The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
Popular wisdom asserts that getting a celebrity endorsement is a tried-and-true, simple-to-implement way to maximize advertising effectiveness. Sure, it's expensive, but celebrities always yield stronger ties with viewers and, ultimately, greater sales, right?
Wrong. Over the course of last year, time and time again we observed incredibly low effectiveness scores of TV ads starring celebrities. From Tiger Woods to Donald Trump, we found that with rare exception, celebrity endorsements were largely ineffective and failed to yield the benefits popular wisdom promises.
We set out to understand whether celebrities today are really worth the significant investment that brands were making. We studied every nationally televised ad for the first 11 months of 2010 and found that celebrity ads performed either below average or merely equaled it. Specifically, our study, 2010 Celebrity Advertisements: Exposing a Myth of Advertising Effectiveness, 2010, showed that fewer than 12% of ads using celebrities exceeded a 10% lift, and one-fifth of celebrity ads had a negative impact on advertising effectiveness.
Why was this?Read More
Nike is known around the world for being one of the most iconic brands. It was recently ranked as the world’s 25th most valuable brand in terms of its brand value – USD10.8 billion – by the annual Business Week’s global top 100 brand survey. In spite of many market maneuvers (such as the recent merger between Adidas and Reebok), Nike has remained the leader in its category. Nike is also very well known for another aspect and that is its consistent use of celebrities to endorse the brand. In fact one of the most successful collaborations between a brand and a celebrity is that of Nike and Michael Jordan.
So successful was the collaboration that Nike and Jordan launched a new brand variant called the Air Jordan line of sport shoes. Nike pulled off a very similar coup in the sports industry when it joined forces with the ace golfer Tiger Woods to enter the golf category with its apparel, equipment and accessories. Nike had no experience in golf before. Moreover, golf being a very elite game, it was generally considered that a brand like Nike would not be very successful. This might have probably been true had Nike chosen the traditional path to building its equity in the golfing arena. But Nike chose to associate with the best golfer in the world and have him endorse the brand. As is known today, Nike has emerged highly successful in golf.
This channel now being used by many brands around the world raises some crucial questions about ways brands are built and also about the impact such collaborations have on branding. Is associating with a leading celebrity the easiest way to build a brand? Should celebrity endorsement be the principal channel of brand communications? How can brands decide on potential brand endorsers? What are the advantages and disadvantages of such endorsements? Is celebrity endorsement always beneficial to the brand? How does a celebrity enhance a brand image? Answers to these and many other related questions are the content of this post.
Endorsement is a channel of brand communication in which a celebrity acts as the brand’s spokesperson and certifies the brand’s claim and position by extending his/her personality, popularity, stature in the society or expertise in the field to the brand. In a market with a very high proliferation of local, regional and international brands, celebrity endorsement was thought to provide a distinct differentiation. But over the years, many aspiring brands have jumped on to this celebrity endorsement bandwagon. Even though endorsements have taken on a quasi-industry stature, there is hardly any hugely successful collaboration as those of Nike’s.
Essentials of Celebrity Endorsements
Even though to an observer it may seem that Nike’s success is totally based on Tiger Wood’s association with the brand, nothing can be far from the truth. As a brand, Nike has established a very strong brand identity and a brand personality over the years. What Nike did was to use celebrity endorsement as one of the main channels of communicating its brand to a highly focused set of customers. So, Nike’s association with Tiger Woods was one of the parts of an entire branding process that Nike has been practicing consistently. Contrary to this, most brands that have used celebrity endorsements have used it as the main brand building tool. Before any brand signs on a celebrity, they should consider three main aspects.
- Attractiveness of the celebrity: This principle states that an attractive endorser will have a positive impact on the endorsement. The endorser should be attractive to the target audience in certain aspects like physical appearance, intellectual capabilities, athletic competence, and lifestyle. It has been proven that an endorser that appears attractive as defined above has a greater chance of enhancing the memory of the brand that he/she endorses.
- Credibility of the celebrity: This principle states that for any brand-celebrity collaboration to be successful, the personal credibility of the celebrity is crucial. Credibility is defined here as the celebrities’ perceived expertise and trustworthiness. As celebrity endorsements act as an external cue that enable consumers to sift through the tremendous brand clutter in the market, the credibility factor of the celebrity greatly influences the acceptance with consumers.
- Meaning transfer between the celebrity and the brand: This principle states that the success of the brand-celebrity collaboration heavily depends on the compatibility between the brand and the celebrity in terms of identity, personality, positioning in the market vis-à-vis competitors, and lifestyle. When a brand signs on a celebrity, these are some of the compatibility factors that have to exist for the brand to leverage the maximum from that collaboration.
Even though these three major principles must be adhered to by companies, practically it might be difficult to find celebrities that satisfy all these three conditions. Depending on the nature of the brand and the kind of product being used, companies can selectively emphasize one factor over the other.
Celebrity Endorsements – Do’s and Don’ts
All brands must be aware of the following aspects of celebrity branding:
- Consistency and long-term commitment: As with branding, companies should try to maintain consistency between the endorser and the brand to establish a strong personality and identity. More importantly, companies should view celebrity endorsements as long-term strategic decisions affecting the brand.
- Three prerequisites to selecting celebrities: Before signing on celebrities to endorse their brands, companies need to ensure that they meet three basic prerequisites, namely the endorser should be attractive, have a positive image in the society, and be perceived as having the necessary knowledge (although it might be difficult for a celebrity to meet all three prerequisites)
- Celebrity–brand match: Consistent with the principles discussed earlier, companies should ensure a match between the brand being endorsed and the endorser so that the endorsements are able to strongly influence the thought processes of consumers and create a positive perception of the brand.
