Narcissism Unlimited: Promoters as Brand Ambassadors

11 09 2010

What connects the following? Kingfisher Airlines, MDH Masala, Khaitan Fans, Country Club, Dr Sarkar’s, RRB Energy, Mantri Developers.  Their businesses are all very diverse. What could possibly be common between a spice marketer and a real estate company or between an airline and a fan manufacturer? Yet they share something. These companies have their CEOs or owners appearing in their advertisements and company communications rather prominently.

If you board a Kingfisher flight, you will be invited by Vijay Mallya, the promoter, to be a guest and a promise to be treated like a guest in his own house. The inflight magazine Hi Blitz is full of pictures of Mallya attending various parties with celebrities from cinema, politics, sports etc. After one flight, you will know who the owner of the airline is.

TV commercials of masalas are not expected to be either entertaining or informative. Yet, I am always amused at MDH TVCs. One cannot miss the old man, the owner of MDH, in the ads. He can be seen  blessing the guests in a wedding, sitting in a reclining chair having a cup of coffee or even atop an elephant like a maharajah with the voiceover announcing ‘Masalon ke Shahenshah’.

Country Club, a mid-size vacations company, from Hyderabad is a big advertiser. Perhaps, not so much for their products, but as a vehicle for its owner Rajeev Reddy. If you cannot recognize Rajeev Reddy watch a Country Club ad on TV, press or even a hoarding. If you spot a rotund, neck-less wonder (not unlike a typical Telugu matinee idol) sporting an oversized goggles and a printed Hawaiian shirt in a thumbs-up   posture, you’re looking at Rajeev Reddy.

Years ago, Khaitan fans had a slogan “Khaitan- bas naam his kaafi hai”. Even if one thought that this was an attempt at trying to emulate a Ford or Honda or closer home a Tata or Godrej, by putting family name as a brand, the ego trip was when the Chairman gave a personal guarantee for each fan sold by   the company. Each and every warranty certificate was signed by the Chairman personally.

Recently, a real-estate developer Mantri Developers has gone a step further. The Chairman Sushil Mantri has made his signature as the logo for his company. A press release says:

The Mantri Developers’ new logo is inspired by the signature of Mr. Sushil Mantri Founder and & Managing Director, Mantri Developers. Elegantly crafted with fluid lines, the new logo is a seal of the trust that the customers and partners have reposed in the brand. The strong color of the logo connotes the spirit of enterprise, excellence and energy. In the most compelling way possible, the logo guarantees that Mantri will always stand by and honor their commitment and promises.

When a CEO or an owner appears so prominently in the promotions and communications one cannot but feel amused. Their desire for self-promotion is so high, sometimes even at the cost of the businesses and brands they promote. It does not help that these CEOs  must be surrounded by sycophants posing as advisors and consultants, who would be encouraging these megalomaniacs to appear in the ads and having a good laugh on the side.

– G. Mohan

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One response

22 09 2010
Shiv Basu

I cannot completely agree with you. There could be various reasons to this, narcissim could be one, but not necessarily the only one.

I may be knaive to think that the business that these guys are promoting is not just another venture for them, but it is their life and philosophy. Theoriticaly, it could be possible that they pursue their ventures with a religious zeal that they feel obligated to personally reach out to you ‘the consumer’ to be a member of his clan.

And again, in traditional business promoting oneself or the family is entirely necessary. We need not compare with Ford; it had been always been indigenous to business houses as in hindu undivided family. In olden days, the families would build dharamsalas in Kashi, water kiosks along the Shahi Sadak; for what? To pave the path to heaven, or to promote their family name? Today, the media of reaching out to the consumer has changed.

For the CEO to personally reach out, it certainly helps in gaining consumer confidence. May not be with you or me, who would like to read a number of consumer reports and tech specs before trying out something with our hard earned money. But for a great mass, it could be a preferable mode rather than a regular ad bulletin. To the consumer, it gives the personal touch that the CEO himself is vouching for the product, and not using a hired actor. Furthermore, the consumer may euphoric to believe he is a member or a guest of that family. So, I refer to the term ‘member of the clan’ again; once you have convinced the customer that he is a member of your clan, you have achieved a lot.

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