22nd February, 2018 | Issue # 352 | Virat, Where’s my Money?
The relationship between a brand and its ambassador is complicated. In the PNB – Nirav Modi fraud case – Virat is as unsuspecting a customer as the average Tom, Dick and Harbhajan. He had an account there since he was 16 so clearly the endorsement is authentic. On the other hand, now that the bank is in a spot of trouble, he looks set to run. But should he? Isn’t this the time the brand needs him most? Remember how Amitabh Bachchanan endorsed Cadbury’s new packaging after the worms episode? In both cases the ambassador has tremendous personal equity and is in no way involved with the problem. Given the influence these celebrities have on consumers, it probably makes sense to have some kind of framework for them similar to that which governs directors, to ensure they don’t knowingly mislead customers or benefit from inside information.
Is it possible to be a luxury mass brand? Yes. Long ago I was part of marketing Super Dust tea, sold in sachets at about a 10p premium ie 50p vs 40p for the unbranded tea. Not much until you realized that the weekly spend in that household was around Rs 5. I felt guilty of being part of the marketing machinery that was extracting 10p from this poor man’s pocket. Until I grasped the narrative of why he spent more – he was providing his family with the only luxury he could afford, branded tea.
I was reminded of this when I was asked to comment on a story on NR Group for Forbes. They are the makers of Cycle Agarbattis, a brand in a surprising category. But again for many the agarbatti is integral to the most peaceful part of their day. Why use anything but the (affordable) best? There is plenty of opportunity for more luxury brands at the bottom of the pyramid.