From Kerala to India, a Brand Ambassador Experiment

From Kerala to India, a Brand Ambassador Experiment
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Story Dated : March 4, 2016

Planet of Ads 3

While driving through my city, I accidently noticed a huge flex board carrying a life size picture of Prithviraj, the young superstar of Malayalam Cinema.  From the very first look itself, I realized that it’s an outdoor design for a famous clothes chain which he is endorsing since last few years. Another day, when I opened a leading Malayalam daily, he was in the front page itself as a jacket ad with his charming smile.  At that instance too, I thought it’s a full page ad for the same chain but when I took a detailed look I came to know that was not for the textile group but for a different brand, a leading builder in Kerala.

Such things happen now and then in the advertising scenario. Recently when I suggested the name of a leading Malayalam actress as a brand ambassador for a client’s proposed curry powder brand, he with no second thought rejected the name because he felt the lady I suggested is featured in too many ads and it’s not easy for the commoners to know which brand she is endorsing for. Even if what the client said is hundred percent true, we can’t blame the leading lady either. The actors know well that after their heydays no brand will approach them to endorse their products or to become their brand ambassadors.

Actors are not the only one concerned with the rise and fall of their stardom. The agencies which suggest these actors as brand ambassadors for their clients are always worried about each and every move these stars make and are always bothered about their behaviour on and off screen. Things could turn upside down even with a single flop and the star stand to lose the stardom and brand value. Nowadays the agencies also fear every single word their brand ambassadors churn out as there are n number of chances for them end up in the umpteen troll pages celebrating social media blunders.

But if a branding agency gets it right with choosing the best suited brand ambassador for their clients, the very thing can work wonders to bring their brand into the forefront and keep it in the public eye for the time intended. Such a campaign made Malabar Gold, now a leading jewellery brand in India to reach the coveted position it shares with the established brands from their homeland like Alukkas, Josco, Kalyan and Bhima. Malabar Gold had a humble beginning and was limiting their operations to Northern Kerala with six branches at their first phase. In the second phase, they decided to spread wings to a more wide market and go on nationwide to achieve the goals set by their promoters.

The best part of the game plan was the location they chose to open their 7th branch.  No major cities in Kerala like Thiruvanathapuram, Kochi, Kottayam or Thrissur, which were obvious choices for the other brands from Kerala, received the honour of hosting the all new 7th branch of Malabar Gold.

The most suited location chose by the promoters for their expansion was Bangalore, which had entirely different market behaviour and tradition than the local market in Kerala. There the brand had to face tough competition from the national brands and even from the jewellery brands owned by Keralites which had won the trust of the local community through their presence over the years.

But Malabar Gold entered that Garden City not as just another brand from Kerala, but as a National Brand with the most suited brand ambassador who gifted them the pan Indian image they cherished.

The agency which helped Malabar Gold to spread their wings nationwide chose none other than Sania Mirza as the brand ambassador and the same was officially announced at a private function in Mumbai to give the needed impetus to the brand repositioning. By selecting a rising tennis star, the agency succeeded to assure their esteemed client a place among the leading national brands and could also give them the acceptance as a national brand when they ventured out from the country.

The same tactics was adopted when Malabar Gold decided to launch their chain of jewellery outlets in the neighbouring Tamil Nadu. Without going for any tinsel super star, they roped in Isaijnani Ilayaraja as their brand ambassador for the southern state. The musical advertising film featuring the music maestro who has more fan-following than the super stars of the state became an instant hit among South Indians and with this ad the reach of Malabar Gold among the neighbouring states as a prestigious jewellery brand was established beyond doubt.

The branding strategy created by the agency for Malabar Gold can be a model for the advertising agencies as well as similar brands who wants to make it big in the national market. The strategy also taught others some valuable lessons in choosing the right brand ambassadors and keeping them for the cherished time and getting the maximum out of them. Malabar Gold was the one to exploit the popularity and acceptance of Mohanlal, the Malayalam Superstar to the brim. Even though the company terminated the contract with the star some years back, people of Kerala still sees him as a brand ambassador for the brand. Malabar Gold has used the charm of superstars like Surya and Kareena Kapoor whenever they needed to pump up the national image.

Favour Francis