SRK India's Biggest Brand

Thursday, July 30, 2009
Entertainer, brand endorser, producer, businessman, cricket club owner or the ever-friendly neighbourhood guy Rahul... brand SRK ROCKS!

Come to IIPM, I’ll see you there,” says Shah Rukh Khan with that famous smile of his. And even as the big day nears, the excitement at the Indian Institute of Planning & Management (IIPM) is fast turning into a frenzy. The man, who is famous for his unlimited energy, seems to have infused some of it into the staff and students too, for no one seems to be going home (or sleeping) for days now! It’s work, work, work everywhere – every detail being looked into, everything being checked twice, just to be sure there are no goof-ups on D-day when the business quiz would be held and of course, no one is complaining!

SRK is someone who features regularly in Bollywood discussions, and also boardroom discussions, for a simple reason – the man is not just an actor, but an intelligent actor. He is not just a brand ambassador, but an intelligent business man (probably the economics background helps!). Every word, every statement, every comment is well thought, well reasoned and most of all, well worded. He is one of those rare celebrities who can never be outwitted! Not surprising then, that he features regularly in my write-ups and lectures in advertising. What is it that makes SRK such an interesting case study for MBAs! Let’s explore SRK, the brand.

ART OF WAR

There is a world famous book by the same name written by Sun Zi in the 6th century B.C. A book so old, yet imparting wisdom as relevant and useful even today that helps leaders and managers workout their business tactics. A famous quote from the book goes like this, “Know your enemy, and know yourself and victory will always be yours.” SRK seems to have understood this pretty well and has fought all his wars successfully. Of course, we are not taking about the Amitabh-SRK spat or the Salman- SRK imbroglio or even the Vidhu Vinod Chopra-SRK duel. We are not even referring to the Aamir-SRK face-off or the war between producers – distributors and multiplex owners that Shah Rukh helped put an end to. We are talking about the brand wars that he fights regularly and wins almost every time.

In 2005, ITC Foods announced that Shah Rukh Khan would be the brand ambassador for its flagship brand Sunfeast, endorsing the entire range of snacks under the brand umbrella. In 2003, when Sunfeast was launched, no one in the industry thought that the brand could make any major dent in the market share of its competitors’ – the old and mighty Parle and Britannia, who had dominated the country’s biscuit business for years. But ITC played its cards carefully. First, it brought in the world’s most revered cricketer Sachin Tendulkar to endorse their biscuit. “Sachin’s fit-kit” was an amazing idea and a surefi re hit. Next, the company roped in the evergreen charmer Shah Rukh Khan. Biscuits mean children, but SRK’s presence meant not just influencing children, but people across age groups. ITC Food’s strategy worked. According to A. C. Nielson’s retail sales audit of March 2006, both Britannia and Parle started losing volumes significantly. A worried Parle hastily roped in Hrithik Roshan to endorse its “Hide & Seek” brand. The move did not work. SRK won the hearts of consumers and the sun began truly shining for Sunfeast.

Take the laptop market. HP roped in Shah Rukh to endorse its range of brands from Compaq to sundry printers, with the famous tagline, “The computer is personal again.” This caused a flurry of high profile branding in the PC segment. Lenovo roped in Saif Ali Khan as its ambassador. Acer got Hrithik. Yet, SRK ruled this market. Interestingly, when it comes to being a pioneer and offering consumers the latest technology, it has always been Acer that has come up tops and with the most unique offerings. Think of it, Acer was the first to launch a Ferrari laptop range, a gemstone range designed by BMW designers and many such innovations. However, with SRK endorsing Compaq, Acer did not stand a chance. People perceived Compaq to be a better brand and HP held on to its market leadership. When the Badshah enters, you stand no chance.

