In a world full of influencers, are celeb-endorsements worth it?

09 Feb,2021


By Bhuvi Gupta


Bhuvi GuptaIt was 2015, Diwali had just passed and Snapdeal was one of the three big e-commerce players in India with Bollywood icon Aamir Khan as its brand ambassador. A personal comment by Khan at the Ramnath Goenka Awards event launched the first boycott trend online for Khan-endorsed Snapdeal, whose Play Store ratings plummeted, orders got returned. Despite the official statement released disassociating itself from both the brand ambassador and his views, the damage had been done. Aamir Khan was soon fired from his role as brand ambassador.


Khan has since learnt his lesson and kept his personal opinions to himself, a dictum closely followed by the other two Khans as well (controversy’s favourite child, Saif Ali Khan not included!). But it was definitely the first time I thought about the wastefulness of celebrity endorsements, a point of view that has only since strengthened.


Why do brands turn to celebrities?


The simplest reason for using celebrity endorsers is for the awareness they help generate.  For most mass market brands in crowded marketplaces and high advertising budgets, a celebrity endorser is an easy and sureshot way of getting recall. The Duff& Phelps Celebrity Brand Valuation report which came out last week, showcases the same – despite the decrease in advertising budgets, the brand valuation of the Top 20 celebrities has remained more or less consistent at USD 1 billion. To get the most bang for your buck, a brand is only limited to signing these top 20 celebrities who are neither cheap nor easily available.


Going any farther down the totem pole, especially when budgets have to be devoted to ensure a purchase decision is made is just not worth it.


Consumers are also well aware that celebrities do not have any brand loyalty and are not really endorsing the product. This is evident when celebs routinely jump to competitor brands and claim innocence when the brand is found not to meet safety standards.


Circling back to my initial thought, in 2021, brands no longer need to be dependent on celebrities to drive awareness. A much better option is effective influencer marketing.


Why Influencer Marketing?


The biggest differential that influencer marketing has with respect to celebrity-focused advertising is that (the right) influencers are believable, trustworthy and authentic.  An influencer post will typically have much higher quality with longer captions and explanations, and engagement by them in the comments section.


Hence, when an influencer creates content recommending a product it doesn’t feel like an advertisement but like a close friend sharing a secret about something he or she liked. Hence, a brand endorsement from them really means something and can drive sales conversions.


Secondly, most influencers have a specific niche and loyal audiences.  Therefore, even though their audience is a lot narrower, it is more focused than a typical celebrity’s audience.


Thirdly, the influencer marketing industry in India has matured. Influencers are no longer hired purely on the basis of their follower count but also include parameters like average engagement rates and their demographic profile. Hence choosing influencers whether to target a specific geography or a specific interest is easier.


Fourthly, influencer marketing is accessible. Unlike celebrity endorsements which can only be afforded by brands with deep pockets, a successful influencer campaign can cost as low as a few lakh, if one chooses to use nano-influencers (follower counts of less than 20,000) in their campaign.


Fifthly, with the influencer marketing industry maturing, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), announced plans to roll out new norms for social media influencers to promote products on the Internet. (Link – While the guidelines are awaited, once in place, either celebrity endorsement campaigns will reduce drastically or become a lot more cost-effective.



In conclusion, testimonials and endorsements have been a mainstay in marketing for many years. Influencers combine the best of the word-of-mouth recommendation with the reach of a celebrity to help brands cover the distance between awareness to action in the marketing life cycle. With the influencer industry maturing, brands must move budgets from celebrities to influencers to get the most bang for their buck.

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