Digital catches the Bollywood bug

21 Jul,2014


By Ishani Duttagupta


From watches to sportswear to jewellery to apparel to even soap, the connection between Bollywood and fashion goes back a long way – perhaps more than 80 years back Leela Chitnis became beauty brand Lux’s first brand ambassador (followed by the likes of Madhubala, Nargis and Waheeda Rahman).


Today, in the digital age, even as Lux persists with the starlet formula – its latest endorser is Deepika Padukone – there’s a relatively new segment of retailing that’s reaching out to the Bollywood brigade. A clutch of online retailers has signed up stars of the silver screen as brand ambassadors to sharpen their connect with potential customers. For instance, recently when online fashion brand Jabong launched a first of its kind event, the India Online Fashion week, it roped in actress Yami Gautam, who played the lead female role in Vicky Donor, as a brand ambassador for the event.


Star Power

Jabong is not the only online fashion brand that’s taking a trip down the Bollywood boulevard. Myntra, an e-commerce platform for fashion and lifestyle products that was recently acquired by another online retailer Flipkart, signed up actor Ranveer Singh to endorse its in-house contemporary jeanswear brand Roadster. LimeRoad, an online fashion brand that raised $15 million in a second round of funding in May, has inducted Neha Dhupia, who has several Bollywood hits to her credit, into its management team to help connect with social media-savvy customers.


Then Yepme, an online fashion brand launched in 2011, has not just one but three Bollywood icons on board – while Bollywood strongman Sonu Sood endorses PlayCool, a line of sportswear and sports shoes, actress and model Esha Gupta, who is seen in the recently released flick Humshakals, is endorsing Yepme’s women’s wear line in a TV commercial; and filmmaker and actor Farhan Akhtar is not just brand ambassador but has also extended the association by writing and singing a song for a Yepme music video composed by musicians Ehsaan and Loy. Finally, Snapdeal, another online marketplace, recently signed on mint-new Bollywood star Pulkit Samrat as brand ambassador to be in sync with a young target audience.


The online ambassadors appear to match the brands they endorse as well as the customers they address in their online savviness. “In a world where online shopping is fast catching up amongst the youth, it’s a matter of pride for me that I get to represent a brand most sought after for any fashion essential,” says Gautam explaining her role as celebrity mentor of the online fashion week event. She sees herself in the role of nurturing young talent among Jabong’s consumers and giving guidance as a fashion influencer.


Explains brand consultant Harish Bijoor: “Brand ambassadors bring with them a very important item: their awareness scores with potential consumers of such fashion brands. Fashion offerings from online brands are at best generic in their identification and differentiation scores. It is these brand ambassadors that add a clear identity and differentiation.”


Riding on the Net

The internet has become the go to destination for fashion essentials, explains Praveen Sinha, cofounder and managing director of Jabong. “Bollywood plays a big role in shaping the fashion scene in India. Consumers today draw their sense of style and fashion from celebrities because there is a certain value attached to their judgement,” points out Sinha. He adds that for e-commerce sites, this outreach is not restricted to the metros but is even going to tier II and III cities where the demand and purchasing power were always there; the only hassle was that accessibility to fashion was restricted.


“We at Jabong are giving access to these consumers to dress up like celebrities. Mainstream brand ambassadors give a certain level of authenticity to the brand and help weave a better connect with the target audience,” adds Mr Sinha.


For Myntra, the choice of Ranveer Singh to endorse brand Roadster was driven by the current position of the brand in the market and the position that it aspires to achieve. Launched in December 2012, Roadster has become one of the top-selling brands on Myntra within a span 18 months, claims Vikas Ahuja, chief marketing officer, Myntra. “With this association, the brand will truly elevate itself beyond Myntra and become one of the most sought after labels for denims in the country,” he says.


Myntra’s private labels, explains Mr Ahuja, play a significant role in creating differentiation, choice and value for shoppers, thereby contributing to making Myntra the preferred fashion destination of the country. Roadster products, for instance, are known for their combination of style and class and unparalleled quality, he points out. “Signing on Ranveer Singh, known for his power-packed and unconventional persona, is a sturdy step towards the evolution of the Roadster brand, which we intend to take to another level,” adds Ahuja.


Similarly, Yepme too is becoming a far more widely known brand with its new celeb campaigns, according to Vivek Gaur, CEO, Yepme. “We believe in democratizing fashion and our audience base is a large one – people in their 20s and 30s who are interested in accessing the latest styles online, irrespective of geography. Bollywood is a source of inspiration and influence and the use of icons such as Farhan, Esha and Sonu will help highlight different ranges within the Yepme collection,” he says.


Bollywood’s Appeal

Well-known fashion designer Ravi Bajaj, too, agrees that roping in Bollywood stars is important for fashion brands – online and offline – in India to connect with the mass market. “For any fashion brand that has to reach out to the masses and sometimes even create a classy niche for itself in India, the focus has to be on movie stars. In fact, it’s not just the upcoming online fashion brands; sometimes even established and iconic luxury fashion brands need to rope in Bollywood stars,” he says.


Endorsing online brands calls for a differentiated strategy, and to that extent endorsers have to accordingly calibrate their actions, explains Bijoor. “Online brand ambassadors need to be engineered to connect with consumers in a different manner than offline brand ambassadors. While offline brand ambassadors can get away by being macro and generic in their sway, online brand ambassadors need to be specific and focused.”


Example: online offers scope for interactivity from a distance, something that LimeRoad is leveraging by having Neha Dhupia as a style director who engages with customers to help them shop for different products online based on their previous purchases. According to the company, so far roughly 10,000 women have created some 300,000 looks with Dhupia as the mentor. “She is not just a pretty face, she has a distinct fashion identity, dedication to make it big in life and a strong connect with social media-savvy customers. We are building a social discovery platform for making shopping a great experience and Neha brings this social media connect,” explains Suchi Mukherjee, CEO and cofounder, LimeRoad.


For her part, Dhupia sees herself in a new role as a businesswoman and believes that LimeRoad is a breakthrough company. “Exclusive products being shown through beautiful user-generated scrapbooks [visual looks created with clothes, footwear and accessories] via live streaming on mobile is a one-of-a-kind concept in India. I want every girl/woman across the country to find a platform to express her own personal style,” she says.


The fashion ecommerce space is a crowded one too with, at last count, at least a dozen online fashion brands slugging it out to connect with young consumers. Having a familiar, iconic and admired face endorsing it will clearly help in brand recall. “Bollywood celeb endorsements quickly provides a captive audience for the products sold online as people strive to wear or use something a celeb wears or endorses; they also help provide an instant credibility to the brand,” says Ashish Jhalani, founder, eTailing India, an e-commerce consultancy. As for fashion mongers, what’s in and what’s not is now theirs to know at the proverbial click of the mouse.


Source:The Economic Times

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