Aamir, Amitabh, Incredible India & Borrowing Success

  • ‘Amitabh Bachchan perfect choice for ‘Incredible India’ campaign: B-town (The Indian Express).
  • ‘Amitabh Bachchan is new ambassador of Incredible India campaign’ (India Today)
  • ‘Amitabh, Priyanka are new Incredible India brand ambassadors ‘(The Hindustan Times)

The above are some of the headlines that reported the change of brand ambassador for the ‘Incredible India’ campaign.  The Tourism Ministry has ended its contract with Aamir Khan who was the face and the voice of the campaign. Khan has had a long association with the campaign who was suddenly removed as spokesperson for ‘Incredible India’ for allegedly making intolerance remarks.

Brands get celebrities or other type of endorsers to speak for them. It is a common strategy and change of spokesperson is also common. For instance, SRK currently speaks for Big Basket, D’ Decor, Dish TV, Nerolac and Mahagun. Ranbir Kapoor featured in ads of Panasonic, Pepsi, Tag Heuer and Ask Me. Even ‘common man’ is also used by brands to influence consumers. One of the most iconic endorsements of this type has been that of ‘Lalita ji’ of Surf and Airtel’s current television ads employs ‘common girl’ to promote its services. It is also not uncommon for brands to change their endorsers. This change could be promoted by a variety of reasons including brand intending to adopt new positioning or endorser may get involved in some controversy like Tiger Woods  ( cheating scandal) and  Azharuddin (match fixing).

There are several reasons for brands to employ spokespersons. One of the straight gains for a brand is to ride on the popularity/awareness/recognition/popularity of the endorser (if celebrity).  Imagine Amitabh standing next to hair oil brand Navratana (‘thanda thanda cool..’). Besides celebrities can elicit good feelings/likeability because of their performance in their performance area (Sania Mirza, Sania Nehwal, Pierce Bronson, Ranbir Singh). Sometimes, endorsers are used to appeal to reason by appealing to thinking and reasoning. Consider figures like doctors (Sansodyne, Paradontex), hair expert (Sunsilk) and Nutritionist (Bournvita).  Endorsers often serve as role models and subtly inspire people to emulate them (slender image of Katrina and muscled up body of Salman).

Who is correct choice for ‘Incredible India’: Amitabh or Aamir. Important to the selection of spokesperson is ‘brand-endorser’ fit. The question is what is sought to be achieved by ‘Incredible India’ the campaign and who is target audience.  Is the idea to promote India within India or outside?  What contribution endorser is expected to make (recall, good feeling, appeal to reason or inspiration).  The purpose of the campaign is to attract foreign tourist on the promise of something ‘incredible’ that India offers. The synonyms of ‘Incredible’ include magnificent, wonderful, marvelous, and sublime.

To promote India on the promise of ‘incredibleness’ the core of the campaign has to be what magnificent India has to offer like monuments (The Taj, Charminar), festivals (Diwali, Holi), spirituality (Rishikesh, Himalayas), religious places (temples &churches), jungles and mountains. In this scheme of things what role do celebrity endorsers play? What incredibleness actors like Amitabh or Aamir would bring to an international audience? They are known to Indians therefore would contribute to influencing them by way of recall, inspiration and likeability but what contribution would they make to move audience from  affluent nations which contribute to world  tourism?

Celebrity endorsement is not a perfect substitute of creative ingenuity and thinking. Many however believe that the success of a star/sportsperson can be borrowed to fuel your own success. But that is not the case. The important question is to ask is what the brand seeks to achieve in its customer’s life and how does an endorser figure in this equation.



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