She is svelte. She is sexy. She is sophisticated. She is self-confident. She is so much more than the usual Bollywood star: she is a best-selling author, she is a regular and respected newspaper columnist, she is a successful film producer, she is an interior designer of stature and she is a former film actress, with a hallowed family lineage. She is also married to one of India’s biggest superstars. Yes, Mrs. Funnybones Twinkle Khanna is suddenly the season flavourite of many brands and marketers.
Of late, Twinkle Khanna has been very visible on the IPL with her endorsement of Parle’s premium cookie brand Milano. Over the last few days, the retired actress (daughter of India’s legendary superstar Rajesh Khanna and ‘teen sensation’ Dimple Kapadia) has been also signed on by L’Oréal Professionnel, a leading salon hair brand internationally endorsed by Eva Green and Twiggy. And, earlier this week, Ms. Khanna, started to appear in the ‘Colours by Kohler’ campaign for the global kitchen and bath brand. Last year Twinkle had appeared with husband Akshay Kumar in a campaign for PC Jewellers. How come so much sudden interest in the 44-years old actress?
Twinkle Khanna has what most of her contemporaries do not perhaps have enough of: she has charm. Oodles of charm. She has style. She has oomph. But well manicured, well preserved oomph. She has a certain class about her. Every inch of her oozes good grooming, good etiquette, good up-bringing and good taste. She is not just a beautiful bimbette; she is a woman of substance. Her reputation as a top quality satirist and humorist, an author of national repute, has further enhanced her personality and added a smart and cerebral dimension to her persona. That she is entirely controversy-free and scandal-free, adds dependability and restrain to her personal brand. Her marriage to Khiladi Akshay Kumar is seen to be stable, and with son Aarav and daughter Nitara, they make for a good family picture.
To be fair, Twinkle is not entirely new to the brand endorsement game. She has in the past worked as a brand ambassador for international watch brand Movado, endorsed Coca-Cola and featured in an ad for Micromax mobiles. She appeared alongside Akshay for Lodha real estate too a couple of years back. But these assignments have been so spread out over time that they are almost forgotten.
Twinkle Khanna is in an age bracket where she does not have to compete with the likes of Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut or Alia Bhatt. She can look and behave more mature, and choose to endorse brands which appeal to an older target audience of home-makers and family folks. In the slightly older set of women endorsees, Twinkle could be facing off against the likes of Hema Malini, Kajol, Madhuri Dixit Nene, Aishwarya Rai and even Kareena Kapoor.
The nearly 70-years old Hema Malini has been the Dream Girl of obscure brands like Chetak soap, Shakti detergent, Shankar Chhap beedi (yes, beedi!) and even Honeydew cigarettes where she featured alongside her co-star Sanjeev Kumar. She also endorsed the now long-forgotten TV brand, Televista. And in keeping with the age-old Bollywood tradition, she was the face of Lux soap for many years. In recent years Hema has also featured in the ads for Shalimar coconut oil and Swarna Champa Moksh agarbattis. But her most enduring, and successful brand endorsement by far, has been for Kent RO. Hema Malini however is no competition to Twinkle Khanna as she would soon be headed to more grand-motherly endorsements.
Supermom-superwife Kajol has recently been featuring with hubby Ajay Devgan in ads for Lifebuoy soaps. But apart from that her portfolio in the endorsement game has been fairly sparse. While in the past, Kajol has endorsed big brands like Knorr, Whirlpool, Yakult, Alpenliebe, Asmi, Marie and Anchor, her current endorsement of unknown regional detergent brand Woosh perhaps indicates a drought in demand for the Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai heart-throb of the 90s. Kajol’s endorsements are comparatively down-market and she is not really in the active competitive set of Twinkle Khanna.
Madhuri Dixit Nene’s comeback has not been easy, whether in films or in the lucrative brand endorsement space. She has had her fair share of endorsements for brands like Olay skincare, Taj Mahal tea, Aquaguard, Oral-B and PN Gadgil jewelers but her controversy with Olay seems to have alienated the Dhak Dhak girl from potential endorsements. Her failure to also make much headway in films despite repeated attempts, has also pushed her into the nostalgia niche. Her trying to get her relatively unknown husband Dr. Sriram Nene into her endorsements has also not really helped. Twinkle with a far more high profile and commercially successful husband, Akshay, is obviously far better currency.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was at the Cannes Film Festival this year too, gracing the red carpet. But the Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam star, and former Miss World, who endorsed Titan watches to Longines, Coca-Cola to Pepsi, L'Oréal to Lakme, Palmolive to Lux and Nakshatra to De Beers slowly lost out on endorsements post her marriage to Abhishek some years ago. She did feature in a forgettable campaign for TTK Prestige pressure cookers a while ago with husband Bachchan Jr. but she has subsequently been replaced by Vidya Balan. Her last big assignment was a co-appearance for Kalyan jewellers with papa-in-law Amitabh Bachchan. Despite her enduring beauty, Ash is somehow not finding enough takers. While she travels to Cannes with daughter Aaradhya, and makes the most of the media hype surrounding the mother-daughter bonding, she has somehow failed to present herself as a Cool-Mom option to brands. The lukewarm career of Abhishek has also limited her options for appearing as a couple in brand campaigns. Twinkle obviously is far better placed with a strong husband-brand to lean on.
Kareena Kapoor’s marriage and motherhood seems to have adversely impacted her salability to brands. The face of Sony, Head & Shoulders, Boroplus, Lux, Vivel Soap, Colgate, Lakme, Philips, Limca, Tetley’s, ICI Paints, Citizen watches, Airtel and Globus seems to have lost her Midas Touch of late. Kareena’s last major brand ambassadorships have been for Bblunt and PregaNews. This year one has really not seen her much, except in ads for Rasna. For the record, Taimur Ali Khan Pataudi, Kareena’s son is the most googled star-child out of India. But for whatever reason, Mama Kareena has kept him away from the arc-lights. Twinkle’s kids are much older and she too has not featured with them for any brand. But Ms. Khanna may not be averse to playing mom roles which Kareena has been shying away from.
The big plus for Twinkle Khanna is her cosmopolitan, cultured and urbane look. She has also been fairly selective about the brands she has endorsed in the past, and the brands she is getting associated with now. Even when associating with a mass FMCG brand like Parle, she has chosen to endorse only their top-of-the-line Milano range. Each of her campaigns allows her to carry a polished, refined, elegant and well-bred look. She consciously comes across as genteel and gracious in her on-screen persona. Her play in social media is also well-orchestrated. When husband Akshay Kumar got into the ‘uniform’ versus ‘costume’ Rustom controversy, Twinkle expressed her views strongly and emphatically in his support but did not court further antagonism on the issue.
Twinkle Khanna has everything going for her. Good looks. Good brains. Good lineage. Good family. She just needs to stay good and continue to play good.
(Sandeep Goyal is an expert in the use of celebrities as human brands. He is on the verge of finishing his PhD on the subject from FMS-Delhi.)