Taking the starry road: Paint brands ramp up celeb power for mass appeal

(From left) M S Dhoni is brand ambassador of Indigo Paints while Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone endorse Asian Paints
From consumer goods to packaged foods and beverages, brands across categories are turning away from one celebrity endorser to co-opt a bunch of regional stars and digital influencers for targeted outreach. But not the paint brands. Be it market leader Asian Paints or old rivals Berger, Nerolac, Dulux and even relative newcomers such as Indigo Paints, everyone is chasing a star with pan-Indian appeal. 

One reason for the star-struck behaviour of paint brands, say several in the industry, is the need for a corporate identity that cuts across geographies and age-groups and helps create a master umbrella brand. A celebrity endorser who is recognised and followed across the country helps do that. Another reason is that the strategy has worked in the past; market leaders Asian Paints and Nerolac have seen brand appeal rise as stars lent their names to their products. 

Indigo Paints, among the most recent entrants into the business and to sign a celebrity endorser (M S Dhoni), sees merit in such associations. “We selected Dhoni due to his popularity across the country. Instead of endorsing brands with regional film stars, we picked one cricket superstar,” said Hemant Jalan, managing director, Indigo Paints. This helps create a consistent identity for the brand and reach out to the target audience faster than the conventional way of promotions through increase in distributor commissions and so on.

Jalan signed Dhoni in 2018 and is now leveraging the star’s presence in the upcoming World Cup. “After the World Cup, we will shoot with Dhoni again. We have scaled up our overall advertising budget to Rs 75 crore for FY20 on an estimated turnover of Rs 850 crore, up from Rs 50 crore on a turnover of Rs 600 crore for FY19,” said Jalan.

Asian Paints is an old hand at the endorsements table. It recently launched new campaign with film stars Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone, promoting Asian Paints Royale Health Shield. It has in the past used a galaxy of stars for its products, alternating between them for products and seasons. Kansai Nerolac Paints has signed Shikhar Dhawan and Ranveer Singh for its brands and has been promoted by cricketers Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Manish Pandey in the past. Berger Paints has had Katrina Kaif as brand ambassador while Dulux has Farhan Akhtar. 

According to Jalan, the major benefit is that stars help spread the goodwill to the company as a whole, impacting a battery of labels and influencing consumers across geographies. According to industry sources, all these companies have set aside an average Rs 80-100 crore, an increase of 20-30 per cent from the previous year, for brand endorsement for 2019-20. This despite the fact, or perhaps because, the companies have seen a slowdown in the March quarter.

“The growth in decorative was lower than previous quarters and automotive segment witnessed a negative growth this quarter. This has led to lower demand for industrial products in general,” said H M Bharuka, vice- chairman and managing director, Kansai Nerolac Paints. He sees this as a temporary blip as do many others, given the category’s double-digit growth in the December quarter, primarily due to the rise in sales of low-price products. 

“Double-digit volume growth in domestic decorative paints was recorded in March quarter due to higher growth of lower-end products,” said Ashit Desai, senior research analyst, Emkay Global Financial Services. Rural buyers are buying more and they are more price conscious. As a result, paint companies will continue to spend on advertising and promotions to capture the public aspirations, said Dinker Shanbhag, head-Institutional Equities at Lotus Global Equities. And in the process, the role of star endorsers is only set to increase for paint brands.

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