Can Snapdeal gain from Aamir Khan controversy or has it lost it?

Softbank invests $627 in Snapdeal
Softbank invests $627 in Snapdeal

I’m not very sure who is the biggest beneficiary of tolerance-intolerance debate, but the biggest loser is Snapdeal. After #AwardWapsi and #Kitaab Wapsi, yesterday India witnessed a new phenomenon called #AppWapsi. Agitated by a statement of bollywood actor Aamir Khan over country being unsafe, people chose to lodge their protest by uninstalling the Snapdeal App, giving them 1 star rating on Playstore and writing bad reviews till the time they don’t denounce their brand ambassador – Aamir Khan.

This is an interesting turn to the entire story. A debate which, till now, seemed to be only socio-political has suddenly taken an economical angle. A well established e-commerce company has suffered losses and is worried for it’s existence now. Not that it has happened for the first time. It’s a well known fact that companies often research a celebrity’s personal life and background before they are hired as brand ambassadors because his behaviour may pose a risk to the company as has Aamir Khan’s statement done to Snapdeal. Here are few examples of this phenomenon which happened in the past: –

  1. Hertz used O. J. Simpson as it’s spokesperson for 20 years who was later accused of murdering his ex-wife and her friend. Hertz lost all it’s equity.
  2. Pepsi had appointed Mike Tyson as it’s brand endorser. Pepsi had to say good bye to him after his wife accused him of beating her.
  3. Pepsi had another string of problems with Michael Jackson when he was accused of paedophilia.
  4. In yet another case, Pepsi had to drop a TV commercial featuring Madonna when some religious groups objected to her “Like a Prayer” video and threatened to boycott Pepsi.
  5. More recently, several companies including Pizza Hut terminated their contract with controversial basketball star Dennis Rodman because of his unpredictable behaviour both on and off the ground.
  6. Even back in India, Godrej, taking a clue from Snapdeal episode has denounced Amir Khan and confirmed that their contract with him ended in 2014. See the series of tweets below from the @GodrejGroup.

    Godrej clarifies it's relationship with Amir Khan
    Godrej clarifies it’s relationship with Amir Khan

Now let me contradict my own statement where I said that Snapdeal is the biggest loser in this entire game. On a closer look, I can safely say that Snapdeal is the biggest beneficiary. They have suddenly found themselves in the midst of a controversy in which they had no role to play and by smartly using the emotion they can outplay all market factors. This is not a secret that political emotion in the country is on all-time high and people are blindly following anything which suits their ideology. In fact, it has taken the shape of sheeple now.

People uninstalled Snapdeal App because it gave an outlet to their frustration. What will happen if Snapdeal listens to them and denounces Aamir Khan? Will not people suddenly declare Snapdeal, an Indian brand, patriotic? Will not people re-install the app? Will not, even those who did not use Snapdeal use it at least once just to show their support? Will not there be another race to give a 5 star rating to Snapdeal on Playstore? The highest probability is that all of this will happen. Result? Snapdeal will suddenly see a temporary surge in it’s customer base. Unfortunately (or fortunately) it will be a short-lived happiness for Snapdeal unless they don’t deploy excellent marketing strategies of customer retention. It is but no secret that customer retention is more difficult than customer acquisition. Snapdeal is, anyway, not known for very pleasant customer experience like it’s competitors Amazon and Flipkart and this is the chance where they can not only recover from current crisis but can also revive their entire brand.

Remember, the key is not only in going with public sentiment and severing ties with their brand ambassador but also in deploying excellent customer retention strategies.