Real estate analysts all over the nation sat up and took notice when a Noida-based developer declared bankruptcy which left homebuyers awaiting possession, fuming. Brickbats flew from multiple avenues at the brand ambassador who was the face of the developer’s brand. But, is the brand ambassador solely responsible for the buyer’s decision?
A recent debacle involving a sports star and a developer has caught the attention of realty watchdogs all over the nation. The athlete got embroiled in a controversy due to an endorsement he did earlier for a developer declared fraudulent later. The additional financial cases against him made duped homebuyers feel that he should be held accountable for their losses because he endorsed the said developer’s brand as its ambassador.
In a competitive business such as real estate, companies use celebrities to attract buyers towards choosing their brand. But, does the onus of responsibility for quality and legality lie exclusively with the developer or is the burden to be shared by the brand ambassador as well?
Chandan Bagwe, MD, C Com Digital, avers, “Often, people choose to buy products only because they are endorsed by their favourite celebrities. However, it is also important to understand that as the face of a product influencing the buying decision, brand ambassadors are only a small part of the whole campaign. They should, therefore, not be held solely responsible for anything that goes wrong.”
The homebuyers’ discretion
To understand the homebuyer’s prerogative on the issue, 99acres.com conducted a poll on Twitter and found that a significant 27 percent of the buyers base their home buying decision on the brand ambassador. Further, about 19 percent homebuyers opined that the celebrity endorser does influence their buying decision ‘partially’.
99acres Twitter Poll
While a majority of the homebuyers understand what they really need, consider every available alternative and compare the features and price of the product before making a buying decision, there are still a large number of buyers who are influenced by an endorsement by a famous face.
Extravagant advertising strategies such as celebrity endorsements could succeed in grabbing eyeballs. However, a closer look at the product might make it fall apart at the seams.
As per the Pitch Madison Advertising Report 2019, the total advertising expenditure across all sectors in the country was Rs 60,908 crore in 2018-19, and is expected to grow by 16.4 percent in 2019-20. Real estate advertising occupied a modest share of this expenditure at six percent, which amounted to over Rs 2,000 crore. With such a large industry competing for the biggest piece of the pie, a well-known brand ambassador could make all the difference to help a developer’s brand stand out.
However, any promotional campaign that the developer launches for their brand must be informational, concise, brief and most of all, truthful. What constitutes a misleading advertisement has been defined and redefined over the decades. False description of a product, in this case, a residential or commercial project, must be avoided at all costs. In addition, the developer must manage their expectations while determining the date of possession for their project.
When appointing a famous face to carry the brand, a developer must not hide any aspect of their project while pitching it to the potential brand ambassador. A well-informed brand ambassador would be better equipped at representing the brand.
The responsibility of the brand ambassador
Celebrities need to realise the level of influence they have on the consumer as well as the brand. There have been instances where dying brands were resurrected after they got endorsed by famous personalities via strategic ad campaigns. The least a brand ambassador can do is carry out a thorough background check of the brand, even personally use it, before they endorse it. For instance, if a celebrity buys a flat in a developer’s project, while simultaneously endorsing that developer’s brand, it works wonders in establishing accountability for the brand.
“Brand ambassadors must check the product or service that they are going to endorse because it will affect their popularity or image over time. There could be ethical, religious, or cultural issues, which are emotional in nature and beyond laws or logic,” adds Bagwe.
Many businesses, not only real estate, rely on celebrity endorsements to stay relevant in the market and create goodwill for the brand. The Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 slaps a fine of Rs 10 lakh and a one-year ban on celebrities for endorsing a fraudulent claim by any company. A repeat offense of this nature could lead to a fine of Rs 50 lakh and a three-year ban.
To make a sound investment decision, homebuyers must ultimately apply sufficient discretion in making a well-researched, calculated decision after weighing all aspects of the product offered by the developer. A discerning consumer should rarely be swayed by the shallow appeal of the glamour industry.