The Danger of Celebrity Endorsements of Brands

January 18, 2013

nike lance armstrong ad 2001 The Danger of Celebrity Endorsements of BrandsPaying celebrities to endorse a brand is dangerous territory. This isn’t a new revelation, but brands still shell out massive amounts of money to have the “it” celebrity of the moment appear in ads and say how great the brand is.

The latest celebrity brand endorsement gone wrong story (Lance Armstrong admitting to Oprah Winfrey that he used doping to win all of his Tour de France titles) reminds us once again how risky it is to pay to attach a celebrity name to a brand name.

The list of celebrity endorsements of brands that have gone terribly wrong for the brands is long. Here are a few:

  • Tiger Woods and multiple brands
  • Madonna and Pepsi
  • Kobe Bryant and McDonald’s and Coca-Cola
  • Michael Vick and Nike
  • Michael Phelps and Kellogg’s
  • Kate Moss and Chanel and H&M
  • O.J. Simpson and Hertz

Two years ago, I wrote an article for Corporate Eye that discussed research about celebrity endorsements from Ace Metrix. The data showed that showing celebrities in ads does not drive a lift in sales. In fact, brand ads that featured celebrities showed a negative lift. I wrote:

The report was based on a study of every nationally televised ad during the first 11 months of 2010 and included extensive efforts to present fair and balanced statistical analysis of the results.  The study found that regardless of age or gender, ads without celebrities performed better than ads with celebrities.

Most consumers cited reasons they found celebrity ads to be ineffective as: being confused by what product the celebrity was endorsing and simply not liking the celebrity in the ad.

Ace Metrix concludes from its findings that consumers today are not as easily influenced as they once were.  With quick access to massive amounts of information on the Internet, they want equally quick and instantly relevant messages in ads.  Celebrities affect them far less than relevant messages.

Of course, there are times when a celebrity brand endorsement has a positive effect on the brand’s reputation and sales, but it’s a risky initiative that can go wrong in an instant. The risk is even greater today, because of the immediate and broad reach of the social web. A photo snapped that happens as part of a celebrity’s private life can be tweeted, shared, and seen by millions faster than you can imagine. Today, brands have far less control over the effects celebrity behaviors (even in their personal lives) can have on the brand’s reputation. Guilt by association can be extremely damaging to a brand.

The safest bet is to stay away from celebrity endorsements of your brand, but if celebrity endorsements must be part of your marketing plan, consider shortened contract time periods which can reduce the potential risk.

What do you think is the best answer? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Image: Nike Ad

The Evolution of Influence in 16 Minutes

April 28, 2012

For brands, influence matters. It really matters. But how does a brand gain influence and develop an audience of influential brand advocates?

Amplify created a short film called FanCulture that explains how the relationship between brands and consumers (i.e., fans) grows and how that relationship evolves into increased influence. The video features branding experts and academics as well as “superfans” of brands. Amplify says that the video is intended to help brands learn how to move from logo to cultural icon by cultivating a powerful relationship with consumers.

The video is also a great example of effective content marketing through online video storytelling. As you watch the video below, consider how you can create similar content related to your brand and business to offer useful, interesting information to consumers, clients, vendors, and so on. That’s what content marketing is all about.

The concept of superfans and brand influence isn’t a new one. The Amplify video talks about brands as diverse as The Beatles to Nike. Regardless of the industry a brand is in or when it debuted, consumers can become emotionally involved in that brand, develop loyalty to it, and ultimately become powerful brand advocates. Their influence can create a form of word-of-mouth marketing that money can’t buy.

As Sheila Shayon wrote on BrandChannel, “Engaging enthusiasts and brand ambassadors should become more than just buying “Likes” on Facebook.” Getting people to like your brand is just the first step. In fact, likes are meaningless if the people who like your brand aren’t emotionally connected to it. Look beyond likes and you’ll see your brand advocates increase and your brand influence grow.

Branding from Within – The Importance of Internal Brand Building

March 26, 2010

megaphone Branding from Within – The Importance of Internal Brand BuildingDo your employees know your brand promise? Do they know your primary brand message and what your brand’s image is? Do they know how your brand is positioned relative to similar brands on the market?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, then you need to spend time building your brand from within your organization. Employees are the strongest brand advocates, but they can’t advocate your brand effectively if they don’t understand it or buy into it.

