Could top influencers eat into the market share of Bollywood celebrity endorsements?
The world is going digital so is the Indian consumer. With penetration of the internet to every corner of the country, digital is the new platform where brands go to advertise as they see an enormous potential to reach their target audience.
“70% of the Millennials prefer ‘peer’ endorsements instead of recommendations from traditional celebrities.”
The ever-expanding market
According to FICCI Media and Entertainment Report 2020, Indians spend over 3.5 hours a day on their phones, which might be the maximum time spent on phones in the world.
The report states, “Smartphone user base increased to 395 million in 2019 from 340 million in 2018 — this is a penetration of 40% of India’s population 12 of 15 years and above. Digital advertising grew 24% driven by increased consumption of content on digital platforms and marketers’ tilt towards measurability and performance.”
Rise of the influencer
Another report in ZDNet mentions that 30% of consumers are more likely to purchase products endorsed by a social media influencer or a blogger, compared to endorsement by a celebrity. “70% of the Millennials prefer ‘peer’ endorsements instead of recommendations from traditional celebrities,” it states.
As Indians are spending their online time more and more on social media, it has become pertinent for brands and advertisers to target their consumers through these platforms.
Brand Bollywood stands slandered
Over the years, Bollywood has reaped trust, faith and goodwill in the people’s mind. Advertisements find credence when endorsed by film celebs. The consumer might purchase a product because it is endorsed by their favourite Bollywood personality.
But in the past few weeks, following the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput and outbursts from names such as Arnab Goswami and Kangana Ranaut, the country has witnessed a huge outcry against Bollywood. Brand Bollywood has been slandered by countless people on social media like nobody’s business.
There have been investigations by government agencies like CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) for alleged murder of Sushant Singh Rajput, NCB (Narcotics Control Bureau) for probing the use of drugs by some Bollywood celebs and ED (Enforcement Directorate) for money laundering charges. Plus, parallel private investigations by TV channel reporters, trailing, hounding and questioning celebs. The media hullabaloo has thrown up names of a lot of Bollywood A-listers. Some top celebs seem to be losing that sheen and brand value which are oh-so-important for endorsements.
Celeb’s loss, influencer’s gain?
With this the question arises — Could Bollywood celebrities lose their endorsement market to influencers?
“Bollywood celebrities may lose some endorsements in the short term, but even brands and corporates know that the bad press which celebrities are getting, is because of biased media reportage, paid social media trolls and a handful of industry insiders.”
India’s leading film trade analyst Komal Nahta says, “Bollywood celebrities may lose some endorsements in the short term, but even brands and corporates know that the bad press which celebrities are getting, is because of biased media reportage, paid social media trolls and a handful of industry insiders. Until there is something concrete proven against them in court or established with surety by the investigating agencies, the allegations are just that — mere allegations!”
Renowned journalist Mayank Shekhar explains, “Trolls can only spread hate, which is as fickle as hashtags that come and go. Whether Bollywood stars have lost their sheen or not will depend on the success of their movies. If they deliver a huge hit, they will regain all the love. And when that happens, they will be suitably rewarded. A movie, talent and people’s excitement for stories and characters always survives.”
“I have yet to see a direct correlation between social media spends on campaigns with online influencers and the success of a brand. I could follow a handle on Insta. But that does not mean I am their fan and want to eat and drink and stay at the same places they do.”
Does he believe that Bollywood will lose their business to influencers? “Honestly, I have yet to see a direct correlation between social media spends on campaigns with online celebrities and the success of a brand. See, I could follow a handle on Insta. But that does not mean I am their fan and want to eat and drink and stay at the same places they do,” remarks Mayank. But he makes it a point to add, “Yes, having them endorse brands is dirt-cheap online, in terms of the pricing involved.”
Also read: Controversy sells
Senior television broadcast journalist and features editor Manoj Singh feels that though Brand Bollywood has taken a big hit due to the recent controversies, “it is also important to understand that the socio-political discourse in the country has changed and is sharply divided. Say, if I am designing an ad campaign, I’d rather go for a personality that connects well with my audience or consumer, than just someone who has star value. It’s a safe bet and has great ROI potential.”
Manoj adds, “Social Media is a great influencer. But again, it’s also the index of social division. An influencer is also identified with some kind of ideology or political slant. A smart brand will work more on the concept and the character, rather than on a Bollywood brand or a social influencer.”
“Having said that, in certain scenarios, it’s difficult to ignore Bollywood as it gets you instant value. Till recently, Influencer Marketing was losing its sheen, but now with Bollywood taking a hit, non-Bollywood social media influencers have a better opportunity.”
Now with the media glare on new investigations into drug usage by Bollywood celebrities, things seem to be further on a downslide. Media professional Meenakshi CV feels, “Celebrities are easy targets. But now, fans take everything as circumstantial episodes. Salman Khan would make a good case in point.’
And what about hashtags as strong as #BoycottBollywood trending on social media? “People have a very short memory. This is the news today. But tomorrow we will be back to regular business,” says entrepreneur Sunil Punjabi, former Strategic Advisor (India) to CGV Cinemas.
He adds, “There would not be any long-term detrimental impact on the A-listers in Bollywood. Their influence is huge and the media needs them as well. No doubt, Social Media influencers are the new wave. They are a good PR engine, but with limited reach and objective. Brands need very popular faces at the end of the day and influencers are not those faces.”
The show must go on
Some in the entertainment industry are nervous about the current developments. But most firmly believe that nothing can diminish Bollywood’s brand value. They assert that soon everything will be back on track. To aid their dreams, they have the PR machinery, which is expected to be on its toes with PR strategies for a quick revival. The optimistic feel that in no time, it will be business as usual.