Celebrity branding is a common and probably the most popular way of attracting consumers’ attention. Many of us would have bought fitness products that are being endorsed by our favourite celebrity or influencers.

But there are equal number of instances where the claims being made for the product have been misleading, which can spell disaster particularly when it concerns health and wellness, and financial investments.

Aware of this challenge, recently the Union Government issued additional guidelines for people who claim to be health and wellness celebrities, influencers and virtual influencers. The guidelines brought out by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, state that these people have to present their specific certificates while endorsing any brand or product on public platforms.

The guidelines also state that certified medical practitioners and health and fitness experts holding certifications from recognised institutions when sharing information, promoting products/services or making any health-related claims, must disclose that they are certified health/fitness experts and medical practitioners.

Clear disclaimer required

Celebrities, influencers and virtual influencers presenting themselves as health experts or medical practitioners, when sharing information, promoting products or services or making any health-related claims, must provide clear disclaimer.

Endorsers are encouraged to conduct a thorough review and ensure they are in a position to substantiate the claims made in the advertisement before endorsing a product or service.

When promoting health and wellness products or services, celebrities, influencers and virtual influencers are obliged to include a disclaimer clarifying that their content should not be seen as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, the guidelines stipulate.

The guidelines also define general wellness and health statements that are not associated with specific products or services or not targeting specific health conditions or outcomes, which are exempt from these regulations.

“These guidelines are much needed. They do however remain guidelines till implemented or till called to be implemented,” says Harish Bijoor, Business & Brand-strategy specialist. “To make them truly effective you need a whole host of shadow consumer-centric organisations in the private sector to emerge as positive minded vigilantes.”

While everyone agrees that the guidelines are the need of the hour, will it succeed in fixing accountability? Will self-regulation work?