Usually, a sighting of Pierce Brosnan would evoke ‘oohs and ‘aahs’ from the audience. His slickness and style are the stuff of the legend – people swear they have never seen a hair out of place, even after being in life-threating situations and taking on an armed group of 50 men. Mr. Brosnan is a class apart – one of the most good looking James Bond we’ve ever had, one who can do no wrong.

So you’d be forgiven if you glanced upon the trending Twitter and Facebook posts about him on the morning of 7th October, and wondered what the fuss was about. Here’s what happened: a Hollywood A-lister just endorsed a locally made mouth-freshener chewing product often associated with tobacco ingredients. The brand Pan Bahar and Pierce Brosnan had only one thing in common: their initials. Reactions ranged from outrage to disbelief. With one endorsement, Mr. Brosnan fell from his mighty pedestal, and for many, he will never be the same again. So while the ad went viral, our beloved celebrity became a laughing stock, esp on Twitter!

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As a marketer, there are a few distinct thoughts that run through my mind. This incident raises a few questions about why Brosnan accepted this offer, but more importantly how it will impact the brand equities for both Pan Bahar and Pierce Brosnan.

Brand positioning and strategy

Celebrity and Influencer endorsements are not new in business. The earliest evidence dates back to 1760s when royal figures were used to create a halo around Wedgwood potteries and chinaware. In recent times, many sports and movie stars have endorsed products, earning multi-million dollar figures in the process. This strategy usually works for both parties. The business gets to leverage the brand power of the celebrity and transfer some of their charisma to the product, the celebrity takes home a cool cheque. The celebrity’s popularity influences people to buy more and helps the brand stay on top of the potential customer’s minds

In this case, though, there seemed to be a disconnect. The product’s target audience and the celebrity’s following didn’t intersect. Sure Pierce Brosnan has a large following, and he is adored by adrenaline-loving young and middle aged men who like sophistication, and by women who are floored by his handsome looks. Neither group of people seems to be the kind who would be found dead chewing an un-suave mouth-freshener. The product has been linked with oral cancer and the government has often discouraged people from using these products. The mismatch between the values of the two brands is unlikely to earn the product many customers.

Sense of Purpose and Moral Duty

‘Purpose’ and ‘vision’ are values that we have started associating more strongly with the business world. Social impact is now on the agenda of many companies, and rightly so.

Celebrities are brands too, and people around the world have started differentiating celebrities on the basis of their words and the causes they champion. Angeline Jolie stands for the poor and depressed, Emma Watson stands for feminism, George Clooney has lent his name to humanitarian causes. Many celebrities and sports stars have gone on record saying they wouldn’t endorse certain brands such as alcohol and cigarettes that could negatively impact youngsters who look up to them. The world needs the leaders to help make it a better place. Celebrities are leaders in the sense that their words and actions can reach a vast audience and mobilize people to action. They should, therefore, take on the mantle of being responsible global citizens and role models, and avoid endorsing products that can be harmful to people.

Viral vs Successful

Pan Bahar has certainly created a viral ad – if grabbing eyeballs and getting news coverage was what they wanted, they certainly have succeeded. But Donald Trump’s audio recording about his sexual adventures also went viral, and it did more harm than good. Going viral for the right reasons, with the right audiences is how a brand creates value and business.

There’s little doubt that more of Pan Bahar’s competitors will now rethink their strategy given the enormous publicity generated, but I’ll be curious to know how Pan Bahar does financially after all this hype and does it actually gain new customer segments or expands current base as a result of this endorsement.

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