyeballs irrespective of the ad quality and there is instant recall whenever you see the brand or the endorsee. The product gets that vital endorsee push that incentivizes the early adopters to try the product. The belief in the product is much higher than a non-endorsed product. If SRK is endorsing it, then it has to be good, goes the saying. There is always an informal buzz going around. Controversies help too.

Is that really everything? Is there more to Celebrity endorsements? Yes there is.

Brand endorsements are overpaid and uneconomical. There was a time when star testimony could do wonders to the image of the brand. Sachin said “boost is the secret of my energy” and boost was there at my home. Those times are over. Majority of the people now, do not get influenced by a brand endorsement. Those times TV had a special charm being the only entertainment source and anything broadcasted on the television caught attention.But the screenag era is different.

 The common defense for brand endorsements are that it automatically translates into wider reach and recall is more than a normal ad. But what is the use if there is reach but no impact? A smaller viewer base does not necessarily mean that the impact is less. Impact of an ad over a period of time shapes the future recall. Sustained  impact is the most important aspect. Vodafones  ZooZoo have succeeded in doing that. Fa has roped in Bipasha Basu as their brand ambassador but who do you think will impact more? Fa advertisements or axe adverts that do not rely on a celeb strength but highlight the product usp of naughtiness. Even when they used a celeb, Ben Affleck  for axe click they made sure that he was not bigger than the theme.Infact he was nowhere close to distracting. That is the way to go.

 

Brand endorsements : They are all the same.

Brand endorsements : They are all the same.

The problem with brand endorsements is that the endorser often becomes larger than the brand. The ads are woven around the brand ambassador rather than the endorser being a part of the ad. Many advertisements simply have been low on creative quotient. Their impact is just orgasmic. Lasts for a few seconds and forgotten. Many times, the brand image plummets along with the star. Sreesanth is a great example for the same. He endorsed a well known group called Muthoot. Now people laugh at them for having him represent the group. Brylcreem too have Sreesanth and whenever the ad comes people are busy telling how stupid he is rather than remembering the brand.

 

However, its not the end  for the brand endorsers . Beauty products still need brand endorsements. The same goes for sports goods also. Infact while writing this post in between itself I have realized that it is not that they have become impotent but the fact that brand endorsements need to get a change, provided that they will still be there in some form or the other. One is bored with the audience  being taken for granted. The lack of creative flow is passed on to the audience with a celeb sewn on to a tattering script. Nike and Adidas break the clutter and are hence noticed.

 

Brand Endorsers ripping money?

Brand Endorsers ripping money?

Better than spending on brand ambassadors it is much more fruitful to hire a powerful creative agency that could provide you with an excellent theme that resonates with your product. In fact, a brand can create differentiation just because it is not endorsed by anyone. Winner ads are those that resonate with the target audience.  

 

Recall the ads that you like. How many of them are Celeb endorsed ?

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