Monday, September 21, 2020 11:40 IST
I had atleast two clients, currently using Kangana Ranaut as a brand ambassador, call me last week. They wanted to know my opinion on whether to continue with Kangana as the face of the brand, or to jettison her.
To be honest, while I had my views, I was really not sure if the answer should be a straight `yes` or an unambiguous `no`. And, given the circumstances, a `maybe` would have been an inadequate answer in a go-no-go situation like this. So, I resorted to my old jungle book : Rule No. 1 - when in doubt, ask the people.
So, over the weekend, I got two of my young associates to make some calls and get answers for the following questions:
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1. Kangana : zealous-fighter-for-good or politician-in-the-making?
2. Is Kangana going too far with her utterances and accusations?
3. With her office being demolished, has Kangana been wronged?
4. Is she correct in saying that Bollywood is actually Bullywood?
5. Is this the end of Kangana in Bollywood?
6. Kangana : should be admired or should be ignored?
7. Do you trust Kangana?
8. Would you buy brands she endorses?
The total number of interviews we managed were 47, over Saturday and Sunday. Of these, 24 were from Mumbai; 23 from outside of the metropolis. Now, 47 may not be a very large number statistically, but the feedback from the depth interviews pointed me directionally to a 'yes' or a 'no' in response to every single question.
Unfortunately, despite Kangana's protestations to the contrary, most of those interviewed believed that we are looking at a politician-in-the-making. Many did stress that `her heart is in the right place`, that `what she is fighting for is not wrong`, that `she has crusaded almost single-handed` and that `she is very brave`. Also that she is `fearless` and `does not mince words`. But equally she was described as `a child of controversy`, `willfully abrasive`, `hungering for attention` and `playing into the hands of manipulative politicians`. The clear verdict, however, was that Kangana Ranaut is building up her personal brand for politics. The motives may have started out clean but the acts point to building up a popular vote for a future leader. Sigh!
Feedback on Kangana's statements too was not very favourable. Almost everyone who was interviewed said that she was speaking and behaving like a politician: unrestrained, most times with no real facts - aspersions and allegations that may or may not be true. The 'PoK' remark especially has not gone down well with anyone. Kangana has lost out on much support because of her volleys of anger, and repeated outbursts which most don't see as civilized behaviour - provocations notwithstanding. Most felt that she is trying to don the mantle of a messiah while she does not have any credentials to claim such a pedestal, apart from being an `outsider` combating nepotism.
The demolition of her office, though, has won Kangana widespread sympathy. Every single one of our 47 respondents said that Kangana had been singled out, and hugely wronged. The Maharashtra Govt. was seen to have been vindictive and cruel. `She is just a dissenter ... why go so far?`, `She has her views and voices them fearlessly ... an elected government cannot choose to be openly peevish and combative` kind of summed up the no-no feedback on the office demolition. `She too has to learn to take it on the chin if she is hitting below the belt mostimes` stated one of our respondents.
Bollywood or Bullywood? Most agreed with Kangana's new coinage. That she has almost no support of any consequence in her industry was, however, obvious to all those who were interviewed. `She is a lone crusader`, `She won't get very far with this ... it is a 99-1 fight with some lightweights lending her support occasionally, but that is not enough`, `The Bollywood cartel is very very strong ... her doing a Kejriwal on them looks impossible`, `She has no mass base. So the bullying though real, cannot be leashed. Bullywood it is`, was the ad verbatim feedback in the research interviews. There was universal goodwill, and some admiration too, for the gutsy Kangana but her political over-hang of motives kind of took some of the gloss away from her brave fight within the industry. `But she has put a scare into most of them`, `She has silenced them for sure`, `Wish she didn't have a political motive: Sonu Sood too perhaps has political backers but he is being more discreet`, `She could have easily been like Sunil Dutt Saheb. So well respected. And loved by all.` Kangana Ranaut personally has a lot of support. It is just that her letting this degrade into a political slugfest is eroding her constituency of love and goodwill.
