When messengers lose the message

Published: 28th August 2016 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th August 2016 10:54 PM   |  A+A-

It’s raining brand ambassadors. Gionee has just signed on Alia Bhatt to endorse the brand to young consumers. I don’t know if we’re to believe India’s most successful Gen Y star uses a Chinese smartphone, but her effervescent personality and happy face certainly make her a neat fit with the brand’s smiling logo.

Actor Deepika Padukone is also in the news for two new ambassadorial projects. The first is at Vistara Airlines; the other for the Indian Psychiatric Society. The latter makes sense, as Padukone has talked about her battle with depression and made known her desire to create awareness about mental illness and help fellow-sufferers. The fact that she’s playing IPS’ brand ambassador pro bono is even more commendable.

The Vistara chapter is a trifle mystifying. Personally, I love the airline; it reminds me of the good old days of air travel. But does it need a film star to “reinterpret and deliver” its brand promise of ‘Flying the new feeling’? Will viewers who haven’t flown Vistara even get it? I tried to watch the TVC shuttling between the big star and the little girl, and fell off to sleep. Lufthana’s little boy (travelling with his grandfather) conveyed more wide-eyed excitement than the inner child in India’s highest-paid female star.

Still, since Padukone does need to fly a lot and will no doubt use Vistara, there is some connection between endorser and endorsee. Unlike Hrithik Roshan and Flair Pens, or Oppo phones. I can’t see the actor going anywhere near either product, unless he uses them as dancing props. Much like Shah Rukh Khan and Fair & Handsome.   

Yes, every other brand today has a celebrity speaking for it, implicitly or explicitly. But to deliver a compelling message, shouldn’t brands choose celebrities whose persona is in sync with theirs? Like Pustak Mahal did in the Eighties when it picked Kapil Dev to endorse its Rapidex English-speaking course. That was brilliant. Dev was a homespun national hero, who had laboured to learn his English. The toffs may have scoffed, but his rustic accent endeared him to Indians who didn’t speak the language and wanted to learn it to get ahead in life. His faith in Rapidex showed them the way. Years later, the cricketer said: “My interest at that stage was not promoting or learning English... But I realised that it inspired many like me to learn a new language.”

West Indies cricketers Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle may do something similar for TTK Skore. The company plans to use the two to give the Champion song that went viral during the last T20 a desi spin to sell its Champion line of condoms. Skore says the line is “cool, naughty and fun-loving”, just like the cricketers. We already know that Bravo and Gayle are fantastic on both the field and the floor; let’s wait and see if they turn out to be great champions of safe sex too.

Shampa Dhar-Kamath


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