- Constant monitoring: Companies should monitor the behavior, conduct and public image of the endorser continuously to minimize any potential negative publicity. One of the most effective ways to do this is to ensure that celebrity endorsement contracts are effectively drafted, keeping in mind any such negative events.
- Selecting unique endorsers: Companies should try to bring on board those celebrities who do not endorse competitors’ products or other quite different products, so that there is a clear transfer of personality and identity between the endorser and the brand.
- Timing: As celebrities command a high price tag, companies should be on the constant lookout for emerging celebrities who show some promise and potential and sign them on in their formative years if possible to ensure a win–win situation.
- Brand over endorser: When celebrities are used to endorse brands, one obvious result could be the potential overshadowing of the brand by the celebrity. Companies should ensure that this does not happen by formulating advertising collaterals and other communications.
- Celebrity endorsement is just a channel: Companies must realize that having a celebrity endorsing a brand is not a goal in itself; rather it is one part of the communication mix that falls under the broader category of sponsorship marketing.
- Celebrity ROI: Even though it is challenging to measure the effects of celebrity endorsements on companies’ brands, companies should have a system combining quantitative and qualitative measures to measure the overall effect of celebrity endorsements on their brands.
- Trademark and legal contracts: Companies should ensure that the celebrities they hire are on proper legal terms so that they don’t endorse competitors’ products in the same product category, thereby creating confusion in the minds of the consumers.
An important aspect that companies must note is that celebrity endorsements cannot replace the comprehensive brand building processes. As branding evolves as a discipline companies must be extra cautious to utilize every possible channel of communication rather than just a celebrity endorsement. When all other steps in the branding process is followed and implemented, then channels such as celebrity endorsements can provide the cutting edge as it did for Nike.
Sponsored By: Brand AidRead More
L'Oreal announced a new addition to their roster of celebrity spokespeople this week, signing actress Julianna Margulies as a new ambassador and celebrity face for the brand. Ms. Margulies currently stars in the critically acclaimed TV series "The Good Wife," for which she won a Golden Globe and SAG award for her portrayal of a loyal yetbetrayed wife of a politician.
Does it surprise you that L'Oreal (and most other beauty brands (both luxury and mass merchandiser) went the expected route and found a high-profile beauty to front for their brand? We weren't. But just because it's predictable doesn't mean it isn't practicable, and there are two basic ways a celebrity can positively affect a brand.
The first is by creating what might be called "borrowed equity," when the celebrity causes more attention to the brand than otherwise might be the case, an approach usually used when a brand is seeking high levels of awareness. The second is when the spokesperson association actually increases the brand's equity that is, when the values inherent in the spokesperson significantly reinforce brand values. If successful, the brand is then seen to better meet, and can even exceed, expectations consumers dream about for the ideal in the category.Read More
This weekend, if the papers are to be believed, we might see the first British men's finalist at Wimbledon for more than 70 years. I am not convinced that Andy Murray will make it to an apparently inevitable final against Federer on Sunday, but, irrespective of his performance on the courts this week, the bigger marketing question relates to the potential appeal of 'Brand Murray'.
The concept has reached a peak in recent months, fuelled by both the player's short odds to win Wimbledon and his decision earlier this year to join 19 Entertainment, David Beckham's agency, which is widely portrayed as the epitome of brand-building expertise in relation to celebrities and sports stars.
A source close to the agency, quoted last week, confirmed that work on Brand Murray had begun: 'The ambition is global. The potential is enormous.'
Yes, and the bullshit is plentiful. Despite predictions that Brand Murray will soon be worth £100m a year, the harsh reality is that Murray is a fine tennis player, but a hopeless prospect as the next Beckham, no matter how advanced the brand strategy applied to his future career.
Let's start with a fundamental commercial limitation for Brand Murray – he is not exactly a looker. For all the talk of Brand Beckham, the fact remains that David was beautiful long before the agents and brand gurus came calling. Former Wimbledon champion and cultural diplomat Pat Cash got himself into a bit of trouble last week when he pointed out that Murray was not in the same league. According to Cash, Murray is 'never going to be eye-candy' and has 'the most boring, monotone voice in the history of the planet'. Cash went on to extol Murray's ability on court, but his comments highlight the importance of aesthetic appeal when you are up against the likes of Nadal and Ivanovic.Read More
Open the big book of celebrity endorsement scandals, it's time to make another entry. Swimming star Michael Phelps was just having a bit of fun last November while visiting his girlfriend at the University of South Carolina when, along with all the shots and beer he consumed at a house party that weekend, he also had a toke on a bong that was being freely passed around.
Phelps had probably forgotten all about this weekend until the photo of his bong hit appeared on the cover of the News of the World last weekend.
The reaction was immediate. USA Swimming banned Phelps from competition for three months and the media reported that his lucrative sponsorship deals would almost certainly dry up.
That prediction came true as Kellogg announced it would not renew its tie-up with the star. The reaction of Kevin Adler, founder of Chicago sports marketing firm Engage Marketing, was typical of the expert commentators. 'Athletes are brands. If you do something that runs contrary to your brand image, it will affect your ability to monetise that brand image. It really is that simple,' he concluded.
No, it really is not that simple. For starters, Phelps is not a brand. He is an athlete who, through association with brands, can confer meaning. People, no matter how famous, are not brands. Yes, they have symbolic meaning, but so do road signs and mythological gods, and no one is confusing them with brands.
It would also be a mistake to assume that Phelps' actions will damage his reputation.Read More