Will Marketing be forced to take sides?

14 Jan,2020


By Prabhakar Mundkur


We are now truly in the post-truth era of marketing, and as Ralph Keyes aptly puts it, an era of dishonesty and deception. Post-truth marketing might have to follow post-truth politics.


The Wikipedia defines post-truth politics as ‘.. a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored.’


Brands earlier had to stay neutral to political ideologies in their nations for fear of alienating their consumers.  Will this change in the new decade?  With increased polarisation of political views the world over, when celebrities voice their political opinion or show support for a particular ideology, does it mean the brands they endorse indirectly also belong to the same ideology?


This could be disturbing again for the managers of the brands. Especially if their own ideology is different.


When Deepika Padukone visited the JNU campus recently in support of the students, one can’t help thinking that this might impact the brands that she endorses. It also affects her fans.  If indeed Deepika stands with the JNU students, it could also mean she stands for a particular ideology in which case her fans are likely to be influenced by Deepika’s own attitudes.  So, there is dual effect here: 1. Deepika’s effect on her fans which affect their political ideology, and 2. which affect their choice of the brands that Deepika endorses.


As usual social media was quick to react.  Her support for JNU was seen as enough reason to boycott her movies.  It is difficult to gauge if there is any effect visible or invisible on the brands Deepika endorses.


Source: Twitter.com


Deepika had already shot a commercial for the Skill India ministry but after her JNU visit the video has been put on hold because of the clash of ideology with the government.


Last week, things got worse for poor Deepika when the Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Smriti Irani, criticised Bollywood icon Deepika Padukone for visiting the Jawaharlal Nehru University to express solidarity with the protesting students.  Said Irani: “It was not unexpected to us that she was going to stand with people who want the destruction of India. She sided with people who hit girls on their private parts with lathis. I can’t deny her that right. She made her political affiliation known in 2011 that she supports the Congress Party. If people are surprised by this, it is because they didn’t know. There were a lot of admirers of hers who have just discovered her position.” 


Implications for brands 

The usual parameters to determine the choice of a celebrity for a brand has always been earnings, fame and social media reach.  Are we at the beginning of a decade where we may have to consider the political ideology of the celebrity? It may well be, as we move to a more polarised world, and as populations divide roughly into halves, rather than a majority or minority for a particular belief. I am referring of course to the most historic votes of the last decade.  Brexit was 52:48 for exiting the European Union. The NDA won 45% of the country’s votes. And Donald Trump won 46.1% of the vote.


The political ideology of the celebrity is something that marketers never bothered about.  But now it may be something that needs to be factored, in the new decade.


Marketing then might be forced to take sides in the future.

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