I’m the model: When homeowners put on make-up to promote their wares, be a star

When actor Rajinikanth unveiled the Chennai Olympiad teaser in which chief minister MK Stalin is seen strolling across a digital chess board, netizens compared it with ‘Legend’ Saravanan’s ‘Aadi Thallupadi’ commercials for his retail chain Saravana Stores.
Whether the comparison makes you smile or smirk, this retail czar has created a buzz – even before his debut film is released. Having taken over operations of Saravana Stores, the retail business founded by his father that inspired Kishore Biyani to model his Future Group’s business, Pon Durai is today known across households as ‘Legend’ Saravanan, the one who dances with pretty women to push his brand .
The commercials have gone viral so much that when a new one is delayed, meme creators get restive. “It’s been a week since Aadi began. Why has he not come yet?” fitted a meme with a Vadivel image. His movie ‘The Legend’ is slated for a pan-India release in theaters this Friday (July 28) in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi. With foot-tapping numbers from Harris Jayaraj, the teaser and songs of the film directed by JD & Jerry, have attracted thousands of likes and lakhs of views. Saravanan brushes off his critics with a curt “my wishes to them”.
“He had a passion for films. So, after commercials, it had to be a film,” says his publicist. Saravanan had ace directors Mani Ratnam and SS Rajamouli unveil the first-look poster, and actor Tamannaah Bhatia participate in the audio launch.
Much before him, H Vasantha Kumar faced the camera for his retail chain Vasanth & Co. Though he is no more, his smiling face continues to connect with consumers. Soon, Lalithaa Jewelery’s Kiran Kumar launched himself in commercials, telling people why they are spending more when they are buying jewellery from others.
“Father always told me that customers trust us. We should be the guarantors for the goods we sell, not any actor,” says Congress Lok Sabha MP from Kanyakumari and Vasantha Kumar’s son Vijay Vasanth. Vasantha Kumar’s visage is embedded in the company’s logo displayed at every outlet. “‘I am there’ was his message to customers and that’s how he built his people connect. Unlike others who became brand ambassadors by promoting themselves, he became a brand himself,” said Vijay Vasanth.
It was KFC, which started this trend by featuring Colonel Sanders, the founder, on its logo, recalls Siddharth S Kumar, a marketing professional. “Brand building is about credibility. Earlier, one brought that credibility by putting stars like Amitabh Bachchan on their ads. If you like that guy, you will like the product – that was the aura effect. Marketing dynamics have changed a lot since then. Businessmen now spend money on themselves and some of them become celebrities themselves. But some, while trying to look cool, are confused about what people want,” said Siddharth.
The trend of brand owners becoming brand ambassadors is particularly common in the south, said Harish Bijoor, brand expert & founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. “The film hoardings on Mount Road were always larger than life. The common man typically looks up to retail stars. People who ran large outlets learned something from this. It is good to put your face out there, after all you are the owner. By doing so, you not only create a brand identity for the offering, but also convey a certain degree of reliability and trust,” said Bijoor.

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