Social duties of a brand ambassador are increasing: Shah Rukh Khan

Shah Rukh Khan
The Kolkata Knight Riders is among the profitable franchisees in the Indian Premier League. Its co-owner, Shah Rukh Khan, is not far behind when it comes to his personal fortune. The actor was ranked first on the 2015 Forbes India Celebrity 100 list. He made Rs 258 crore via films and brand endorsements last year. In a conversation with T E Narasimhan, Khan discusses if an endorser can be held responsible for a company's actions and the role of social media. Edited excerpts:

What is your view on the government's plan to penalise celebrities who are part of misleading ads? Can brand ambassadors be held responsible for the actions of brands or companies they associate with?

Most of the brands I work with are responsible. You can swear by them. At a personal level, my view is that you have to be clear about what you are marketing. If you find yourself trolled on social media, it is best to clarify your position and tell them where you stand.

But isn't the role of brand ambassadors changing with the evolution of social media?

Social duties and responsibilities of a brand ambassador are increasing thanks to social media. This is partly due to the speed with which information spreads on social media. Today, things go viral on social media far more than on TV or posters. Nothing escapes the consumer, putting pressure on all stakeholders to be socially responsible. But if there are pros, there are cons, too. If you can separate the noise from the voice, I think you can survive being trolled or held responsible for a brand's actions on social media.

You've had some of the longest associations with brands. A classic case being Hyundai, with whom you signed up 20 years ago. Has it been easy maintaining such a long association?

When Hyundai came to India, they took a huge risk by coming to a market dominated by one brand. I saw it as an opportunity to associate with an international product. I didn't know this association would last 20 years. What gives me the confidence to continue being with them is their work culture and ethic. They are genuine believers in innovation. I find that fascinating. Whenever I am nervous about a project or business I undertake, I make it a point to visit a Hyundai factory, just to see for myself how these guys execute their projects. It is massive, from creating a vehicle to manufacturing and marketing it. That gives me confidence.

For a star who's been around so long, how do you stay relevant?

Relevance comes with your work and how good you are at your core job. Nobody is going to keep me as a brand ambassador if I am failing at my core job.

Do you see brands having long associations with endorsers in this day and age?

It is difficult. This has nothing to do with the personal equation of the endorser and the marketer, but the reality that exists around you. Things are moving fast today. Earlier, companies were happy running one or two big TV campaigns. That is no longer the case. Social media is compelling a marketer to act fast, to change ads and even brand ambassadors quickly. A brand today can no longer stick to a single face. Social media demands variety.

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