Last week, in its Opinion section Campaign questioned, ‘Could Kangana Ranaut hurt your brand … even if you did not endorse the views of Karan Johar and company?’ and provided a quick introduction too ... At the IIFA Awards, held recently in New York, Karan Johar, Saif Ali Khan and Varun Dhawan ganged up against actor Kangana Ranaut to make several jibes against her. Ranaut’s crime was to have taken on the mighty Johar as the “flagbearer of nepotism”, when she was a guest on his show, Koffee with Karan, many moons ago. As if to justify the nepotism that's highly prevalent in Bollywood, the trio declared, ‘nepotism rocks!’
Not very many of the other industry forums took note of this controversy perhaps believing this was more ‘filmy’ than brand-connected. I think, this one time they erred in not giving Kangana Ranaut her due … moreso since Campaign rightly said, ‘Kangana Ranaut is not just a name, but a sentiment, that resonates strongly with Indian woman of today
’. In my doctoral research on Celebrities as Human Brands, conducted over the last 3 years, Kangana has emerged as a strong candidate for endorsing brands that are a bit removed from the mainstream, a bit different, a bit hat-ke.
Kangana, without doubt, was at her stellar best playing Rani, in Vikas Bahl’s Queen. After being ditched on the eve of her wedding, Rani refuses to cancel her honeymoon. She goes alone on a trip to Paris and Amsterdam, discovering herself and her confidence in the process. Ranaut as Rani wears a shapeless cardigan and clutches at her bag on the streets of Paris and Skypes with her parents every night, also making friends with a motley bunch of global youngsters. She is, in the depiction of Rani, every middle-class girl’s hero … all-the-more when she returns the engagement ring to her hapless fiancé at the end of the film. Queen won Kangana a National Award.
Known for her psychotic roles (Fashion, Gangster, Raaz, Woh Lamhe, Metro), Ranaut has had her share of success and failures. While Queen, Krrish 3, Tanu weds Manu, Once Upon A Time in Mumbai, Shootout At Wadala got a good response, others like Revolver Rani, I Love NY, Rascals and Double Dhamaal did not do so well at the Box Office.
Kangana today endorses Voylla jewellery, Vero Moda, Titan eyewear, Boro Plus, Lawman and Pg3, and has featured in campaigns for Liva, Myntra, Tata Sky and even Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. But honestly, Kangana has not got her due from advertisers.
In my study of over 40 celebrities across 64 different attributes for my PhD thesis, I have rarely seen a spurt in ‘Likeability’ (see Figure 1 below) scores quite like Kangana’s. Her pillar pattern closely resembles that of Virat Kohli, who as we all know has been blazing an unbelievable trajectory of success in the past three years.
Brand Kangana: Changing from 2015 to 2017
Kangana’s attribute maps too make for interesting analysis. The jagged and irregular brand maps of 2015 make way by 2017 (see Figure 2) for a Kangana seen to be high on progressive, distinctive, up-to-date, stylish, different, unique, prestigious, innovative, high quality and distinctive. And that is really saying a lot. I wonder in fact why brand marketers have been shy to take notice, and make use of Kangana far more than she has been used so far.
Brand Kangana: Image changes from 2015 to 2017
Personality changes in Brand Kangana (see Figure 3) too show very high scores for daring, strong, carefree, honest and intelligent. Equally forcefully, she is not seen to be obliging! Her brand map too is becoming more and more rounded. More importantly her scores across attributes have leapfrogged over the past three years making her a stronger personality and a more impactful brand.
Brand Kangana: Personality changes from 2015 to 2017
What marketers ought to take note is how well Kangana (see Figure 4) does on Likeable, Friendly and Loved by All. Good creative usage can get Kangana to do wonders for many a brand. It is just that Kangana is not easy to handle … and I did not mean that for her as an individual, but as a Human Brand. Her screen image and the kind of roles she has essayed has lifted her personal brand to a completely different high.
Kangana has savvy. She has oomph. She has loads of attitude. The fear most marketers would have is that a strong personality like her could end up over-shadowing the brand.
I tend to differ. Kangana in many ways is like Aamir Khan. Controversial, but brilliant. Someone who fills the frame at her own terms. That in turn can give the endorsed brand some, if not all, of her famed attitude. Which really is worth a lot for younger, unfocussed brands seeking anchorage in the consumer mind.
Brand Kangana: Human-factor changes from 2015 to 2017
When compared to seasoned Deepika, and current heart-throb Alia, Kangana’s pillars are smaller but I would again like to draw attention to Likeability.
Kangana vs. Deepika vs. Alia: 2015 to 2017
Kangana (see Figure 5 above) far outscores both Deepika and Alia on that most pivotal parameter.
I would urge brands that want to communicate daring, innovation, intelligent, talented, women power and inner beauty to go for her. Kangana is, without doubt, India’s No. 1 female ‘hero’ who has repeatedly been able to carry a movie to box-office success squarely on her own shoulders. She is under-leveraged as a brand endorsee. A good strategy, and a good script can unlock tremendous goodwill for the brand. Yes, it goes without saying that Kangana is pure dynamite. So, please handle with care!
(Sandeep Goyal is a columnist and commentator who has spent 33-years in advertising and media, with leadership positions at Rediffusion, Zee Telefilms and Dentsu. He is currently Chairman, Mogae Media.)