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CEO Brand Ambassadors and the “Main Hoon Na!” syndrome

The other day I was in small electrical shop in Shakarpur market, and was looking for an power extension board – “give me the best quality” I requested.  The shopkeeper smiled with pride, and then with great flourish revealed to me his “best quality” extension board.

No it wasn’t Philips, Bajaj, or any such familiar name… but instead the box read “UttamBrand” (name changed). Seeing my confused look the guy now looked at me with disdain… “yeh naam aapne suna hi hoga..? best quality hai… sab bade-bade company inhi se letey hain aur apna chhap lagate hain…” (you must have heard of this brand… it’s the best quality… all the big companies buy from them and brand them as their own).

“Yeah right” I said, then realising I had no other option and I needed it urgently I asked about the warranty/guarantee… and quick came the response “Main hoon na!” (I am here as guarantee).

I stared at the guy like I stared at the plumber, the tile repair guy, and the local kirana shopkeeper before him who tried to pass off something of dubious lineage and quality to me as quality “guaranteed by them” !

“There’s this crazy Indian belief that you have to take someone’s word – even if you don’t know them. How often we see it abused by people who haven’t met before and will never see again…”

I think this is the same belief that drives some brands and their CEOs to star in their advertisements and endorse their brands – “Buy my brand, main hoon na!” they claim.

Admittedly, when the late Dhirubhai Ambani did so, he did with a lot of credibility and the stature of a company that had done very well. And when a packaged masala company shows its patriarch in their advertisements there is some credibility because the brand and its patriarch are well known.

For the rest, I think its just absurd self-promotion.

Here’s my list of the adventures and misadventures of CEO brand endorsers.

CEO Brand Endorser No. 1 – Masala Man

The Old Man in the MDH Masala Ads. He’s lovable, likeable and seems credible enough to appear in their packaging and ads.

He’s okay, way to go old man!

CEO Brand Endorser No. 2 – Thumbi

I call him “Thumbi” for his trademark action in every ad he appears. If you look closely at his photo in the press ads, you’ll find his name and designation in small type.

Yeah, I am talking about the CMD of Country Club, “thumbing” his way through the end of each of his ads.

His sudden, out-of-the-blue-and-context appearance in each ad is a bit absurd… But being the CMD of a club where you expect personalised attention even from the top guy, you get used to it, and can live with it.

CEO Brand Endorser No. 3 – Colonial Leftover

Okay, so here’s this white guy talking to us from a television commercial. And he says that we don’t have to spend any money on maintenance with his cars, because his company will take care of that. And then, he puts his hand on his heart!!!

Whoa! Whoever recommended that the expat CEO of GM should appear in their ads needs to get their brains examined.

I can imagine it working for Rattan Tata and Tata Motors,  but know he never will take this road. But has anyone heard of this guy (Sorry sir, nothing personal)?

What’s his context – market leadership, innovative thinking, celebrity status..? Do you think his being a “gora” is going to impress people? I remember another senior guy from the same company also appear in ads before. What’s the plot??

I know agencies need to suck up to their clients… but I am sure there are less obvious ways to do it!

CEO Brand Endorser No. 4 – High on attention

Thankfully liquor brands are prevented from advertising overtly on television. Or else we’d have to see this dude in our faces a lot more.

I am speaking of the head of a liquor company who used to appear in their radio ads – giving his name and all – and asking people to drink responsibly. “Yeah dude. Where’s your responsibility to common sense?”

Why should I listen to you? Is it because I see you hanging around models and famous people in Page 3 parties and pictures? Is it because they pose with you because your company sponsors the events and for no personal connect with you?!

CEO Brand Endorser No. 5 – Pehle Khushi, Abhi Gham

I almost forgot about this one… But there was this marriage between Karan Johar’s company and NDTV or something. So we had the lovable Karan (who we all love as a film-maker) appearing in ads talking about how this relationship was like “family” and that their channel was going to really make us happy…

Is that family still around..? I have no idea, but would love to know…

But I think Karan should stick to making brilliant feature films. Leave the ads to the lesser mortals.

EndNote to myself: 

I have to remove the “Blatant Self Promotion” tag on this blog.

At work, I tend to Brands and nurture ideas that help people and businesses bloom. I am a writer of all things that catch my eye. I travel to discover myself, as much as I do to discover the world. I am a foodie at heart, and am open to tasting anything that's edible!



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