Anand and AMD: Making the Right Moves?

Date:   Thursday , January 29, 2009

It is said, "If you cannot convince others, let someone else do it for you." This statement succinctly sums up the latest approach in advertising known as celebrity endorsement, which is perhaps here to stay, given the ever-growing influence of the media - both print and visual. The Indian advertising industry is witnessing a revolution, encouraged by a change in public perception and acceptance. Engaging the services of Viswanathan Anand, World Chess Champion, by AMD as its brand ambassador is a watershed in Indian advertising, which heralds a new twist in the race for familiarity and recurrence-levels in viewers and readers alike, thereby enabling the familiarization of the identity of a brand from a product.

Circa early 2008, AMD was looking at a scenario where they had an excellent range of products but a large segment of Indian consumers were not considering it as an option. "We felt that only the mindset prevented consumers from going after our product-range," opines Deepanshu Sharma, Marketing Head, AMD India. This was enough for them to champion AMD's cause as they realized that they would lead people into a decision making process of their own. They were clear about the trigger points in the mindset of the average Indian computer buyers, their attitude to factors such as the configuration of the CPU and other peripherals. All that was needed at that juncture was to enable the buyer make a well-informed choice after a logical decision making process. As Sharma states candidly, "The ones who research are the ones who do not have to look beyond, as they make the strongest decisions." Hence the heads at AMD thought about getting people to make 'that well informed decision'. The other factor that needed to be considered at that point lay in urging the buyer to match the options available from the primary requirements. Incidentally, AMD had to take a similar decision as their purse strings were tight and hence, had to make a constrained budget work harder for them. In the end, a consensus was arrived at where someone who could bring credibility to their voice was decided as the panacea to their problems.

The Search for an Icon

"One option that jumped out at us was endorsements by celebrities that bring instant gratification in terms of perception and believability," avers Sharma. Facts attest to this statement of his. Right from the days of 'Boost is the secret of my energy' advertisements, a celebrity has, in most situations, always left a positive, indelible impression on the brand image of a product. For instance, restricting ourselves to the IT sector we have Shah Rukh Khan, who campaigned for HP and Hrithik Roshan who championed for Acer. Other players followed suit, with Vidya Balan becoming the face for Toshiba and Aamir Khan representing Samsung mobile, to cite two recent and notable examples. Cricketers too have had their share of the pie. Sachin Tendulkar was the brand ambassador for Canon and MS Dhoni was the mascot for Reliance Communications. However, AMD was firm that it would not go in alliance with run-of-the-mill type of celebrities such as movie stars or cricketers who represent the bread and butter of advertisement campaigns.

"Selecting a brand ambassador should always be a case by case decision and not a 'one-size fits all' like conclusion. This always works where the brand is not overshadowed by its ambassador, which is always an important consideration to be made," says Ameen Haque, Worldwide Planning Head, Ogilvy and Mather Advertising, on utilizing the services of a brand ambassador. Lenovo India had roped in Saif Ali Khan as its brand ambassador as part of its strategy to get closer to its customers. According to Haque, recovery of revenue through sales generated is as important as the deal itself. "The identification of the target audience and the bonding between the celebrity and the product need to be done meticulously," Haque says.

What was critical for AMD was that their line of products had no glamour value as such; hence it was essential that a lifestyle image does not get associated with their devices. "The decision making process was not in the emotional plane, but in a hard-core performance plane," opines Sharma, as it was time for a rational thinking process. They were on the lookout for someone associated with credibility and at the same time with a strong linkage to the thought process that AMD was trying to promote, helping buyers make a well-informed decision.

The Final Choice

According to Sharma, the final choice was fairly simple and unanimous. "The personality that we wanted to project to our customers had himself found a match with that of AMD," conveys Sharma. Anandís techno-savvy nature helped cement the deal, as he was already aware of AMD's technological prowess. In the end, it was Anand's turn to make the right decision as they inked a deal for one year, extendable to three years.

AMD had entered the Indian market a few years back. Why did it have to wait for this long to go in for a brand endorsement? Sharma explains, "A celebrity endorsement makes sense only when you are in a situation with a strong product line that you can offer to customers. AMD was in a similar situation at that point of time. In 2008, we had a good range of products, graphics cards, chipsets, and other allied products. We were also launching the quad-core, 45 nm technology for servers. This was the right time for visibility in the market," he clarifies.

Actors and Strategies Behind the Decision

"Since one of our primary markets in the years to come would be in India, it entailed to study consumer behavior in the Indian context," clarifies Sharma. "This started with trying to identify the target audience for our market. Our target market lay in the age group of 15-35 years in tier-I and tier-II cities," Sharma adds, "While mentioning that parents who would want to provide the best technology for their children and enterprise buyers for small and medium-scale businesses figured prominently in our wish list." Opinions of IT marketing managers were taken into consideration. The decision making process in most households was given an in-depth study. Such interactions threw up interesting revelations where the computer buyer opted for a configuration that was used by his friend or neighbor, or acted on the advice offered by the local computer dealer or retailer. Another interesting fact that their study did throw up was on technological gender disparity. "It may be the wife who signs on the check or decides the household budget, but it is the husband, who decides the configuration," says Sharma.

The company finds that Anand's endorsement of AMD has brought in greater market visibility and familiarity. Sharma concedes that studies have shown that awareness and familiarity levels in terms of brand perception and identification have gone up and users have started considering AMD as a brand in their computer configurations as the endorsement has worked at various levels.

Cumulatively speaking, the chess wizard's entry into a sphere that is characterized by TRP ratings and brief attention spans has raised eyebrows everywhere.