Brand Ambassadors: Celebrities V/s Real Customers

Brands the world over spend millions of dollars trying to woo celebrities to act as brand ambassadors. Does it really work?
What’s the ROI on this? Can it be measured?

The jury is still out on this one: are celebrities really worth the millions they are paid for endorsement deals? For every Roger Federer there is a Tiger Woods. For every David Beckham, there is a Paris Hilton. The mightiest of them are biting the dust far too often for it to become anything that is predictable. Are the CFO’s impressed? I prefer to be the naysayer on this one.

There is no short cut to building and growing a brand. A celebrity might put a brand in front of millions but will that compel buying and consumption? Would you buy a Videocon TV just because a Shahruk Khan is endorsing it? Or believe a ridiculous claim that he makes through a TVC that VI JOHN is the largest selling men’s shaving cream brand in the world- (the poor Gillette & Niveas of the world, would you please sit up and take notice). That is a lot of unwelcome foam floating around, I dare say!

Pitch this scenario against a real world situation wherein end users propagate the brand passionately. Look no further than the iconic Apple brand. Apple users are probably the most committed, sincere and super zealous brand ambassadors that you can ever get (without the brand having to pay a dime!!!). You will notice them in all markets and situations, laughing at Windows users (are you still stuck in the Stone Age? You don’t know what you are missing out on…etc etc) and extolling them to make the switch. That’s brand loyalty at its very zenith, truly bottom up brand marketing.A dream situation for any brand marketer. When Dove wanted to create a disruption in the hyper cluttered environment of soap brands, who did they turn to? You guessed it right- every day users- nothing unreal, no guilt pangs and easy resonance with every day people- a killer brand marketing strategy that has worked remarkably well in all the markets that Dove tried it in.

We are getting to a stage of brand democracy- wherein brands will be made by people, for the people and of the people and in an increasingly socially networked eco system which encourages to say it as it is, the power will truly rest with the people. Celebrities: you may rest in peace. You can no longer laugh your way to the brand! At least not all of them.