WWhen KFC cast Reba McEntire as Colonel Sanders in 2018, heads turned. But that was four years ago. We’ve come a long way, honey, but we’ve got a long, long way to go.
Brands are slowly invading more female celebrities around the world, as well as in India, to promote products and services that don’t fall into the typical home, fashion and beauty categories.
In an effort to be inclusive and reach more independent female consumers, brands are enlisting female ambassadors to sell everything from cars to cryptocurrencies.
People like Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Pernod Ricard India, Policybazaar, Blenders Pride, Equitas Small Finance Bank and many others have all added celebrity females to their list of sponsors.In addition to increasing the inclusivity quotient in marketing and advertising, and addressing female consumer segments that are growing in economic power, this shift is also driven by the change in category definitions.
Santosh Iyer, VP-Sales & Marketing, Mercedes-Benz India, says they are seeing their female customers’ awareness and interest in their product range increasing and this is reflected in their sales. The contribution from female buyers who buy a Mercedes-Benz, he says, is currently up to 15-17 percent, compared to less than 5 percent 7-8 years ago.
Brands that align with the cultural shiftBrands are just a reflection of what’s happening in the corporate economy, says Vijay Subramaniam, group CEO and co-founder of influencer marketing platform Big Bang Social and independent celebrity management firm Collective Artist Network.
“The categories previously defined as masculine are witnessing change because of the change in the overall environment and the democratization of the whole business metric,” he says.
“Brand marketing will always be part of what culture has to offer. If there are shifts in culture, the marketing brief will also evolve, that’s the beauty of it,” he adds.
Brands of alcoholic beverages have become a prominent category that has female celebrities on board as their brand ambassadors. Blenders Pride recently announced Alia Bhatt as the new face of the brand. However, it is not only Bollywood celebrities who land these deals. Female athletes are also signed by various brands. For example, Jacob’s Creek has appointed cricketer Mithali Raj as their brand ambassador.
The fact that Raj is a name synonymous with breaking the glass ceiling in a male-dominated sport attracted the brand.
“Mithali has been the leading light for women’s cricket in India for over two decades and we believe her authentic spirit perfectly represents the values Jacob’s Creek represents,” said Kartik Mohindra, chief marketing officer at Pernod Ricard India.
Besides being the face of many other brands, the Indian women’s cricket team captain is also one of the Association of Mutual Funds ambassadors in India along with others like Sachin Tendulkar.
A host of other BFSI brands also involve female celebrities as their brand ambassadors.
More access and supply for female consumersAnd it turns out that these brands aren’t just jumping on the bandwagon to have female celebrities as ambassadors. More often than not, the decision aligns with brand goals, such as providing access and options to female consumers.
When Equitas Small Finance Bank announced female hockey players Rani Rampal and Smriti Mandhana as their brand ambassadors, it was in line with their corporate philosophy to make banking easier for women and empower them. Car brands also endorse the same point of view.
“As a forward-thinking brand, we focus a lot on the evolving preferences and choices of our female buyers and celebrate their achievements and all of this is reflected in our overall social media campaigns,” said Iyer of Mercedes-Benz India. Celebrities are brought in on merit and marketers aren’t looking for extra credits or brownie points for bringing in a female celebrity. Getting female ambassadors to represent their brands is a natural choice.
How influencers changed the approval game“Regardless of gender, we involved influencers and brought out their real stories,” said a spokesperson for Hyundai Motor India.
Hyundai Motor India recently signed a one-year partnership with female cricketers Smriti Mandhana, Jemima Rodrigues, Taniya Bhatia and Shafali Verma. The brand also had golfer Aditi Ashok on board as an ambassador. However, for the South Korean automaker, these celebrities add value to the brand regardless of their gender.
According to the company spokesperson, the celebrities are taken on board purely for their talent and the added value they bring to the table.
There’s no denying that Priety Zinta looked pretty sporty neon green swimwear for a Liril ad and so did Liza Ray in the bathtub ad for Sprite. Let’s not forget about Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Prestige cookware ads. But female celebrities are now adding more than just the glamor factor to endorsement deals. While still the face of many beauty, fashion and FMCG brands, they now play a bigger role outside of the shower, kitchen and closet.
Click here to view Forbes India’s comprehensive coverage of the Covid-19 situation and its impact on life, business and the economy
Check out our subscription discounts at the end of the season with a Moneycontrol pro subscription absolutely free. Use code EOSO2021. Click here for details.