Having a star endorser can be limiting, but not necessarily.

The simple fact is that celebrities are easily the most popular (often the only) communication strategy in India. Having decided on this none too distinctive course, brands are constantly trying to do different things to stand out within this ‘constraint’. Brands such as Coke have used an actor like Vijay for Tamil Nadu even when they have had a top star like Aamir Khan endorsing their brand nationally at the same time.

Recently a brand such as Thums Up had an interesting ploy of using Telugu actor Mahesh Babu on its national campaign. In case you did not know his credentials, he nevertheless came across as someone who was a good model whereas to someone from Andhra Pradesh, he may have been closer to God than to an ordinary mortal. In the same vein Fastrack once used a budding cricketer in Virat Kohli and an established star in Genelia. Of course, Virat has moved to a different level of performance and hence recognition since. Those days, if you were not watching IPL and were not sure who he was, he still looked the part of a spoilt brat (whom he was portraying in the commercials) while today he is a spoilt brat who has become a celebrity thanks to his stylish batting. On the same lines, I recently saw an interesting interplay of celebrities for a jewellery brand from the South - Kalyan Jewelers which had the original ‘lambu’ Amitabh Bachchan and the southern character actor Prabhu, who has been an active champion of the brand for some time now. I like Prabhu not merely because I used to idolise his father Sivaji Ganesan but also for his histrionic ability.

Trust me, I am a jeweller

Though I am an avid watcher of TV, I am not really a customer or user of jewellery, even if I end up paying for it. (I can hear the husbands reading the piece silently looking at me in disgust mouthing “tell me something new”.) As I was watching some programme or the other on Sun TV the recent commercial for Kalyan Jewelers came on air. In case you have not seen it, let me try to explain it with my limited powers of description. The commercial is set in a village school with a thatched roof which could be set anywhere in India. It is raining and Amitabh Bachchan who is the school master watches in dismay as the drops of rain fall on the little children’s slates through the leaking roof. Soon the class has to run out only to watch the school or what is left of it, it’s in a shambles as the weather gods take over. The bewildered school master consoles the children and then realising he has to do something more active sets out for the big bad city.

He tries to enter a large house where the guard tries his best to stop his entry. Thankfully, the owner of the mansion (Prabhu) comes running out, recognising his old school teacher and takes him respectfully inside. He proudly shows him his childhood photos in sepia of the school and the teacher who is sorely tempted to say something keeps quiet, and leaves after dinner. Imagine his delight when he sees Prabhu supervising the rebuilding of the school. He hugs his pupil even as the voice-over talks about Kalyan Jewellers and how trust is the cornerstone of life, relationships, and such.

Don’t ask me where the jewellery comes in. Trust has been their theme even earlier where Prabhu’s daughter refuses to elope with her boyfriend as both father and daughter trust each other. Another touching commercial where everyone emotes well and creates the image of a warm, caring brand. In fact, all the brand’s commercials have been well picturised and good to watch. I just hope they are helping the brand.

Isn’t jewellery all about experience?

Having said this, I must tell you that jewellery is a category where trust is extremely critical. My family has been going to GRT for three generations and I am sure many other jewellers will have the same to say about their customers. The fact is that trust is built on experience over time. I heard this interesting definition that a “brand is a sustained delivery of trust” and that is easier claimed in advertising than actually delivered. I have no idea of Kalyan’s delivery or experiences and hence will stay only with the advertising. Advertising is just one of the many things that builds a brand but their strategy in communication and use of celebrities (including Dileep in place of Prabhu) for Kerala appealed to me. Clearly the brand has thought outside of its current borders in choosing the Big B.

I would like them to succeed for their innovation.

(Ramanujam Sridhar is Director of Custommerce and Founder CEO of brand-comm, a communications consulting company).


(This article was published on August 30, 2012)
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