The “celebrity” label has become engrained in the marketing conversation. While these individuals can generate tremendous buzz –and often play a pivotal role in humanizing a brand – their influence is only as successful as it is believable.
It comes down to who can tell the best story, generate the most interest among consumers, and create the best new thinking – in an authentic way.
First of all, make sure you’re clear on the difference between a celebrity endorsement and celebrity branding. An endorsement is the traditional paid statement sort of advertising, where the celebrity is paid to say nice things about your product. This can still be effective, although as audiences continue to become more and more jaded you might want to look into other approaches.
Celebrity branding, on the other hand, is all about using a celebrity’s position of prominence to start a conversation. It’s meant to make your product more visible, to get people talking about it and genuinely considering its merits.
A vast array of people can take on a brand’s influencer role, a role that is crucial in a new world of marketing where the line separating marketers from consumers is rapidly diminishing.
This is what most celebrity placements look like on the internet these days. With the fragmentation of markets and the spread of social media, consumers are quick to recognize and discount a paid endorsement. A conversation starter from a celebrity to a large group of dedicated followers, though, is guaranteed to generate some serious interest in your product. To put it more simply, celebrity endorsement is the 20thcentury; branding is the 21st.
From a marketing perspective, the value they generate lies within the influence they inspire. The people most valuable to a brand are the ones creating the most influence, those who come across as the most authentic brand ambassadors by embodying the same things as the brand itself.
Big established brands are usually trying to maintain or expand their market share with already-successful products. Usually they find that they get a lot more bang for their buck with a few carefully-placed celebrity gifts than with a huge blanket advertising campaign.
On the other hand you have the small guys, the little boutiques trying to break into the market. They don’t have the cash for a big advertising blitz, but that’s okay―they do have a great product. A successful placement can be huge for the little companies, opening up other venues for distribution―online stores, brick-and-mortar retailers, etc.
One of the more successful placements was a jeweller who included a beautiful, un-mounted gemstone on a prong in each gift package along with a personal note: “Bring this stone by our shop and we’ll mount it for you”.
Influence is what’s driving the new world of marketing. To create this, brands need to move from a transactional mindset to one of looking at partnerships that create movements. If an authentic relationship between a celebrity and brand develops organically, it can lead to strategic partnerships that engender brand relevance in pop culture.