Now celebrities need influencers to revive them, writes Naresh Gupta

Finding the right celebrity to promote a brand is often the most debated topic among brand managers. This debate is bigger than any other element of branding strategy. The movie star is sometimes the strategy. Yes, there are more familiar faces that consumers know, but nothing works quite like an off-screen name for our nation.

But things seem to be changing; Movie stars seem to be losing some of their luster and can’t make the same impact as they did a few years ago.

About a year ago, De’Longhi Coffee signed actor Brad Pitt and released a rather indulgent one-minute commercial about Pitt’s love for De’Longhi Coffee. The dismantling of the commercial was brutal — the commercial press was unimpressed by the effort, and the criticism the commercial faced was worth millions of dollars in bad press. Brad Pitt’s reputation wasn’t enough to save the commercial either.

REPUTATION COUNTS

We are currently observing something similar in the Indian advertising industry. Previously, using a celebrity allowed brands to carefully build a series of positive stories around them. That seems to be changing now, with the Actor reputation that increases or decreases brand appeal.

What we’re seeing is the demise of big stars and the rise of small names, and a multitude of influencers who have massive social currency. Combine this with the fact that Hindi cinema has not reaped a bounty at the box office of late, making the big stars seem smaller and without their former glory.

When a brand partners with the movie star, it’s trying to capitalize on the star’s popularity and status. Through association, the brand seeks to become bigger than its competition, adding a layer of invincibility to its appeal and creating an irrational desire to consume the brand.

That is even more relevant when the celebrity ambassador does not have an obvious fit. There’s celebrity, there’s brand, and by association, celebrity delivers more than brand as an overall effect.

The second reason to sign a big screen star is cut through the mess. There’s a sense of recognition that only a movie star can bring to a brand. Recognition is important when the brand measures the creative impact of its communications.

WHAT HAS CHANGED?

What has changed and where could the problem lie?

The first thing that happened is that Big stars are no longer box office champions. Her own ability to create a following is now suspect. In the past year, almost every major movie star has seen his/her movies fail to do well at the box office.

The second is the Rise of the small screen. There used to be a clear separation between small and large screens. The whole gamut of cinema and television has merged into what we call OTT and that has changed the way we consume the stars. Suddenly the big ones lose the fight against the small ones. The brands that built their strategy on the backs of big stars literally see stars!

The biggest change is actually the rise of new stars – a mix of screen personalities big and small, bringing brands far greater recognition, following and creative clout. Brands are experimenting with these new celebrities by calling them influencersbut how long does it take for the new faces to become the bigger names?

Remember that for every Brad Pitt there is Ryan Reynolds and his Aviation Gin. As we witness the rise of Slurp Farm, Epigamia and more, we also witness the shift in the following and appeal of big stars.

I guess even a big screen hit can slow down change, but change is bound to happen.

(The author is co-founder and CSO, Bang in the Middle)

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