PK hai kaa? Not so Incredible Khan.

The recent saga on Aamir Khan’s “Intolerance” comment is now showing its consequences on the actor’s brand endorsement contracts. So let me take you back to our childhood when we use to watch the “Vikram and Betaal” stories on Doordarshan. These are spellbinding stories told to the wise King Vikramaditya by the ghost Betaal. Betaal, narrates a story to the king, concluding that Vikramaditya must answer a moral question pertaining to the story’s characters and upon his answering the question, Betaal returns to his tree saying ‘Tu Bola… Main Chala’. Had Aamir not opened his mouth to answer the question on intolerance and he would not have been in this situation. “PK hai Kaa?”

The brands like Snapdeal with estimated enterprise valuation of $7 billion are in a state of dilemma when brand ambassador Aamir Khan spoke recently about growing intolerance and are facing consumer backlash. Almost a lakh customers have downgraded the Snapdeal application and according to the twitter trolls, it is estimated that 70K customers have uninstalled the snapdeal application on their mobile phones. Recently Aamir Khan was dropped from the “Incredible India” campaign triggered by Khan’s “Intolerance” remark.

This is not the first time though that brands have come under fire for associating with a particular celebrity. Following ace golfer Tiger Woods’ car accident in 2009 and his acknowledgement of marital infidelity, Gatorade, AT&T, and Accenture cut ties with the star golfer. Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps, saw his $500,000 deal with Kellogg’s go up in smoke after a picture in a tabloid showed him smoking pot at a party. Nutella and McDonald’s did not renew their contracts with Kobe Bryant after Bryant, the star of basketball team Los Angeles Lakers, was accused of rape in 2004.

Aamir Khan featured as the most trusted film celebrity after Amitabh Bachchan in the 2015 edition of the annual Brand Trust Report. He has been very choosy in endorsing a brand and has in the past been the brand ambassador of Godrej, Coca Cola, Tata Sky and Titan. Valued at $54.9M (337 crore), can brand Aamir Khan survive the Intolerance controversy?

After dropping Aamir as the brand ambassador of Snapdeal, the company says that “It’s business and not personal” but should our celebrities be more responsible and watch out for their statements/behavior in public as they are the role models followed by huge fan following. OR are the brands reacting and being harsh on Aamir Khan?? Though for a thinking man like Aamir, who became symbol of patriotism post Lagaan and a face of “Incredible India” campaign, such a statement was a result of poor timing and poor judgment. Therefore, as a brand, the decision makes complete sense. Khan is the brand ambassador, and if the ambassador gets himself surrounded in a controversy which is as sensitive as this one, it hurts the brand.

Though we should keep this in mind, that Khan’s brand value has placed snapdeal along with other e-commerce giants in India like Flipkart and Amazon. Prior to Aamir’s “dil ki deal”, Snapdeal hardly had any significant presence in the market, in fact, reports suggest that a wave of uninstallations and mass-downvoting of Snapdeal’s has actually led to a spike in the app’s ranking. According to app data aggregator AppAnnie.com, on 23 November 2015, Snapdeal was ranked No 25 in India among all applications, and No 4 in shopping applications. Over the next three days, despite the furor over the actor’s comments, the app moved up to No 20 in India, and No 3 among shopping applications.

All said and done, the brands are skeptical about their ambassador’s personal life and ideologies.  But when the brand ambassador sparks controversy and it starts affecting the brand through consumer backlash, it’s best to cut ties. These consumer backlashes on social media have created a Doppelganger imagery of Aamir Khan and have projected Mr. Perfectionist into a “Not so Incredible Khan”.

So the moral of the story is that if you are a endorsing a brand then you have to speak the brand’s mind and not yours…..PK hai Kaa??

 

– Gaurav Sood is a Brand evangelist, researcher, speaker and columnist with a 2 decade practice creating strong brands. You can follow him on www.brandmartini.com or gaurav.sood@brandmartini.com