Micromax Turbo and Hugh Jackman: a bold second step

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The Indian mobile handset brand Micromax took everyone by surprise by signing up Hollywood star Hugh Jackman as its brand ambassador. Shubhodip Pal, Chief Marketing Officer, Micromax said in a press release that Hugh Jackman truly embodies the aspirational, reinventing and fearless persona of the brand Micromax. As we look to expand our footprint across the globe in various international markets, the association with the Hugh Jackman is an ideal partnership. Comments on social media were of two kind: one congratulating the brand on a move that seeks to re-position the brand and the other chiding the brand for not investing the money behind their products & customer service first. Herewith my views:

Firstly, on the business of celebrity endorsements: some feel that it is an easy way out for marketers & agencies and is an excuse for not having solid ideas on brand promotion. Others (mostly those who control the purse strings) feel that celebrities provide great mileage in terms of visibility & breaking clutter. There is some truth in both sides of the argument. A celebrity endorsement does not automatically result in positive rub-off or increase in brand sales. It is what a brand does with the celebrity – the way they are used in advertising, the brand fit etc., that has an impact. In the past, very few brands could afford signing on a celebrity – especially a movie star. So when an ad featuring such a celebrity appeared it imbued a hue of exclusivity and sophistication. Remmber Lux, the ‘beauty soap of film stars?’ Nowadays every other soap brand can afford a film star, so merely the presence of a film star in a soap ad is not a novelty. Ditto with many other categories. Having said that, the right celebrity does have the scope to re-position the brand or make the brand be seen in a new positive light by potential consumers. Many brands have taken this route to embellish their perceived image (e.g. Videocon signing up Shahrukh Khan), but it doesn’t automatically guarantee success.

Another tactic to embellish the brand imagery is significantly alter the look of advertising – make it look ultra premium, sophisticated and subtle. The rationale is that the new look (made sure it is far removed from the category & current brand imagery) will surprise the viewer and force her to give the brand a second look. It is also a double-barrelled approach: it is meant to make the current brand user feel good about the brand choice and also urge the potential consumer (often user of a premium brand) to now consider the advertised brand. Micromax did exactly that a while ago with ads for Canvas 2.  Such an advertising image makeover  has to be backed by a perceptible change in the product quality and other ‘brand experience’. The product has to live up to superior expectations and every point of contact (in-store experience, after sales if required in that category) has to be meet the new expectations. Going by anecdotes one hears, Micromax may not have delivered in those aspects (product quality, after sales).

Micromax Turbo Hugh Jackman

Nevertheless, I feel signing up Hugh Jackman is a move in the right direction. It signifies confidence in the brand and their intent to take on their biggest competitor – Samsung. Some may question the timing (i.e. wait till you completely sort out product and customer service issues) but I feel in the technology game there is never 100% perfection in product quality and service. Yes, even with a brand like Apple, who is known for great design and whose fans believe that it ‘just works’. Take iOS 7 or Apple Maps for example: they both were released when they were not perhaps fully ready for release. But the moot question is: when is fully ready? With both Apple Maps and iOS 7 there were larger strategic imperatives for the company in getting them out to the market as soon as possible. That doesn’t mean that a company should release half-baked products into the market. But a company has to take a strategic call between doing the right thing at the right time and waiting forever for the perfect time.

In Micromax’s case, I believe that their product quality will improve (just as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung have all iterated their product offerings over the years) and so will their customer service. Signing up a star like Hugh Jackman propels the brand into a sphere in which the brand was never perceived to be thus far. It sends out a positive signal and will make the potential consumer sit up and take notice. What they do with the celebrity in terms of usage remains to be seen. Another challenge  for the brand is to separate the imagery of Micromax Bolt with that of Micromax Turbo.

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