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PhonePe's campaign ‘Unstoppable India' features actor Aamir Khan.
PhonePe's campaign ‘Unstoppable India' features actor Aamir Khan.

Brands face social media boycott amid nepotism, nationalism debate

  • Apart from PhonePe, users on Twitter have tagged brands such as Vicco, Garnier India and MakeMyTrip endorsed by Bhatt and urged the respective companies to remove her from their ads

New Delhi: Social media boycott has become the latest trend among netizens debating on wide-ranging issues, from nepotism to nationalism. Brands get dragged into these controversies, bearing the brunt of the boycott call against celebrities associated with their product.

Digital payment platform PhonePe is one such brand which has found itself in a tight spot with its campaign being trolled for featuring actors Aamir Khan and Alia Bhatt.

Users are taking to Twitter asking Flipkart, which owns PhonePe, to remove the actors from the campaign and get fresh faces. They are also using the hashtag #UninstallPhonePe.

Khan, who recently met First Lady of Turkey, Emine Erdoğan, while on a shoot in the country, was attacked for allegedly colluding with anti-India forces. Bhatt, who hails from a family of filmmakers and actors, is being trolled for nepotism for some time now. The criticism has increased after the demise of actor Sushant Singh Rajput in June.

Shrenik Gandhi, chief executive officer and co-founder of digital marketing agency White Rivers Media, thinks such boycotts might have a short-term impact on the morale of the brand.

"Those who outrage on social media frequently especially for causes not related to brands are mere trolls that must be ignored. They are also a minuscule percentage of actual consumers of the brand in question. However, if a brand has made a mistake by hurting religious sentiments or poor product/service then they must own up," he added.

Apart from PhonePe, users on Twitter have tagged brands such as Vicco, Garnier India and MakeMyTrip endorsed by Bhatt and urged the respective companies to remove her from their ads. Her soon-to-be released film Sadak 2 has also become the most-disliked trailer on YouTube, garnering over 12 million thumbs-down.

Few users have also started a petition on Change.org, urging brands to drop celebrities such as Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha and Varun Dhawan, among others who belong to Bollywood families, and give outsiders a chance.

According to celebrity managers, annulling a legal brand endorsement contract is not easy and largely impossible based on social media outrage.

"Brands are legally bound by contracts with celebrities and socially media outrage is not a clause to annul the contract. If things go out of hand brands tend to silently pause promotions and prefer to not renew contracts with concerned celebrity," said an executive at celebrity management firm on the condition of anonymity.

According to Ahmed Aftab Naqvi, chief executive, Gozoop, an independent digital marketing agency, "We are living in an era of instant feedback and social wild fires where people opinions are not just confined to their group of friends but the sentiment is shared across as a community."

It is important for brands to understand the sentiment of their audience while creating a strategy, he said. "Having said that you will have to always be ready to hear the two sides of the opinion some positive and negative. So, a brand doesn’t have to jump into everything that’s trending, and more importantly stick to its core values and stand up for what it believes in," he added.

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