Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Kaun hai woh King or Queen of 'Good Times' ?

Read someone asking "How about Freida Pinto as the Brand Ambassador of Kingfisher Airlines?". To those who have no much clue about Freida, she is the one who featured opposite Dev Patel in Oscar-winning SlumDog Millionaire, walked the red-carpet at the Oscars, pipped to be the next Bond Girl and also claimed to be the highest paid Indian actress.

Freida for Kingfisher - Is it a good fit?

Let's first discuss Kingfisher and West Indies. The flagship brand of UB Group got registered in my mind for the first time in 1996 when India toured West Indies, where in one of the 5 Test matches, India were bundled out for some 80 odd runs, chasing a paltry 120 in 4th innings for victory. They had a TV commercial starring the players of that team. Here is the TVC - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93RtE9_Gc5I - Hence, UB via Kingfisher, sponsored the West Indies Team. That was the time when West Indies' cricketing standards hadn't reached a level where it was today and had some greats - Richardson, Walsh, Ambrose, Bishop, Lara and the likes. The 3 former names might be a terror for the batsmen when on field but the converse is also true when they are off the field, for that matter it is true with most West Indians. For those used to watch Cricket in West Indies, it is no secret that West Indies is synonymous to, say, beach, beer, partying, fun & frolic etc. Hence, so are the West Indians, not so surprisingly. Some of their celebrations after a wicket or victory look simply crazy. "Work hard, party harder" seems to be their mantra.

They had some marketing advantages with it -

1. Instant multi-country visibility (something stopped me from saying 'global' visibility'). It would anyways be visible amongst the Circket crazy Indians, but, sponsoring West Indies Team also meant visibility of the Brand outside India. The series was telecast LIVE on ESPN-STAR and it ensured that the Brand became visible in atleast 6-7 Cricket playing countries.

2. Brand Mantra was in sync with the team they sponsored. Kingfisher, be it through their alcohol Brand or airlines Brand, have always called themselves 'King of Good Times'. Their Chief, Mr. Mallya himself carries the 'Good Times' image, be it by his dressing, by his passion or actions, or even by surrounding himself with glamour. He walks that talk. Even during the heights of recession, KF Airlines did not cut down on frills which is their soul.

Sponsoring West Indies Team was a beginning. They then went on to get Saurav Ganguly and Ajay Jadeja in the late 90s. Ganguly was an upcoming Cricketer in the late 90s and Jadeja was a jovial Cricketer of his times, very chirpy and flamboyant too. This was followed by getting Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff in 2006, who were certainly the Kings of Good Times which was prevailing, following their inspirational victory in the Ashes 2005.

So it is amply clear that, one who associates oneself with UB Group (or read as Kingfisher) needs to be flamboyant, possess a happy-go-lucky outlook, bring in glamour value with him or her (unless untill they are not endorsing a dull Brand like Mangalore Chemicals & Fertilizers Ltd. of the UB Group) So when someone said Freida Pinto could be the Ambassador of Kingfisher Airlines, I felt it to be a wrong choice. First and foremost, she is not a popular figure in India, though she has several credentials on her side early on in her career. She doesn't carry the 'Good Times' image, according to me.

How about Sania Mirza? She is a face seen in a few continents, thanks to the Grand Slams (where she grandly gets slammed each time). Well known in India too, glamorous, something which Mallya desires as well as deserves. But her inclination towards attracting more Fatwahs than FAT-WAHs can be a game-spoiler. You never know when the clerics of Islam will get offended on hugging Mallya or even mere endorsing the KF Airlines since Mallya also owns 'Daaroo ka aDDa' (Daaru is 'Haraam' as per the Islamic tenets) Now, the complexities of getting Sania as an endorser might as well double with her marriage to a Pakistani and the Dubai connection. In any case, distancing from Sania is a safe choice for Brands (Burqa Brands are an exception)

Then like always, we can move towards some Bollywood actresses, who are the front-runners for most brands and products that demands glamour and skin (Now that skin-showing is no sin) Someone chubby-bubbly, like what Priety Zinta was in her debut movie Soldier is what KF Airlines requires. From the current lot, Genelia D'Souza could be a fit. Though hailing from South India, she is recognized well amongst the TG of KF Airlines. Deepika Padukone endorsed KF Airlines for sometime. Getting her back might not be a sensible move, moreover, with her growing stature, she might endorse more Brands (and Cricketers!) which might not be pleasant for the Brand as it is not 'one among all' Brand. Limited popularity of Bollywood actresses in other countries must also be considered before getting them to endorse (Though Shilpa Shetty might be on her knees and toes and even on hips as we saw in her Yoga, to endorse KF Airlines)

But, for me, one name stands tall. Only that person can carry the 'Good Times' image. Even if Mr. XYZ is appointed as the Brand Ambassador of KF Airlines, he might look ordinary against my Choice. My Choice talks and walks 'Good Times'. My Choice so far has been unbeatable in that 'Good Times' image. My Choice is Vijay Mallya himself. He is in a league of his own. He is like a proud Lion, the newbies and the wannabes of whichever field you chose, come distant second to him. He can get as many hugs from Bollywood actresses as his son who is in his early 20s get. Even the economic downfall couldn't challenge his 'Good Times' mantra. He found other ways to deal with it (Extension from the Govt. to repay the dues to Oil PSUs, 'MoU' with Jet Airways) He plays big stakes and plays openly. He can buy Tippu's sword for you in an auction, he can bring back Gandhi's possessions, he can buy a F1 Team, owns a few Yachts. Anything he does, does it in style. Though booze hasn't been ingrained in India's culture completely as yet, an Indian owns the world's 2nd largest brewery today. He is a 'Good Times' tag himself. He is the Richard Branson of India (Though he doesn't have a condom brand like Branson does)

I rest my point of view with the readers.

Regards (and loads of Oooh la la la la ooh le lo....)

Common Man

Photo courtesy -
i. http://www.singaporegp.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/dr-vijay-mallya.jpg
ii. http://blog.mobissimo.in/uploads/ambush_marketing_kingfisher_airlines.jpg
iii. http://photos.andhranews.com/airlines-photos/kingfisher-airlines-a330-200.jpg