Anil Thakraney: Brand Big B: Over-used and over-abused

11 Oct,2012

By Anil Thakraney


At the outset, let me make it clear that I am dead against the use of celebs in advertising. It is more often than not the last refuge of brand managers who either aren’t confident of their product, or are doubtful of their marketing skills. Celebs are usually a crutch used by idea-less marketers.


Having said that, it is equally true that celebrities, especially movie stars and cricketers, are a rage in Indian advertising, so it’s a marketing reality we have to live with. And amongst these worthies, Amitabh Bachchan has been a hot ad favourite since the year 2000, when KBC totally changed his fortunes. The number of contracts he signs may have gone down a bit in more recent years, but according to some reports, he still pockets Rs 30 to 40 crores per annum on endorsement deals, and that’s no laughing matter. It’s a lot more than he earns in them movies, and he bags the deals even if his flicks tank at the box office, which they often do.


The reason why Bachchan continues to delight brand managers, despite turning 70 today (happy birthday!), is his perceived persona. His appeal cuts across age, social, economic and geographical barriers. Few Indian celebrities can boast of this. Big B is perceived by the masses as a credible, loyal, lively, kind, good-hearted, gentle old man. (This image, in large part, is courtesy KBC.) And brand managers dearly hope that a part of this imagery rubs off on their own brands. What they forget, of course, is that if the man endorses too many brands (which he does), his association with a particular brand gets vastly diminished.


One other thing: Certain brand managers use Bachchan after some deal of thought has been given to the brand connect. Others use him thoughtlessly, leading to hilarious and senseless advertising. I’ll give you a few examples. Big B works for Binani Cement because of the association of longevity and strength. Parker Pens, because you expect a refined man of his age to use a pen, and be selective about the brand. Dabur, because their products usually talk good health, and Bachchan, even at 70, seems to be going strong.


However, his endorsement of many other brands makes you cringe or giggle. Gujarat Tourism. What connection does Bachchan have with that state? Was Narendra Modi thinking when he hired his services? Navratna Hair Oil. The world and his grandfather believe we are dealing with a lovely wig out here. Maruti Versa. The Bachchans won’t even gift such a low-end, down market vehicle to the Pratiksha gardener. And the way Bachchan is made to belt out telephone numbers for Just Dial, you want to bury yourself in the ground.


People, go ahead and use Bachchan in your ads if you must. But please use him well. This man is a living legend. Let’s not kill that hard-earned title.


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2 responses to “Anil Thakraney: Brand Big B: Over-used and over-abused”

  1. Ananda Puranik says:

    U titally agree. Applies to pretty much every celebrity. No one believes it including the celebrity perhaps.
    Particualrly irksome is their endorsement of inner wear

  2. A S Raghunath says:

    I agree with Anil’s piece but not his giggle/cringe on Amit’s endorsement of Gujarat tourism. A table-top analyst may feel it that way but ground realities are different.

    Post ‘Khushbu Gujarat ki” promotions, tourists arrivals in Gujarat has hugely gone up. 2010-11 had seen 1.98 crore tourist arrival. And by 2011-12 the number stood at 2.23Cr.

    After the launch of the campaign the stata has seen increase of 54Lakh tourist arrivals so far.

    Not just that, most domestic tourists visiting state also take time off to visit places other than of tourist interest and they return back home cursing their own state Chief Ministers for not providing the facilities that Gujarat has accorded to its subject.
    For instance the wi-fi enabled GSRTC buses which also has mobile chargers, BRT corridors which make city bus travel faster than Delhi’s metro trains, a state without power cuts, whereas in most Delhi’s decent hotels every now and then a power cut would enforce only emergency services regime and guests go without A/c for hours. Anil, visit Gujarat as an Aam Admi tourist and then take a call if people have bought into the Khushbu Gujarat ki theory. And a small credit therefore, is due also to the Mahanayak.