There is no doubt that Kangana is loved and admired. But her politics is hurting her image. Most felt that `all the drama is pure publicity`, `the Y-security is completely uncalled for`, `the demolished office worth 2-crore has got her 200-crore visibility`, `she has really become Queen of Mumbai`, `I can see that she is really enjoying all the glamour and attention ... more than she has ever received`, `She keeps getting more and more of the screen time ... the meeting with the Governor was a power-serve` ... but verdict is IGNORE. All the utterances and antics are just PR. And yes, despite all the negativity, her beautifully draped off-white saree as she travelled from Chandigarh to Mumbai received many rave mentions, `She really looks pure and innocent dressed in a damsel-in-distress white saree`, one of the respondents observed.
Do you trust Kangana? Personally, yes. Politically, no.
Would you buy the brands she endorses? Surprisingly, no. Politicians cannot be trusted. Oops! 34 of 47 respondents said that for now they would not want her to sell any brands. 11 said maybe nothing has changed. But the personal Brand Kangana Ranaut is starting to fray and hurt. And that should worry her. This could become a double whammy: be dubbed a pariah in Bollywood, and stay a newbie in politics. The next elections in 2024 are still too far to carry the SSR-controversy momentum. Kangana could be burning the candle at both ends.
I had written a piece on Brand Kangana about 3 years ago. Much of what I wrote back then is true even today.
-I have rarely seen a spurt in 'Likeability' scores quite like Kangana's. Her pillar pattern closely resembles that of Virat Kohli, who as we all know has been blazing an unbelievable trajectory of success in these past years.
-Kangana's attribute maps too make for interesting analysis. The jagged and irregular brand maps of 2015 made way by 2017 for a Kangana seen to be high on Progressive, Distinctive, Up-to-date, Stylish, Different, Unique, Prestigious, Innovative and High-quality. And that is really saying a lot. I wondered back then why brand marketers had been shy to take notice, and make use of Kangana far more than she has been used thus far.
- Personality changes in Brand Kangana too showed very high scores for Daring, Strong, Carefree, Honest and Intelligent. Equally forcefully, she was not seen to be Obliging! Her brand map too by 2017 was becoming more and more rounded. More importantly her scores across attributes had leapfrogged over the past three years of that research, making her a stronger personality and a more impactful brand.
- What marketers ought to take note is how well Kangana does on Likeable, Friendly and Loved by All. Good creative usage can get Kangana to do wonders for many a brand. It is just that Kangana is not easy to handle ... I mean that positively ... and I do not mean that for her as an individual, but as a Human Brand. Her screen image and the kind of roles she has essayed has lifted her personal brand to a completely different high.
- Kangana has savvy. She has oomph. She has loads of attitude. The fear most marketers have of Kangana is that a strong personality like her could end up over-shadowing the brand. Her current hyper-active political inclination may further intimidate brand owners.
To get back to Brand Kangana in the current context, well I would say she is just too hot to handle for brand endorsements today. All her myriad positives are getting neutralized, if not nullified by her seeming political avatar.
I have always been somewhat partial, and pro-Kangana. The David fighting many Goliaths. We in fact used her for a footwear brand last year, and she did a fabulous job. Was a dream to work with.
Kangana in many ways is like Aamir Khan. Controversial, but brilliant. Someone who fills the frame at her own terms. That in turn can give the endorsed brand some, if not all, of her famed attitude. Which really is worth a lot for younger, unfocussed brands seeking anchorage in the consumer mind. 'Woke' brands, vocal brands, yes brands that have spunk, are going to dominate the brandscape of tomorrow. So, Kangana is a superb ambassador for such new fighters.
For now, the temperature around Kangana will hopefully recede over the next couple of months. Brand Kangana will then be back where it belongs: right on top. Daring. Differentiated. Distinctive.
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