Home>>Case Studies>>Popularity no guarantee!

Case Studies

Popularity no guarantee!


Task at hand…
This case entails our association with an apparel brand with respect to selecting and using a celebrity brand ambassador effectively.

Brand ambassadors are used for various reasons – to break clutter, to create a certain brand persona matching the brand ambassador, to impart premiumness to the brand, to build credibility and mass appeal, etc. The client in this case wanted to enliven the brand and carve out a distinct and desirable persona for it by engaging a celebrity brand ambassador.
So the task for us was to facilitate this selection process for our client. It was thus required to assess:

1. Appeal & stature of a short-list of celebrities,
2. A close examination of the key traits that define their persona and
3. Fitment of these traits with the desired persona.

Our approach…
Many a times the task of selection of a brand ambassador is viewed very simplistically and reduced to a search for the biggest star with the largest number of recent hits, his/her popularity with the TG, the client’s allocated budget and that celeb’s non-linkage with any other brand in the category. No wonder then that some ads with the biggest celebs also become a mockery and do not benefit either the brand or the celeb.

In our mind, we were clear that the task really is to find someone who fits best with the desired brand values, supports the brand rather than overshadowing it and adds certain values to the brand, not associated with the brand strongly. Popularity may not be the critical parameter.

The ads using celebrity brand ambassadors where both the brand and the ambassador have had a positive rub off on each other attract maximum attention; also none of them overshadow each other. Some examples of this kind of a win-win alliance that can be sited are the Vodafone - Irfan Khan alliance, the Lays-Saif Ali Khan alliance (Saif came on board for Lays prior to the big hits like Hum-Tum) to name a few. The trick in both the above cases was not using a very popular star but someone who had aspects or facets in their image that could be played up through the creative to the brand’s advantage and also in the process reaffirm that image for the stars.

Another more recent example of a star being used effectively not only because of his popularity but more importantly the values that he brings to the table was the Yatra.com-Salman alliance. Salman is perceived as someone who is reliable and can be trusted especially by the middle class and that is exactly the attribute that the brand also wanted to establish, given the skepticism of many with online booking. The creative also suited the star completely.

Celebrities also come with a mixed bag of perceived attributes, some favorable and others not so favorable. The task then is to pick someone who has a workable mix wherein the not so desirable attributes can be consciously suppressed by choosing the right storyline and characterization. But for that, one must be cognizant of those attributes in that celebrity and cautious enough to not let those affect the brand persona. Also certain strengths of the celebrity may sometimes not be desirable or intended for the brand persona. For e.g. a trait like serious, hardworking maybe a big positive of the celeb but the brand wants to cue cool & chilled out attitude, while at the same time many other positives of the celeb do go with the brand. The challenge then is to be aware of these possible values of the celeb and play up the relevant strengths of that celebrity .

The initial piece of research was a quantitative exercise wherein the long list was reduced to a shortlist of 2-3 celebs. The 2nd step was a qualitative one used for selecting one from amongst the three shortlisted celebrities, using a range of techniques like mood boards, sorting, interest graphs, Kelly’s triads etc.

The 3rd aspect of the research was to get a deep dive  into the celebrity values so as to ascertain how to use him best by capturing the most robust and vivid images that consumer had of the celebrity. For this too, multiple tools and techniques were applied. Extensive VISUAL PROFILING was done on lines of.. What car would he drive? What will his childhood be like? Who will be his friends? What will be his holiday spot? What will be his idea of romance? Etc.


The outcome…
The first part of the research for selecting one from amongst the three shortlisted celebrities did not throw up a clear winner but basis analysis of what did come through and with client inputs on desired brand imagery, one celeb was shortlisted. The catch here was that this celeb had just had two back to back flops and was at a low point in his career after a fairly successful launch. What he had going for him was a set of image attributes that overlapped well with the desired brand image.

Though there was significant risk involved, our job was cut out to find how best to work around the pitfalls and use this celeb most effectively. We managed to get an extremely fine understanding of the celeb persona by using various profiling techniques, a result of which was development of a visual deck over a period of time with ‘emotion’ words assigned to them. A selection of apt visuals from this deck was then used.

The ad agency understood the positives, negatives and grey areas in his persona and went to the drawing board to develop some story boards that brought those needed dimensions well. The look and feel of the celeb, the kind of storylines that would bring out the intended values from the celeb the best, were conceived. These were then tested to see whether the intended brand values were coming through without the celebrity’s lower popularity or certain undesirable values coming in the way.

And soon enough, we had a successful ad on air with high recall, the brand going up in the TG’s consideration set with an eventual rub-off on sales. That new look assigned to the celebrity also did well for him in his career!


Usage of a smart mix of multiple innovative qualitative and quantitative techniques.


“How you do” is sometimes more important than “what you do”!


Multiple dimensions to a ‘GO’ – ‘NO GO’ through qualitative research!


Hard core analysis that finally led to a soft paneer!


Projective techniques to our rescue!


Popularity no guarantee!


Capturing the unsaid!


<< Back to case studies