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‘Brand ambassadors’ social responsibility has grown’

Power of social media:Superstar Shah Rukh Khan says that from politics to management, everything is being tweeted these days—Photo: AFP  

The instant reach of social media and rapid reader response has changed the way companies promote products and services. The role of celebrity brand ambassadors has evolved too, as people can reach them directly on Facebook or Twitter. Actor Shah Rukh Khan, brand ambassador of Hyundai, chats with The Hindu on the direction things are taking.

With social media influence getting stronger by the day, what kind of pressure does it put on celebrity brand ambassadors like you?

Sometimes people hold you responsible for what might not be your fault. If there is a little fault in a product, they complain. I forward the same to the companies. Too many views are flying about. I have gone into a room where eight people were to meet each other and everyone is on their mobile phones. We have started talking through thumbs more than tongues.

Social media is a great place to bring things to your notice. I am a professional actor. I spend 16 hours on a set, in a way quite cut off from the world. Social media allows you to be in touch. There are positive and negative aspects.

Has the responsibility of a brand ambassador changed due to social media?

I am an extremely responsible person. For me, it doesn’t change. I work with responsible people — most of the brands I work with, and even as an actor. You can’t be responsible for how good or bad a film does.

As far as brands are concerned, I think most of my brands are very clearly brands that you can swear by. They try their best and do their best.

Social media allows you to access to more noise and voice. It is up to you to separate the two. Now, everything is online. Comments come in two seconds. But if I want to clarify, I can do it in the same time too. I don’t have to wait for a press conference to put out my point of view.

From politics to management, everything is just being tweeted nowadays and getting sorted out. It is a give and take. If there is somebody picking on me, holding me responsible or making me a victim, I can also clarify things at the same time and I can move along.

Do you think that the role of a brand ambassador is seeing changes?

Twenty years of association with Hyundai is the longest association by a brand ambassador in the world. We are in a fortunate area that we could utilise each other. Social media moves so fast that expenditure on advertising has risen. We used to make one ad a year and show it on TV. Now on social media, changes have to be quicker. And, everybody is looking for a new campaign.

Earlier, a campaign would go on for a year. Now with the social media and the Internet, companies associate with more than just one ambassador. You need variety for social media.

The social responsibility of a brand ambassador has increased too as campaigns/comments go viral. Advertising will move in a more socially responsible direction.

So how do brand ambassador keep themselves relevant?

If you are a sports or film celebrity, the relevance is connected to your work. I tell everyone that if your films are working at whatever level — artistic or commercial — and if you are scoring centuries, you are a brand.

Nobody is going to have me as a brand ambassador if I am failing at my core job. It is true also for any brand. They expect me to be good at my core job, and I expect them to be good at their core job.

Did you see Hyundai as an opportunity or a risk when you signed up for them many years ago?

When I took up the job for Hyundai, I saw it as an opportunity. It is an international brand. I knew them at a time when Japanese cars were famous. Santro was new though.

At that time, only one car was made in India and that was Maruti Suzuki. No other name we knew.

When Hyundai came to India, they took a huge risk, coming into a market flooded by one product loved by the country.

As a business people, Hyundai had a vision, which we don’t have as a brand ambassador. 20 years down the line, Hyundai is everywhere.

It was a fantastic opportunity for me. I did not know that I will work with Hyundai for 20 years.

Santro became a buzz word. I was called as Santro walla.

What were the learnings for you from your association with Hyundai?

My biggest learning has been the belief in the way they innovate. I tell you honestly I don’t know much about car. It was such a risk taking — you design, you create, you make the engine, a new fuel injection system, you bring new technology ... it is as risky or even more than a film ... to put it only and make lots of them and then you advertise it and put it out ...what if people don’t like it. What will you do with that? It was a big risk, so much thought is going into it. When I came here to this factory and Bajaj motorcycle facility ...these are the two places I go whenever I feel worried about starting or doing something new in my business.

Whenever I come and see the streamlined assembly lines, I will go back big and better. My office will get worried whenever I visit Hyundai since they will think that I have gone to Hyundai to come back with big ideas. I love their work culture. It is so clean.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 5:21:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/business/brand-ambassadors-social-responsibility-has-grown/article8578405.ece

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