Celebrity or No Celebrity? That Is the Question

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When brands decide to bring in a spokesperson, it is usually to encourage audience connectivity with a human being who is well known, liked, and respected.  But it’s no small decision; a spokesperson or celebrity endorser can make or break your brand’s reputation due to the ever-changing public opinion of mainstream celebrities.  When advertisers are tasked with advising clients on celebrity partnerships, we tell them, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

Advertisers are motivated to hire celebrity endorsers in order to increase their sales, and it usually works.  If consumers LIKE the celebrity, then they’ll surely like the brand that he or she endorses, right?   However, likability can have a shelf -life, and public errors can undoubtedly impact a celebrity in a negative way, so It is difficult for advertisers to pick celebrities that will help the brand and keep a squeaky-clean image.

When choosing a celebrity endorser, it’s important to be sure there is a connection between the brand and consumer .  We ask our clients if they would like to choose an athlete, a singer, a politician, or a local media sensation to represent their products and services.    Regardless of who is chosen, we have to make sure that the audience connects and sales are made. If there is no connection, then sales are at risk to plummet.

As an Advertising Coordinator at EZG, I have learned that there are 3 things to keep in mind when it comes to successfully pursuing a celebrity spokesperson. Adhering to these 3 rules can dictate a campaign’ success or demise.

  1. Be mindful of warning signs. There is always risk involved in choosing a celebrity to endorse your product. Believe it or not, celebrities are human just like you and me (stars – they’re just like us!), and they make mistakes, say the wrong things, or have public outrages and when that happens, an organization’s brand can be fundamentally hurt. The best way to try and avoid this is to make sure you do your due diligence and watch out for warning signs. A classic example is the partnership between Michael Vick and Nike.  Before signing with Nike, Michael Vick exhibited behavior that should have sent up bright red warning signs. He was known for unsportsmanlike conduct and had previously gotten in trouble with substance abuse– both key signs that he was not going to be a good fit for Nike’s wildly popular brand. After Michael Vick was charged with acts of cruelty towards animals, Nike‘s press team had to scramble to cover their tracks and make sure that they were no longer associated with him. They had a tough time convincing the consumer that their brand did not agree with what Vick had done, because consumers had a difficult time separating Nike the brand with Michael Vick the person.
  2. The person or celebrity must be accepted by target audiences: A good example of a celebrity endorsement is John Stamos for Oikos Greek Yogurt. Greek yogurt has become a big fad, and there are many brands competing with Oikos for the lion’s share of the market (like Chiobani). In order to differentiate their brand from the competition, Oikos brought in John Stamos to swoon audiences — because everyone trusts Uncle Jesse. Not only is John Stamos Greek and very attractive, but target audience grew up watching him on television (what child born in the 80’s didn’t watch Full House?).  Check out John in action in this Oikos commercial:
  3. The celebrity should bridge trust with consumers: Let’s face it, no matter how well-known the celebrity is, an audience won’t react positively to a brand represented by an individual who appears untrustworthy.  But, when brands DO pick a trustworthy celebrity with star power the results can be very effective.   A great example is Sofia Vergara and Diet Pepsi. Vergara was a good choice because she tends to really connect with her fans with her outgoing personality and perfect smile.  Additionally, she has not had any negative interactions with the media and has a real likability about her.  The Diet Pepsi commercial clip featuring Sofia Vergara (below) shows how advertisers highlight her beauty and vivacious personality to associate their brand with her endearing qualities. This is a smart advertising move for Diet Pepsi since it draws attention from her fans and Diet Pepsi will inevitably be associated with someone who has won America over.

John Stamos and Sofia Vergara have produced great results for their brands, but not any spokesperson works for any brand.  I would tell clients to pick someone who connects with the brand and the audience and make sure the celebrity endorsement makes sense. The brand always needs to be enhanced in a positive way, whether it’s giving the product/service  more credibility or just helping the brand to become more well-known within the market place – quality brands deserve quality celebrity representatives.

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