It was a balmy day in the December of 2018 when Priyanka Chopra paraded down the hallways of Umaid Bhavan, Jodhpur in a resplendent Sabyasachi lehenga and customised kalire from jewellery designer, Mrinalini Chandra—including a cupid, an engraved silhouette of the couple at the Met Gala and Chip Potts from Beauty and the Beast, among other motifs. Given how closely the wedding was watched on both sides of the globe, the exposure was mammoth for the designer's five-year-old label. "In addition to waking up to around 7,000 new followers on Instagram, we saw a resultant spike in orders from all corners of the world, since a celebrity's following often transcends geographical boundaries. Even once the hype dialled down a bit, we witnessed a consistent, long-term increase in post engagement and likes on Instagram," recalls Chandra.
It is an undisputable fact that bringing up an A-lister's name in the same breath as your brand can make a significant shift in client perception. This seismic levelling of the playing field is enough to convince young brands to roll the dice on celebrity marketing via freebies in the mail. Once a feel-good measure, it has now turned into an initiation rite for newly founded brands to send over free products to a celebrity's home address and then maintain a vigilant watch on Instagram for the customary unboxing video that most, if not all, celebs do as a courtesy.
Case in point: In the throes of organising the biggest wedding of the summer of 2018, Sonam Kapoor took time out to individually thank the brands who had showered the new couple with tokens and mementos. A sustainable necklace sent by Label Ishana even pulled in a sighting in the stylista's off-duty wardrobe.
"Simply put, if your brand is good and you have a genuine story, you will eventually make it. Having a celebrity endorse, or even show interest in your product, can help you jump to the head of the queue and get there 2-3 years sooner," Chandra explains.
If getting instant access to a celebrity's million-strong following without a dime being exchanged sounds too good to be true, that's because it is. With a dozen potential rivals vying for a slice of the same pie, sending over freebies in the mail doesn't come with any guarantees. After factoring in the hectic work schedules and omnipresent social commitments, the little time that celebs can devote to acknowledging these parcels is often fractioned among the sheer volume of gifts that they receive on a daily basis.
The question to be asked then, is whether one Instagram story mention, often sandwiched among two dozen similar brands, can lead to any lasting impression on the average passive viewer thumbing through Instagram while stuck in traffic? Fashion tech entrepreneur, Ekalavya Bhattacharya explains, "A virtual acknowledgement through a celebrity's Instagram story might just pique someone's curiosity and end up being a refined lead, but the onus is on you. Beyond just grabbing a screenshot for social validation, can you make more of the ephemeral 15 seconds of exposure? Can you blend it into the narrative of a larger campaign, attach a call-to-action and convert this attention into a sale? The only way to make these 15 seconds count is if you ensure that the frequency of the exposure becomes regular. That's where long-term collaborations are born."
Further lessons on the same can be learned from bath and body label, Spoil Your Body that opted for celebrity gifting as a window into the Instagram feeds of Malaika Arora Khan, Alanna Panday and more. Elevating the ad hoc nature of the resultant images, the screenshots were seamlessly blended into the brand's design aesthetic and now serve as a headlining feature on their social media pages and website as concrete social proof for first-time customers.
However, as the social media landscape gets increasingly cluttered, Bhattacharya believes that the biggest enemy that young brands face today is consumer apathy. As the founder of Blakomi, a contemporary label that utilises artificial intelligence for inclusive sizing, he's looking beyond the conventional. "After helping brands craft their social media strategy for more than a decade, I believe the needle of interest is now swinging in the favour of micro influencers. The loyal pocket of followers that they bring to the table might just be the key to breaking through the mindless cycle of serial scrolling and passive consumption of content," he says.
Long story short? If your lucky penny manages to hit the jackpot with a sincere endorsement from a celebrity on Instagram, you can jump the queue to the top. But it pays to fortify your marketing strategy while you await the publicity windfall.