Homing in on brand ambassadors

From selling beauty products to dream homes, brand ambassadors in the country have come a long way.

Mr Santosh Rungta, President, Confederation of Real Estate Developers' Association of India (Credai), said: “The concept of brand ambassadors is not new in other parts of the country, but is fast catching up here in the eastern region — having celebrity endorsements to add value to the brand while leveraging it.”

The brand name no doubt matters; but the developers are now associating regional celebrities (some of whom have national and international presence) with advertisement campaigns. “New USPs and marketing concepts are fast evolving and some of the recent entrants are indeed focussing on their advertising and marketing campaigns,” Mr Hemant Kanoria, Chairman and Managing Director, Srei, told Business Line.

Interestingly, the concept here in the eastern region is still in its nascent stage. Of the several Kolkata-based real estate companies, only two seem to have taken a cue from their counterparts across the country. Both have roped in Bengali celebrities with national presence.

Eden Group has roped in national award winning actress Konkona Sen Sharma for its projects while Paharpur Pragnya Realty has roped in Grammy-winning percussionist Bickram Ghosh and his actress wife Jaya Seal to endorse its upcoming project in Barrackpore, located around 23 km from Kolkata.

Says Mr Harshvardhan Modi, Director, Eden Group: “The basic idea is to make a person feel comfortable when buying an apartment. This is a one-time purchase and having a brand ambassador does help in people connecting with the developer.”

Eden Group on its part has a three-year contract with Konkona Sen Sharma.

Genxx Towers is the first project taken up by Paharpur Pragnya Realty, a special purpose vehicle formed between Paharpur Cooling Towers Ltd and Mauritius-based private equity fund Pragnya Fund-I.

Bickram Ghosh and Jaya Seal have already invested in a property in the company's first project, Genxx Valley in Behala, located on the southern fringes of Kolkata, and hence were asked by the company to endorse its upcoming project in Barrackpore.

“Since the couple has purchased an apartment from us, it is easier for them to speak about the developer. It is not just the concept of having a brand ambassador, it has got more to do with the fact that owners of a property, incidentally a celebrity couple, give feedback about us to prospective buyers,” Mr Pururaj Dutta, Vice-President, Paharpur Cooling Towers (Realty Division), says.

“At the end of the day, the promoter's brand name does play an important role. We have not signed on any brand ambassador so far for our next project in Assansol,” Mr Dutt says.

PASSING ON THE COST?

Pointing out the flip side of having brand ambassadors, Mr Kanoria of Srei adds that while the developers' brand name remains an important USP, having celebrities to endorse a product might lead to an increase in property costs. Mr Harshvardhan Modi of the Eden Group, however, denied it.

“We spend money on marketing and these costs are included. The price of property remains the same and there are less chances of price appreciation because of brand ambassadors,” he added.

While the concept of brand ambassadors may be popular, Mr Mayank Saksena, Managing Director (Kolkata), of real-estate consultancy firm Jones Lang LaSalle India warns of the apparent lack of success in different areas.

He pointed out that while the concept of brand ambassadors does enjoy a degree of traction in ultra-luxury residential projects in North and West India, there has been a “lack of success” when it comes to promoting mid-income housing projects through brand ambassadors.

“Buying a home is an important investment that a middle-class family makes. Such a purchase is unlikely to be influenced by hype, but perceived more in terms of value for money, appreciation potential and location of the property,” Mr Saksena said.

In the eastern region, the market is extremely conservative where purchases are made by logic, he said, opines adding that using brand ambassadors in the region needs to be tempered with common sense and a marketing angle that goes with the sentiments of the buyer. ,” he added.

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