OF BUILDING BRANDS

Every marketer knows how tough it is to build a strong brand and how long it takes. Yet, there are some who make it seem like a cake-walk. It’s common knowledge that when SRK entered Bollywood he knew no one. In fact, he knew nothing except that this is where he would rule one day and so he did. Today brand SRK is so powerful that anything it touches turns to gold. When India was introduced to the world of club cricket, not many thought the Indian Premier League (IPL) would work. It did. However, it has worked better for some, as compared to others. Yes, you guessed it right. It has worked best for SRK. In May this year, UK’s Intangible Business released the IPL Brand Value Scoreboard 2009 that measures the strengths and weakness of the eight IPL Franchises. Shah Rukh Khan’s Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) topped the charts with a Brand Value of $22 million followed by Delhi Daredevils. No team excites the audiences more than Kolkata Knight Riders. Even when it loses a match, it doesn’t fail to excite valuers. As per Richard Yoxon, Director, Intangible Business, “Winning games is not enough to build a successful sports brand. Teams need to engage the local community, attract star players who inspire a wide audience and develop a strong marketing communications programme.” The various factors that it measures to determine a brand’s strengths include popularity of team, loyalty of supporters, owners equity viz. a measure of the impact the franchise owners have on the brand, brand awareness, et al.

KKR beat all its rivals and reserved the top slot for itself, despite a dismal performance during IPL Season 2. Look at the team’s partners. Hyundai (the country’s second largest car manufacturer) is the ‘Traveling Partner’ of Shah Rukh’s team; Sprite is the ‘Pouring Partner’, Nokia may have cut 1,700 jobs worldwide and is supposedly still on a cost cutting spree, yet this year it went all out to associate itself with KKR. After all, Nokia has been voted as the second most visible brand during IPL last year next to SRK’s KKR. Guess it just made good business sense to associate with a winning brand then. This time round, Nokia even decided to pack in more KKR value added services, like cricket scores, player interviews, games, et al. It is the dynamism of this one man that has made KKR such a big brand in a short span of time. Not surprisingly, Kolkata Knight Riders have also become the favourite brand ambassador of a lot of Kolkata based companies. After all, how long could they manage with Mithun da and Saurav Ganguly. SRK has managed to charm his way into the hearts of a lot of Bengalis and brands don’t want to miss the wave. Kolkata based Rs.190 crore Linc Pen signed up SRK in Dec. 2008 and renewed its contract immediately. SRK gave them likeability in the market. After all, if people associate with SRK, they would automatically do the same with this brand.

ONLY SRK WORKS

When Fair and Handsome, the fairness cream for men, was launched, Emami knew that the only person to play the role of brand ambassador effectively for an innovative product like this, could be Shah Rukh Khan. There is no shortage of brands today and no shortage of celebrities. Yet, very few associations seem to work. Many a times, the celebrity in question tends to overshadow the brand. It is indeed quite common for people to remember the celebrity, but conveniently forget the brand. In an oft-quoted survey, when people were asked which brand of suiting did Nawab Pataudi (you may now know him as Saif’s father) endorse, almost every respondent said “Raymonds.” After all, Pataudi was the complete man, a positioning that Raymonds had carefully crafted for itself. But Pataudi’s bill had been in fact footed by Grasim! Now think of the “Sunshine Car”. I bet that the first name to pop-up in your mind would be of Santro. The second? Shah Rukh! Be it Sunfeast or Santro, SRK always brings the sun out for brands. So when Sona Chandi Chyawanprash wanted to take a bite from the Rs.130 crore chyawanprash market in India, it found Dabur (with 60% of the market share) blocking the way. It was going to be a gigantic fight and a giant was precisely what Sona Chandi needed to tide over its worries. They got in SRK, knowing that only he could trigger their sales and they were right. The brand saw a 28% increase in their market share soon after.

At a time when companies are dropping their celeb endorsers (Tiger Woods recently ended his 9 year relationship with GM) to save costs, some companies know they cannot do without their brand heroes. A good marketer knows that it’s not just a good product, but good perception about the product in the minds of consumers, which makes all the difference between success and failure. And SRK has perfected this art of making himself and the brand likeable.

Marketers know it, which is what makes SRK not just the king of Bollywood, but also of endorsements. With 39 brands in his kitty, he was the highest endorser (in terms of number of brands) for 2008. But the count does not seem to matter for SRK. Rather, he believes, it’s better to burn out than to rust out! Over 39 brand endorsements, 1 billion fans and 1 highly valued cricket team... guess it all adds up to 1 fact – SRK is the biggest brand in India!