by Arundhati Roy
In an industry that is fueled by the need to remain relevant, brands need to create global associations that are relevant across as many individual items as possible. In branding, it is incredibly important to carve out a niche for oneself and that should be ensured not just by being different but by being personally and emotionally important to people. If a brand exists just for the sake of it, it won’t be long before that brand crashes and burns. It must first find out the reason for its relevance and then kindle the emotions that will support and extend it further. The key to retaining relevance is in maintaining that human touch with the consumer by reinstating their importance and significance in their lives. Furthermore, it is equally essential to maintain the engagement with the customer in new and creative ways to address unmet needs. The intention of this statement is to remind ourselves that certain brands keep coming up with line extensions to remind their consumers that they need more options. For example, Maggi ketchup has various flavours to address various needs of consumers who were not even aware of these needs but their smart marketing ensured a space in their minds. Maggi initially had only Tomato Sauce, Tomato Ketchup and Hot ‘n’ Sweet sauce but now has continued to come up with a Masala sauce, Imli sauce and even a ‘pichkoo’ pack for easier usage. In doing so, Maggi is putting out a message that they understand their consumers and are working towards keeping them happy with their product. The diverse range of flavours also denotes Maggi’s understanding of the Indian palate and its taste philosophy. This is eventually how loyalty will be and is built towards any particular brand across time. It is essential for a brand to be inspiring, innovative and central to a person’s lifestyle but even if it simply delivers the brand’s promise, it ensures very high value to consumers.
While we are still on the topic of relevance, a brand must be able to present itself and be able to hold itself justifiable to the current generation of buyers. The rationale behind this is the fact that the relationship between brands and people has changed drastically. Initially, there was just a script that needed to be read out by a certain important person but now that important person has to present a story by involving himself/herself in the narrative of the brand. The people have become much smarter than before and it all depends upon how the product/brand is presented in accordance to the interests of the new generation. One of the buzz words around the block is co-branding. In order to explain the concept in simple terms, co-branding is an agreement carried out by two or more companies who associate any of the various logos, color schemes, or brand identifiers to a specific product that is contractually designated for this purpose. But this collaboration cannot happen between just about anybody/any two brands. There must be a common ground on the basis of their brand values to begin with which will make the venture a seamless and a relevant one. After all, there are ‘tribes’ that need to be tapped into and if these loyal customer base do not see eye to eye, then the entire pursuit might fail. This method of co-branding is one of the most powerful ways to engage with your target audiences. It’s when both fans of a brand or a celebrity can help create something that’s fun and innovative.
Celebrities as ambassadors can also be seen as a form of co-branding. The ‘fit’ might come into being once the ‘values’ of the celebrity are put beside the ‘values’ of the brand. Let us consider the brand: Lux. Lux has always positioned itself as the ‘soap for the stars’ which targets the need for ‘esteem’ if we have to go by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In this regard, using a Katrina Kaif or a Aishwarya Rai Bachchan upholds the message that the brand is trying to convey, i.e., these stars use our soap and you can be like them too/come closer to being like them by using our soap. The celebrity endorser always rubs off their own qualities and associations onto the brands they choose to align themselves with. This is why it is essential for a celebrity to have a link or an interest in the message the brand wants to get across. The more the celebrities are able to associate themselves organically with the brand, the more genuine the cause comes across to the audience. However, one should not forget that in an advertisement or an endorsement, the celebrity’s personality should not be dominant than the brand personality; the brand should be remembered for its own personality and not the celebrity’s. Otherwise, it turns out to be bad advertising. For example, Amitabh Bachchan has lent his magic touch to many brands but it has not managed to work its charm every time. For instance, there is an ad for a cement brand where Amitabh Bachchan has been used as a trustworthy figure but it does not manage to get the brand’s name across when it comes to recall. It was an ad for Binani Cement.
Another great example of co-branding is the Dom Pérignon campaign by Karl Lagerfeld. This is a clear case of luxury advertising and in this kind of advertising the brand is the star. If celebrities are being used then the brand needs to be shown as a part of the celebrities’ lives. In the following instance, Word of Mouth form of communication has a crucial role to play and just like in any luxury advertising, the media relays the pulse of the events and for that reason, it needs to be fed with stories, news, events, facts, etc. This campaign surely managed to tick off everything on the check-list. Karl Lagerfeld is unquestionably one of the strongest personalities of the fashion world. His insatiable curiosity is the reason behind his tireless need for renewal. He is one of the peerless designers whose spirit Dom Pérignon shares and who, in turn, identifies with Dom Pérignon’s creative commitment. So much so that Lagerfeld has been recorded saying “You know, I don’t drink much alcohol. In fact, I only like Dom Pérignon. And I’m not being diplomatic when I say that the only champagne I really know is Dom Pérignon.” For any form of co-branding, what else does one really need when the two parties are happily married for the campaign.
As long as a celebrity’s worth is equivalent to, if not more than, the worth of any well-known brand in the world, the collaboration is bound to catch the eyes of the masses and create a ripple effect. It is aspiration which is at the core of the entire agenda. Products are not aspirational, humans are. If the consumers cannot relate to the brand personality then the entire motive of the advertisement turns vague and the brand relevance suffers in the process. However, a celebrity’s influence can create a bridge between the target customer and the brand personality. By projecting a dream-like picture and a sneak-peak into the lives of the celebs and by highlighting their very specific choice of a certain brand, even if it is momentary, helps in conjuring up a doorway to the ‘better’ side of things-to the side where the grass is greener. At the end of it all, it is that strive for a better reality that runs the narrative which passes on from brands to the masses.