Last week Amitabh Bachchan had Twitter and his flock of fans and brands in a tizzy. Bachchan reportedly threatened to walk away from the 30-million-odd followers on the platform because Twitter’s new policy had shaved 60,000 off the number. Why, one would ask, does that matter? The answer lies in the spidery web of brands, endorsements, celebrities and consumers stretching across social media platforms—from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram. And the power wielded by the social network upon brands and consumers.
Be it Deepika Padukone or Akshay Kumar or Jacqueline Fernandes, everyone is turning out personal experiences for public consumption. Everyone knows about Alia Bhat’s cat, Shahid Kapoor’s toddler and Kareena and her son. What they wear, eat and love is aired freely on social media platforms.
This offers fans a ringside view of their favourite actors’ and sportspersons’ lives and, as social media trends go, personal posts and tweets get the maximum likes, shares and retweets. It is this that marketers are keen to exploit for the brands they promote; at times choosing endorsers by the count of their followers on social media and also, at times, influencing their endorsers’ image to get the maximum customer engagement.
Anirban Das -blah, founder, KWAN, an entertainment company that recently started a business unit dedicated to influencer marketing says: “Celebs are like broadcasters in a way. Someone like Jacqueline Fernandez has about 40 million followers (across platforms). That’s a huge audience.”
Companies and advertising agencies are seeking such celebrities out, especially for pure digital campaigns. Cricketer Ravinder Jadeja, whose Twitter handle is widely followed, has recently signed a deal with a brand (undisclosed yet) purely for social media influence.
The social network has also prompted many celebrities and brands to pick up a cause for promotion, along with the product or service being peddled. Celebrities align with a cause for one of three reasons, say experts. One, if they have been directly affected by an illness, political event or attack; two if someone close to them has been at the receiving end and three, if they are compassionate towards a cause.
Cause marketing, however, is where the relationship between endorsers and brands begins to get tricky says KV ‘Pops’ Sridhar, founder and chief creative officer of Hyper Collective. “Cause and commerce don’t always mix. When a celebrity endorses a product, it is commerce. Mixing it up with a cause is not always a good idea. So when Akshay contributes to the families of martyrs, people think of it as patriotism. But when you (use him) for an ad for Kajaria tiles with patriotic undertones, it does not make sense,” he explains.
Sridhar who has spent 30-odd years in advertising believes that using a cause for commercial gain is detrimental to both the celebrity and the brand in question. It may not only make for underwhelming creatives, but would also impact the authenticity of the campaign, the brand and the celebrity. “One person who I feel has managed to separate the two effectively has been Virat Kohli. What he stands for—fitness and health, is not used as a creative tool for the campaigns he features
in just for the sake of it. In these times, credibility and authenticity are very important and audiences are quick to catch on if there is a lapse,” he adds.
Out in the open
Deepika Padukone: Be it depression, sibling love or her anguish over the release of her film, she has been letting it all out, while also promoting mental health awareness and a large number of brands
Virat Kohli: When trolls attacked Anushka Sharma, he hit back with characteristic aggression; holds nothing back when it comes to picking up a cause (fitness) or a brand on his social media feed
Twinkle Khanna: As Mrs Funnybones, she speaks up on civic issues, her life at home and women’s rights. But when she posted a picture of a man defecating in the open just before the release of her husband’s movie, Toilet-ek prem katha, she raised the hackles of many
Kangana Ranaut: Nepotism, an affair gone wrong; she is aggressive and loud on all platforms. Marketers have sought to leverage her feistiness for their brands and causes
Akshay Kumar: Is vocal about his crowd-funding initiative for wives and families of martyrs from the Indian armed forces and his nationalism