Following are ten suggestions to help you build your brand internally:

  1. Create a Twitter account using CoTweet.com where multiple employees can get involved with external branding efforts and other employees can learn more about the brand. You can also create private Twitter groups that your employees can join and you can share branding messages using a tool like GroupTweet.com.
  2. Get a Flip video camera (or hire a video producer) and interview employees about your brand. Share stories on an internal Web page.
  3. Create private social networking groups for employees and communicate branding messages.
  4. Create printed materials that teach employees about your brand in an entertaining fashion rather than like a training guide.
  5. Interview customers and share their feelings about your brand with employees.
  6. Explain how your brand is different from competitors.
  7. Create branded experiences for employees where they can share the brand just like consumers do.
  8. Encourage employees to join social networking groups, join Twitter, and write blogs where they can advocate your brand. Just be sure to create social media guidelines for employees. There are hundreds of Google employee blogs. If Google can do it, so can you.
  9. Make sure your employees are motivated to use your branded products and services. How would it look if a Starbucks employee drank Dunkin’ Donuts coffee? You don’t want a similar faux pas to happen with your employees.
  10. Hire a Chief Brand Officer to lead the initiative.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with internal branding efforts. If your employees don’t believe in your brand, why should consumers?

Image: Flickr

Early Adopters Have Significant Influence on Brand Success

March 16, 2010

Ad age yahoo early adopters report Early Adopters Have Significant Influence on Brand SuccessA new white paper from Advertising Age (sponsored by Yahoo!) called Shiny New Thing: What Digital Adopters Want, How to Reach Them, and Why Every Marketer Should Pay Attention reinforces the idea that people who are quick to try new brands, products, and services, are influential both online and offline.

The statistics for early adopters tell us:

  • 62% of early adopters are more likely to upgrade a mobile phone as soon as a new model becomes available.
  • 68% are more likely to have purchased three or more computers in the past two years.
  • 58% are more likely to have purchased three or more flat-screen TV’s in the past two years.

Not only are they quick to try new products and brands in the technology industry, as revealed in the statistics above, but they’re also more likely to talk about those products and brands on the social Web where many early adopters have established followers.  That means the opinions of early adopters can be very influential on a broad scale.

In other words, the opinions of early adopter are no longer confined to the neighborhood or office.  Today, early adopters are vocal about their opinions and they share them freely using the tools of the social Web such as Twitter and Facebook.

As the Advertising Age report reminds us, “early adopters sway the early majority, and those groups can account for half of a new product’s sales.”  Clearly, this is a group that you want to connect with on a positive level, and what better place to find them and build relationships with them than on the social Web?  If early adopters can talk about your brand and products online, thereby influencing a large audience of consumers, then you can use the social Web to influence early adopters.  However, your influence should be indirect.  Strong arming people with sales messages on the social Web is a surefire route to disaster.  Instead, be patient, build relationships, and your efforts should be rewarded with brand advocacy in the future.

The Advertising Age report also reminds us of the three motivating factors that define early adopters, which you can use to help you find early adopters on the social Web and more effectively communicate with them in a language and style they’ll respond to positively:

  • They aren’t afraid to take risks.
  • They enjoy gathering and sharing information.
  • They like to research products and tell other people what to buy.
  • They are status seekers.

While the Advertising Age report focused on technology early adopters, the lessons can apply to most industries.  This is a customer group that bores quickly and is constantly looking for the next great thing.  The worst thing you could do is ignore them.  Instead, you need to deliver great products, earn a solid brand reputation, and build positive relationships with them.

Would Your Employees Wear Mardi Gras Costumes for You?

March 30, 2009

mardi gras masks Would Your Employees Wear Mardi Gras Costumes for You?I often write about how important employees are as the ultimate brand advocates and ambassadors next to consumers.  If your employees are treated well and truly believe in your company and your brand, then they’ll talk about it, and they’ll influence others.  In the end, your sales will rise.  But would your employees where Mardi Gras costumes, complete with beads, masks and more, for you?

That’s what Harrah’s asked 2,000 employees to do at the company’s Showboat casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey as part of its new, corporate-wide  ”Everybody Plays a Part” program.  The goal of the initiative is to make the consumer experience at Harrah’s casinos more social, and each Harrah’s property can implement the program as they choose — such as Showboat’s Mardi Gras festivities.

My question is this — would your employees willingly participate in similar activities?  Or are they annoyed when they have to leave their desks for the obligatory company events?  Would they wear Mardi Gras costumes for you? Read more

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