The perils of online branding from Subhash Pais

I have a habit of keeping a little diary and noting down things that are funny. Marketing provides me with enough fodder to keep my blood pressure at a nice normal level and my heart from exploding. I would normally call these ‘Musings’ but one of my favorite journalists covering my favorite sport has been writing a column titled the same and I wouldn’t want to come across as a rip off. So here are some of my observations on three brands that could with a bit of PR help.

1)    Deepika Padukone: Sometimes ‘choices’ lead to bad timing

Here is Deepika Padukone’s ‘My Choice’ video:

So what about the social media fallout? Vogue got what they wanted and people across their target audience spoke about it. The director and the team that came up with it will point to the conversations on Twitter and Facebook and the ROI generated for the brand. Some will happily throw around the line “All publicity is good publicity bro” and you have a scenario where the brand is cool with whatever the fallout. The truth might come to the fore in the form of circulation figures of the next few issues but for the time being Ashton Kutcher is sharing the ‘My Choice’ viral on his Facebook wall and that can’t be a bad thing at all.

So what happens to Deepika in all this?

Depends on how you want to look at it you could say her glass is either half empty or half full. If I was managing Deepika Padukone (I don’t. My firm does not handle celebs either) I would ask myself if the timing of the ‘My Choice’ viral was right airing so close to her heartfelt and brave interview on NDTV on depression. When I look at smart image management I look at Angelina Jolie who won 2014/15 with a global box office grosser, a successful directorial venture and great goodwill generated on account of her various philanthropic initiatives to go with an update on her battle against cancer. I like Angelina Jolie in every possible way and might do a full-fledged analysis someday on her approach towards managing her persona. She is the benchmark. Deepika might want to take a few leaves out of her book.  

2)    Yadavji ko gussa kyon aata hai?

I am a big fan of what the guys at are doing. They seem to be the darlings of the media, they are guzzling cash and are raising cash at the same rate, and they are young, well qualified, come across as dynamic first generation entrepreneurs and seem to be on their way to achieving something special.

However, communication doesn’t seem to be a forte and Yadavji (an affectionate term coined by a friend to address Rahul Yadav the CEO of Housing) doesn’t seem to be content on just having success; he seems to want to have the last word too. This has seen Housing rub Magicbricks the wrong way, incur the wrath of Sequoia Capital and sometime back there was a 100 crore lawsuit thrown in the mix as well along with an email that signed off with a very Bhindi Bazaar expletive that probably isn’t used even at Bhindi Bazaar anymore.

Apparently what we now hear is that the VCs have had to step in to talk some sense into Yadavji & Co. My only concern is that acquiring a very ‘Angry young man from the 70s’ image might have already done the damage to the brand by acquiring a very ‘Angry young man from the 70s’ image. In all of this, I am surprised no one tried to reign in the young entrepreneurs at Housing? No one from the people working there to maybe the PR agency handling their account thought it would be wise to get in the ear of Yadavji and recommend that he not shoot himself in the foot. Of course one would have hoped that even if all the others were not willing to bell the cat at least a bright young man like Yadavji would at least be savvy to the consequences of his actions. In the world of startups I still believe that in spite of all the money flowing in when it comes to cultivating an ‘image’, discretion is the better part of valor.

Of course nothing says all is well in the startup world than a $400m round of funding.

3)    Twitter trolling of Kiran Mazumdar Shaw

Last Sunday, I was witness to a very interesting Twitter exchange between Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and a few others over the Land Acquisition Bill. Normally I wouldn’t care but from what I saw Kiran Mazumdar Shaw was all riled up and some of her comments were not in keeping with her carefully cultivated image. Somehow when a billionaire corporate honcho asking people to ‘rot in your unproductive lands’ and also calls people morons over Twitter is likely to pique anyone’s anyone’s interest I guess.

A lot of celebrities and public figures manage their own Twitter conversations, it is what makes Twitter such an engaging tool and makes interacting over it that much more fun. Twitter hence enjoys quite a lot of trust of its users and media too is comfortable quoting the tweets by celebrities and public figures in its publications. I believe Twitter is also a place where one can unravel very fast and as in the case of Kiran Mazumdar Shaw years of work on projecting a certain face to the general public could come undone in a space of 15 minutes. Biting your tongue when engaged with someone over social media has emerged as one of the toughest exercises in self-restraint undertaken by the human race, but for celebrities and public figures it is a trait that is pivotal especially if they want to continue to engage actively on social media.

It’s a long way back for Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and some cooling off would be required to rehabilitate an image that seems to have taken a beating.

Subhash Pais is Founder and Business Head - i9 Communications.

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