In a recent article in Marketing Week, Mindi Chahal asked whether celebrities could take on the role brand marketers.
Highlighting the appointments of Will.i.am (director of creative innovation, Intel) and Alicia Keys (global creative director, BlackBerry) as examples, Chahal explored the growing trend for brands looking to celebrities for consultancy.
Leaving aside whether we should be concerned about being replaced with Cheryl Cole for a moment, the main question is, ‘what makes some brand partnership succeed where others fail?’
Mulling this over I was reminded of Gavin Esler’s talk at one of our breakfast forums where he discussed people buying into the story of the individual first, then the organisation, and only then what the individual and the organisation can do for them.
Esler was referring to politicians and political parties but the same applies to ‘personalities’ and brands. Celebrity offers a shortcut to engagement by providing a pre-packaged story of the individual that people can buy into. Taking this line, it makes sense that Diet Coke’s audience will be more open to its brand messaging if Karl Lagerfeld is on board because they know and have bought into what he stands for.
However, this only works when there is some synergy between the brand and the celebrity. The talent should boost the brand but if there is too much reliance on either party the relationship falls apart. Much as seeing a couple where one party is creative, attractive and charming and the other is none of those things but wealthy, a lop-sided brand partnership makes for uncomfortable viewing.
Start by matching your brand’s story/core values to that of the talent. There should be some overlaps but also gaps on both sides that allow both parties to contribute
Use the similarities and gaps as part of your pitch to the celebrity. Good talent looks for strong strategic fits with unique opportunities for personal as well as financial growth. Offering them the chance to do something they couldn’t do without your brand should be the thing that gets them really excited. If it doesn’t, keep looking
Create a narrative for the partnership that includes the story of the talent, the story of the brand, and the story of what the talent and the brand can do for your audience. If this looks like something that would be genuinely appealing to the people you want to target, you’re on to a winner
Favourite brand partnership: Michael Jordan and Nike
Nike may not have been Jordan’s first choice (he only met with them to please his parents) but this arranged marriage proved a match made in heaven. Combining his unquestionable athleticism with the sportswear company’s marketing prowess, both sides created a brand even greater than the sum of their considerably great parts.