Credibility Sells, so does Cute

I can’t help but feel proud when I hear and watch Dr. Manmohan Singh talk at the White House. Here’s someone who’s the finest specimen of a thorough gentleman. To me, Dr. Singh epitomizes what a leader should be. In fact, according to me, he’s the best we’ve had as Prime Minister, since independence.

But what interested me even more at the bilateral talks I witnessed, was the contrasts in the two men involved. Both hold top jobs in their respective countries. One’s the President of the United States and the other’s the Prime Minister of India. Both are study in contrasts. Especially for the reasons behind their respective rise to the top.

To understand this contrast better, one has to look to the concept of brand endorsements and how the choice of endorsers is the key to building right brand attitudes. Let me explain. If the brand in question provokes lower levels of ‘elaboration’ on the part of consumers, the endorser must be one who’s highly attractive and so can garner ‘identification’. With him. Thus, with the brand. If on the other hand, the brand drives high levels of 'elaboration', the key’s to get consumer to ‘internalize’ the message. This requires the endorser be highly ‘credible’.

Let me illustrate. If it’s a soft drink you want to sell, and the target audience is youth, rope in an attractive celebrity. The star in the message (read commercial) gets the young viewer to identify with him/her, which in turn leads to the right attitude being formed towards the soft drink brand. On the other hand, if what you want to sell is an automobile fuel pitched as one that gives extra power, it’s important you get a race car driver in the Advertisement. Because the racer brings with him credibility when it comes to talking about fuels. This credibility then provokes ‘internalization’ of the message. Which leads the biker to believe the fuel’s good for his mo’bike.

Attractiveness leads to ‘identification’. Credibility leads to ‘internalization’. Both help build the right attitudes towards brands, thus help in a sale.

Barack was sold to a voting audience on an ‘attractiveness’ plank. A community organizer with zero executive experience is no good as a president. Yet, Barack won. Because his long winding gas bag speeches delivered with panache mesmerized air-headed liberals and college going youth. They ‘identified’ with Barack. Voted for him and gave him the top job.

Manmohan Singh’s a contrast. He sold on ‘credibility’. His present and past is near spotless. It shone for the dignity and decency with which he lived both his professional and personal life. And so when Indians voted Congress, they partly voted for the man who was most credible as a politician. What he said, they ‘internalized’. Then voted, for him, and his party.

Both Barack and Manmohan won, albeit for different reasons. One for cute, the other for credibility. One because of ‘identification’, the other, for ‘internalization’.


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