What Start-ups can learn from Mamaearth's moment of controversy

With its phenomenal rise in the Indian cosmetics market, Mamaearth is a case study for start-ups in the beauty industry. Now the brand is in the news for something that could have been avoided

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Cosmetics giant Mamaearth has normally garnered headlines for its phenomenal rise in the Indian cosmetic sector market. 

Given its acceptability among consumers and the near ubiquitous presence in urban markets, it is rather hard to believe that the brand is not even ten years old. It was only as recent as 2016 that the company was formed by IIM Bangalore passouts Varun and Ghazala Alagh.

Yet, such has been the performance of its skincare and babycare products that not just Mamaearth, the valuation of its parent company Honasa Consumer Private Limited has also skyrocketed. The companies operating profits have steadily moved towards Rs 20 crore per year. Its valuation has zoomed as well. 

Mamaearth also became part of an unsavoury controversy courtesy actor Richa Chadda. Chadha. Chadha made a comment on Twitter apparently referring to the Galwan stand-off with China in which several Indian jawans also sacrificed their lives. The tweet was found by many to be offensive and disrespectful. 

However, owing to Chadha’s association with Mamaearth, the brand also found itself dragged into the controversy. 

“Brand Mamaearth does not support or subscribe to any offensive views or disparaging comments against our country or army. #saluteindianarmy” said the company in a Twitter post. 

However, by that time many were already attacking the product. There were calls to boycott it. 

A key question that arises is what should brands do to ensure that they are not stuck in similar confrontations. 

Here are some takeaways from the Richa Chadha-Mamaearth affair:

Persona is part of the image

Brands often chose a celebrity based on the mass appeal of the person. However, it should be always kept in mind that celebrities are also people who like to be in news and are often at the centre of a controversy. Sometimes, these controversies are borne out of conviction, on others they are also created. So while choosing a brand ambassador, it is important that the brand examines to the personal, social and political conduct of the celeb they plan to rope in. 

Do you want attributes to rub on to your company? 

Maintain safe distance

During the Richa Chadha controversy, a lot of users on Twitter complained that Mamaearth tried to defend Chadha’s comments. It is important for a brand to know, that the celebrity has to lend credibility to the product and not the other way round. 

If an action of the ambassador hurts the appeal of the brand – Disassociate.

This too shall pass

While keeping all this in mind, another facet that has to be noted is that the degree of reaction to controversy has to be measured. Brands have long lives, controversies do not. Every controversy has a shelf life. The brand has to ensure that it moves toward the right side of the debate. 

Often, nothing drastic may be needed.

In the long run, the brand should become the celeb

Your customers are your customers because you have a product that gives them value. The celeb only brings attention to the product. In the long term, the value that the product brings should come to the centre stage. 

Bisleri, Coca-Cola, Bata, Apple, and Gillette sell products worth millions, yet, they are not dependent on any one celeb backing them. The product is the celebrity.

Of course, celebs and stars have to play their role, but in the long run, it is the product that should get all the limelight.