Thursday, July 29, 2010


Bollywood-Stars’ Merchandise Fails to Ignite Sales! Reasons?
As everybody and their toothless aunts know, it doesn’t get hotter than Bollywood when it comes to connecting with the teeming masses in India. Movies, shows, endorsements... stars rock big! By the same token, shouldn’t co-branding or lending their name [or initials] to merchandise spell an automatic, super-duper sale? In the West, it sure does! Be it Paris Hilton, Tiger Woods, Britney Spears, Michael Jordan, Kate Winslet, J.Lo, Justin Timberlake, Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta Jones, they all burn the consumer radar.

Alas, here – despite the Bolly-crazed fans – the same doesn’t seem to find the resonance of the West. The sizzling sex-symbol of the seventies, Zeenat Aman was first off the block with a perfume named after her. Nightingale Lata Mangeshkar followed. The luminous beauty Madhuri Dixit joined the party too with a range of herbal hair and skin care products by Emami (under the brand Beauty Secrets by Madhuri). In more recent times, John Abraham’s The John Abraham Wrangler Clothing, a premium prêt denim line, took off, as did Shilpa Shetty’s S2, a new fragrance. “The fragrance pays homage to Shilpa’s Indian heritage and appeal to the European market,” explains the perfume creator, Mark Earnshaw. Reports indicated that in the West, the brand beat off stiff competition from such big stars like Paris Hilton, J.Lo and Sarah Jessica Parker to reach the number 3 spot in two weeks flat of its launch! Shilpa and Bipasha Basu also have workout videos now; and before we forget, even the Little Master Sachin Tendulkar co-created a toothpaste named Sach with the Future Group (with the tagline, ‘Ab din ki shurvat, Sach se!’).

The Big B and SRK have also done their number in this area. While Paris-based perfume major Lomani launched a perfume named after Amitabh Bachchan, a French company, Jeanne Arthes introduced a perfume, Tiger Eyes by SRK, and flooded lifestyle outlets and malls with it. “For his zillion fans, it is the romantic King Khan captured in a bottle,” says Director of Jeannes Arthes Board, Thibaud Perrin.

Has all of this, however, captured the popular imagination of the Indian consumer? Have the B-town worshippers been inspired, motivated, charged or excited to turn buyer and choose these specific brands as their ‘preferred’ ones because of loyalty?

Surveys and studies reveal that the Indian consumer definitely loves the Bolly-stars – then what comes when it’s about picking perfumes? Explains 19-year old Mumbai-based Maya Sen. “I wouldn’t dream of picking up any of the local perfumes! For me, I’d stick to my foreign brands, any day”. She is not alone. Vinod Behl agrees. The 25-year-old Bangalore based techie says, “The Big B, SRK and gang are cool stars. I love watching their moves & antics but buying their named brands is not for me! I’d happily stick to overseas brands, anytime.” Strangely, current research corroborates this think amongst the consumer class of today.

Harmeet Singh of Fragrance Lounge confesses that few people buy fragrances for the celeb factor. “It’s invariably Dior, Givenchy, Calvin Klein & Armani that are in high demand. Neither markets nor mindscapes are developed or sophisticated enough for the local fare,” says Macwinn Fernandes, spokesperson for the perfumes division of the multi-brand store, Shoppers Stop.

Why this West-is-best movement? Behavioural Scientist Anand Halve believes it is both about mental conditioning and track record. “From time immemorial, ‘foreign’ and ‘imported’ have been magical words, right? They have evoked images of quality and class in look, feel and delivery. Even today in most FMCGs, the stuff from abroad is ‘perceived’ to be superior, right? Can the best of whisky, wines or beer; apparel, footwear or perfumes, gadgets... whatever, match theirs? This is not to devalue our stuff, but it is truly an unequal battle. Besides, the core competence of celebrities – especially ours – is not attuned towards a practical brand-fit. Think about it: Lata and perfumes? Sachin and toothpaste?”

For decades, big iconic foreign names have dominated our minds when perfumes, bags, belts and female toiletries & accessories are discussed. These are revered global brands, hymned and celebrated from time immemorial. Compared to them, the B-town offerings are new, untried and untested, with only the celeb-name lending it some credibility. They could well be excellent, but to build brand confidence, credibility and equity in another sphere against world class brands like Dior or Givenchy, is going to be very difficult. In today’s world, a discerning consumer actually buys a highbrow branded product (a Louis Vuitton product, for example) because it actually lasts longer, looks better, and satisfies the utility factor to a much larger extent than other brands.

Bolly-brands have to realise that the Indian mind has to be first de-colonised and seduced with reasons that better be really convincing, both on the ground [Why should I buy it? How is it better than them?] and in the mind [what will it do to me, for me? How will it empower me?]. The day that happens, Shilpa Shetty will have scored a bull’s eye.

Until then, Bolly celebs with merchandise named after them... freeze! Clearly, it’s not an idea whose time has come!


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