Celebrities assure a stronger media and social pull but there are many brands that have created stronger brand equity even without a celebrity, questioning the actual worth of this heavy investment
Celebrities are known to have a significant impact on audiences worldwide, but the craze is seemingly higher amongst Indians especially towards Bollywood or Cricket. In a star-struck country like ours, most people idolise and some even blindly follow their favourite stars. Precisely, why do we see these celebrities endorsing brands across categories? Everything from a toilet cleaner to a face cream, to an app to a toothpaste has a celeb endorser!
In a world that’s crying for differentiation, one sees many cases where brands use celebrities and position them as the mere face of their product without a concrete plan or strategy. Celebrities assure a stronger media and social pull that brands are typically looking for. While there are brands that have campaigned with a celeb ambassador successfully, there are many that have created a stronger brand equity even without one, questioning the actual worth of this heavy investment. One legendary and relatable example would be Maggi Noodles that created the revolutionary ‘2-minute’ campaign without using a celeb crutch.
At present, given the emphasis on brand building in ed-tech many brands have adopted this celebrity strategy. Before we dive into whether celeb endorsements are the right or the mandatory way to proceed, let’s first understand the Edtech conundrum that exists today as we move towards a blended learning world.
K-12 is a classified segment where the consumer and the customer are different. The consumers are kids and customers are parents. So apart from a marketing challenge of appealing to both segments, if one were to introduce a celebrity, he or she also needs to appeal to the target audience together which makes the communication all the more challenging.
Education in India is sacred and a high involvement space. So, in case an association goes wrong, the ramifications could be higher.
As stated earlier in a country that thrives on films and cricket, there are no real educational personalities that can be the first or the best choice for the sector. So, an edtech platform is left with a regular cohort of celeb influencers instead of an impactful or relevant one which in turn dilutes the intended impact of this strategy.
According to the recent KPMG report, there are more than 3500 players in edtech in India. Hence, the need to stand out and be differentiated as a brand now is extremely important. Most platforms have solutions that are similar and very few are designed with unique solutions for learners. For the former, a celeb becomes the USP of the platform and at times there is little or no thought in associating with a known face.
To ensure the celeb association remains a boon, the platforms have to be mindful of:
A) Timing and Strategy - Understanding the Need
Most brands follow a herd mentality when it comes to making such decisions. So, when the category leader ropes in a celebrity, a few others blindly follow suit. Some brands backed by financial muscle go this route to get noticed in a cluttered ed-tech space. Instead of blindly following the competition, brands need to be conscious about what stage of growth they are in and introspect on the sole need to onboard a famous face vis a vis an idea that makes them differentiated.
B) Choice of celebrity to align with the brand philosophy
Commercials and campaigns are the voice of companies, hence seeking a celebrity endorsement must also echo the company’s core values. A celebrity who truly bears testimonials to a certain product is a perfect choice. A celebrity who has registered for organ or blood donation is a better fit to propagate the idea of organ or blood donation over someone who has never expressed interest in the given cause. For e.g., Aishwarya Rai advocated for the eye donation campaign. This sense of association is even more important for Ed-tech wherein many public figures that we know of, are notorious college dropouts and risk driving an irrelevant brand message rather than a relatable one. On the positive side, in many cases celebs have added a distinct flavour like Rahul Dravid as Jammy for Kissan or Amitabh Bachchan who won back the trust for Cadbury which makes this a High Risk- High Gain strategy.
In conclusion, a celebrity can definitely add value to the brand and complement the marketing mix but the responsibility of making it successful requires a stronger integrated approach. Few brands might have also dabbled with celebrities following specific needs along the way, but what makes a marketing campaign timeless is the power of an idea and its effective execution and not the association alone. A 360-degree approach, attention to detail and the marketeers established vision will always create a successful and memorable campaign and the education space is no exception.
The Author is Mahadev Srivatsa, Vice President - Marketing & Brand Strategy, Practically.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.
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