We had already second-guessed it last November when Aamir Khan had got embroiled in a controversy surrounding his comments about rising intolerance in the country. Angry consumers trolled him on social media. But he happened to be the brand ambassador for the online marketplace Snapdeal’s Dil ki Deal (meaning ‘a deal of the heart’) program, a marketing campaign that tapped into the power of emotions. As a result the e-commerce brand got caught in the crossfire and received an angry backlash from consumers in the form of app uninstallations, apart from users downrating the app to one star on Google Play Store.
Early signs of the breakup were visible when Snapdeal said it is not connected to the actor’s personal opinions. It also duly stopped using Khan in its ads. And last week, Snapdeal officially decided not to renew the contract with Aamir Khan that ends this March.
Since that was quite predictable, we’re not surprised. But on a separate side note, it reminds us of the question how effective celebrity endorsements are in the digital age of intelligent consumers armed with information and characterized by growing intolerance to advertisements.
Does the consumer really buy into celebrity endorsements?
The idea behind celebrity endorsements is that we are all star-struck, so we readily buy something if a celebrity sells it. But is that true?
MarketWatch notes that there is very little academic research on the effect of celebrity endorsements on sales. Any available studies only point to a small boost in stock price when brands make announcements about their celebrity endorsements.
If a celebrity endorses a product, we may watch the commercial when it appears on TV than switch channel or go to washroom. We may give celebrity endorsements a second look in the tabloid. But do we go and buy a product just because our favorite star endorsed it? We know in our heart that the celebrity has charged a hefty price to say nice things about the product. A price that consumers themselves pay when they buy the product. So at its best, it seems like celebrity endorsements generate more views for the ads, but not necessarily more sales for the product.
If anything, consumers buy into genuine user reviews
Be it a car, a lipstick, a mobile phone, a microwave oven, flight, hotel, restaurant, you name it, internet powered consumers research online, check out reviews from genuine users or ask friends and relatives offline before making a decision. We even chat up strangers when we see them using a product that we consider buying.
Even before deciding to watch a movie starring our favorites actor, we read reviews and ask friends who already watched it. We decide not to waste time watching it, if the movie reviews have a low star rating or if in good faith our friends caution us not to.
A study by BrightLocal, shows that 88% consumers read reviews to determine the quality of a local business.
The ‘product brand name + review /rating’ is a popular search term on search engines. An article on Econsultancy details how user reviews are important for ecommerce websites, because 61% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase decision.
According to Bazaarvoice, 84% of millennials report that user generated content on company websites has at least some influence on what they buy.
So it makes more sense for a brand to incorporate genuine user reviews into the site than wasting money on a celebrity endorsement.
Snapdeal has sure fired Khan, but some media houses have reported that there is actually another business angle to it. Snapdeal may not replace Khan with another celebrity as it intends to spend its ad budget on improving customer experience on the site in different ways than on celebrity endorsements.
Is influencer marketing any different from celebrity endorsements?
Though influencer marketing is being dubbed as the current hottie in marketing, a closer look at it might reveal it is no different from celebrity endorsements. Brands use celebrities, so that their ad stands out and catches attention among thousands of other ads. Similarly, some brands have started hiring influencers – those people with reputation and credibility, to convey their brand message, so it stands out among the ton of content on the web.
Influencer marketing may only be hot, because it is new. It “purportedly” works as pointed out by some studies out there. Considering the new age smart no-nonsense consumer, it may not be long before that changes. Influencers may have large audiences following them, but that’s because they are experts or thought leaders in their domain. When the influencer starts exploiting the loyalty of followers and tries to sell them a product or a service, the trust may break and the influencer’s own reputation is at stake. Followers may feel let down. They may start viewing both the influencer and the brand with suspicion.
If your favorite star uses a specific product, and you learn about it organically, then you are more likely to use it yourself. The same logic applies to influencers. If they are naturally using a brand than vociferously promoting it, then there is a chance that some of their followers who come to know about it may adopt that product. But may be not otherwise.
Happy end users are true advocates
Advocate marketing is another misnomer out there. Someone who is paid to promote a product or a service is only a model – be it a non-celebrity model, a celebrity model or an influencer. They are only acting in an ad for the product, so they don’t categorize as advocates of the product.
Consumers who actually use the product and who are so who happy with it that they tell others about it are true advocates of your product or service.
It ultimately boils down to the same old marketing lesson – create great products and make consumers happy. Even if you break your influencer or celebrity model’s heart, don’t break your consumer’s heart. Because in the age of intelligent consumers, consumerism is really becoming a ‘Dil ki deal’ – a matter of the heart!