Why Micromax signed Hugh Jackman as its brand ambassador

In India, Micromax is clearly one of the leading manufacturers of mobile phones - and the Made in India tag does them little harm

Anant Rangaswami October 18, 2013 16:15:06 IST
Why Micromax signed Hugh Jackman as its brand ambassador

As we absorb the news that mobile handset brand Micromax pulls off a stunner by signing on Hollywood star Hugh Jackman, we also try and figure out why.

Micromax themselves give us an idea. Shubhodip Pal, Chief Marketing Officer, Micromax said in a press release announcing the association, "We are very excited to welcome Hugh Jackman in the Micromax family as he truly embodies the aspirational, reinventing and fearless persona of the brand Micromax. As we look to expand our footprint across the globe in various international markets, the association with the Hugh Jackman is an ideal partnership for us to connect with audiences as he is the leading name in the entertainment industry in the world."

Why Micromax signed Hugh Jackman as its brand ambassador

Hugh Jackman is now the face of Micromax.

The first observation is that the investment made in Jackman will be leveraged in countries other than India, in some way answering the question, "why not sign on an Indian celebrity?"

In India, Micromax is clearly one of the leading manufacturers of mobile phones - and the Made in India tag does them little harm. Micromax came in as a price warrior, occupying a sweet spot between the clearly international players such as Samsung, Nokia, LG, Apple and the Chinese brands.

In terms of 'country of origin' preferences, one would imagine that India was below the American, European and Korean brands - but ahead of the Chinese.

As long as Micromax's ambitions were limited to India, they used Indian cricket and Bollywood celebrities including Dhoni, Akshay Kumar and Kalki Koechlin. The use of such celebrities allowed them to rise to the top of the Indian brands in the space.

Out of India, though, there are problems with the Made in India brand. While India may be known for yoga, ayurveda, IT and so on, there is certainly no positive rub-off for brands from India in the tech product space. On the contrary, Indian products will be thought of as cheap, unreliable and inferior.

What Micromax is attempting to do by signing on Hugh Jackman is to gloss over their Indian roots. It is most unlikely that Micromax will highlight the fact that the brand is Indian. The communication will focus, in all likelihood, on Jackman, an Australian star, plugging the phone effusively.

Jackman's signing will also benefit the brand in India, as his images would make the brand less Indian and more International and move (to some extent) the clearly Indian brand closer to the American, European and Korean competition, further away from the Chinese.

This is not the first time that a Hollywood star has been used in communication in India. Visa did it years ago with Richard Gere, but that campaign ran not only in India, but across the Asia Pacific market. Cricketers including Vivian Richards, Brian Lara, Steve Waugh, Brett Lee have been used to market Indian brands to Indians. But no brand has used an international celebrity in the manner that Micromax is doing - to suppress the fact that the brand is from India.

If this works for Micromax, there are many Indian brands with global ambitions that could take a cue from this strategy.

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