On Friday 12 May, Sandeep Goyal, managing director, Rediffusion, unveiled his new book titled Sellebrities in Mumbai last week.
The book takes a deep dive into celebrity brand value with data and statistics to help marketers and clients make better decisions when it comes to partnering with celebrities to endorse their respective brands.
At the book launch, a panel comprising Gaurav Jeet Singh, head agency business, Meta India; Rohit Malkani, senior vice president - decorative sales and marketing, Kansai Nerolac Paints and Tista Sen, CEO and CCO, Ladyfinger, discussed the changing dynamics of brand-celebrity culture and how brands are betting on new age celebrities.
Change in power dynamics
Kicking off the conversation, Malkani highlighted that celebrities are a vantage point for building brand awareness, while influencers are more effective in driving sales conversions.
"When a brand wants to create a particular kind of aura, that is when they typically want to use a celebrity. Celebrities are used at the top of the marketing funnel to build awareness. The role of influencers, however, is used at the bottom funnel and for sales conversions. When it comes to consumers believing that an influencer used a product as opposed to a celebrity, the odds are in the favour of the influencer," said Malkani.
Singh pointed out that it all boils down to two factors.
He explained, "First is what the core message of the brand is and hence who are the influencers or celebrities who can help in that brand conversation. The second vector on which things have changed has occurred due to the fragmentation of media and cutting through the clutter."
Singh expressed that it is different strokes for different folks.
"It all depends on the size of the brand. It is now about niche brands picking an influencer and reaching out to cohorts that are aligned with their target audience. On the contrary, some brands need a huge cut-through for an idea that matches that of a celebrity. Media choices have changed tremendously, and the jobs to be done on the brand's end have essentially become complex. Marketers need to keep their core idea at the centre and then figure out who will be better for reach and brand conversations. Now, consumers also can talk back. A lot of celebrities are concerned about putting their names next to a brand because their followers can call them out for not having the right brand fit", remarked Singh.
Sen believed that the onus lies hugely on the marketing team whilst selecting a celebrity to represent the brand. She expressed, "There are some celebrities that endorse different kinds of brands. When a brand makes a choice, what works is if the celebrity has a brand value and helps the product sell. There is zero brand fit sometimes and that aura of being selective about brands has gone. However, it is noticed that if a brand is willing to pay a celebrity they are most likely to associate themselves with it."
Should brands bet on new-age celebrities?
When asked if brands should chalk out marketing spends for influencers, Sen said that it all depends on how brands are using celebrities and what stories they can communicate to the audience through them.
"Brands can be as authentic as they want depending on the communication they are conceptualising. I believe that star power still exists. When associated with the right brand and through effective storytelling has a certain reach amongst audiences. You can use celebrities' authentic personalities to convey the message of the brand. It all narrows down to how the communication is tailor-made to the person endorsing the brand", voiced Sen
Is celebrity ROI measurable?
Malkani stated that when it came to startups and brand associations, the maximum number of views for celebrities is coming in from anyone that is burning cash to acquire customers.
Malkani shared, "There is a maximum amount of burnout that is happening and where businesses seem to be failing. However, when it comes to well-established businesses, brands need to walk a tightrope. The more hard-working influencers are the ones who are qualified. They are the ones that are going to give the brand mileage. An influencer that is more down-to-earth and authentic will resonate with audiences."
Singh added, "Irrespective of the kind of celebrities, ultimately what matters is relatability. There are two vectors of relatability: trusting the celebrity because it resonates with consumers' persona and trusting the celebrity regardless of them having anything in common with consumers. Consumers can figure out if a particular celebrity would never use a particular product and call them out for being inauthentic. It is important to be authentic, relatable and choose the right celebrity that fits the brand’s values."
Singh further cautioned brands that they shouldn't overuse a celebrity or influencer as it loses credibility.
"When it comes to celebrities versus influencers, a natural balance will occur depending on the audience the brand wants to target. However, there will always be a pecking order for followership, some brands will be in favour of new-age media and others will choose traditional celebrities," expressed Singh.
Discovering new talent
Singh communicated that the split of digital has made it easier to discover a new talent pool.
"The hurdle rate to become famous has gone up substantially. It is now difficult to become a superstar because in every field there are thousands of people competing for the same skill. On the other hand, because various specialisations are fragmented a lot. There is a genre for every niche, and there are celebrities for each. Discoverability has made it possible to get people to endorse but cutting through the clutter has become difficult," said Singh.
The panel ended with the trio concluding that the key to successful brand-celebrity partnerships is authenticity, relatability, and selecting the right celebrity or influencer to represent the brand.