---By Dwaipayan Regmi
Aishwariya Rai endorsed Lux, and in doing so linked the soap to feminine beauty. Later, when Shahrukh Khan also endorsed the same soap his endorsement as a male attracted the macho attitude as well.
Promotion is an important and determining aspect of any business. Unless a firm properly advertises its product, consumers will not be aware about it. Advertisements play four major roles: informing, persuading, reminding and reinforcing and thereby increase the chances of the product being selected by the consumers. Who would ever know that there exists a liquid vaporizer named Good Knight, if Godrej Household Products Ltd. did not properly advertise it? Advertisements certainly play a significant role in educating the consumers about products, which are solutions to their problems, and in increasing sales and maintaining goodwill.
Celebrity endorsement is a form of advertisement, wherein celebrities promote the product, and this trend has been gaining huge success abroad. It is simply a way to take emotional benefit of the craze that celebrities have between their fans and followers base. For example, former US President Ronald Regan was imitated by a huge number of his fans in smoking the same brand of cigarette that he smoked. The Beatles fans also followed the same trend as they used to purchase the same brands of goggles and watches that the band members used to wear. This craze is used in commercials as does, for instance by Nike, a global brand, whose entire promotional campaigns are done by celebrities.
In India too, in India where celebrities like Sachin Tendlukar, Amitabh Bachhan or Karishma Kapoor to name a few, have been selected for the promotion of various products, this trend has made a significant mark. These promotions have equally influenced the entire Indian sub-continent. At the end of 2010, Indian firms had made a clear note that segmenting market and choosing the market’s idol for endorsement makes significant mark in the minds of consumers. Celebrity endorsement is done not just at the time of introducing the product, or keeping the image of the product. Aishwariya Raiendorsed Lux, and in doing so linked the soap to feminine beauty. Later, when Shahrukh Khan also endorsed the same soap his endorsement as a male attracted the macho attitude as well.
Celebrity endorsement has not only been creating positive vibes, but has been able to gain huge popularity. Though such endorsements could be expensive, it contributes significantly in generating profits for the firms. Usually, fans want to get in touch with their favourite stars. When a celebrity endorses a product, his/her fans take it as part of his/her trend. Celebrity images are generally high, and no matter how less valued the product is, it adds up certain value for sure in the minds of consumers.
The Congruity Theory has a separate explanation about celebrity endorsement. This theory explains how the image of a celebrity modifies the consumer’s negative image of the product. In Nepal’s context, Sahana Bajarcharya’s endorsement of Colors Mobile as its brand ambassador is an instance of this trend. If a male fan of Sahana happens to dislike Colors Mobile it leads to two possibilities. The fan might dislike Sahana herself for promoting a product that he dislikes. Even in this case, certain positive vibes takes place. Consider he had an image of +3 for Sahana and -3 for Colors. The endorsement can bring his image perception for both Sahana and Colors Mobile to 0. Or yet in another possibility, the product will gain a higher value with Sahana losing some. He might deduct 1 point and ascribe +2 image value to Sahana, while ascribing +1 to Colors Mobile because his favourite icon has promoted it. In either case the firm, in this instance Colors Mobile, benefits as it helps in generating goodwill.
The Indian culture has always been playing a major role in the Nepali society. After all, the two countries share an open border and many cultural similarities. This is the reason why Indian celebrities are used to endorse various products in the Nepali market, too. It also makes the advertisement cost cheaper as editing voices or fonts would be enough. However, some Neplai celebrities are promoting various products as well. For example, Rekha Thapa has been promoting UTL and Paras Khadka has been promoting Clinic Hair Oil. There are other examples as well - from Haribansha Acharya and Madan Krishna Shrestha to Sugam Pokharel. However, what has been the actual influence of the product endorsement by these celebrities in Nepal? Are the firms concerned gaining as much priority as in India or abroad where international celebrities are endorsing their products? Certainly Not!
The first reason for this is we don’t have a crazy fan following of stars in Nepal like in other countries. None of the celebrities here has enough fan craze compared to international celebrities. The fan list of Bryan Adams is perhaps bigger than that of Ram Krishna Dhakal. Saddiccha Shrestha can attract attention of people generally under 30. But an endorsement by Taylor Swift will perhaps be more successful because of the star’s huge fan following. The second reason is a bit subtle. Celebrity endorsement is cheaper in Nepal. It is understandable that living the life of a celebrity is expensive, and Nepali celebrities cannot let go any opportunity to make money through endorsement. So, Saugat Malla will easily accept any offer - from the advertisement of a hair oil to a soap. Hence, the value gets lower. Appearing in any kind of advertisement has already made the MaHa duo cheap. Third, the advertisements seem to have failed to make appropriate celeb selection. An endorsement by Pilot Bijay Lama can attract attention for flights. Similarly, an endorsement by Dr. Bhola Rijal would rather gain value than an endorsement by some comedian for cheap promotion.
There are celebs that have won the trust of consumers. For example, Anil Shah or Dr Bhagwan Koirala, have gained respect in the society but nobody has so far thought about using them for product endorsement. The problem can be resolved by first making market segmentation. For this, identifying the targeted market and looking for the major icon of that market is important. For a trendy endorsement, Nima Rumba would be better, and for diplomatic endorsement Sunil Pokharel would suit. Deepak Raj Giri or Gopal Nepal would rather fit for funny endorsement of products like Hajmola, instead of reliability. Celebrity endorsement certainly has huge scope but it must be properly identified and utilized.
The writer is currently studying MBA at Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, India.