by: Idris Mootee
Using celebrity to endorse brands can work both ways. It is till difficult to put a ROI on it. You can argue if you have a really good idea that brings out the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of a product or brand in a humorous and relevant way, why do you need to pay a celebrity?
Having said that, a great idea and a power celebrity endorsement can create killer impact. There are ads that conveniently use celebrity to endorse but failing to integrate the celebrity personality with the brand personality. Or simply use it to hide behind the lack of truly creative ideas.
Many marketers are shying away from big names and dumping celebrity endorsements altogether. Their concern is the brand is overshadowed by the likes of high-profile celebs. Regis’ sidekick Kelly Ripa appeared in a variety of TV commercials for products including Tide laundry detergent and Electrolux appliances. What does Kelly Ripa know about a dishwasher or an washing machine? Do you believe her when she says it’s a better appliance? Would she endorse Whirlpool or GE if they paid her more? I’d suggest the answer is yes. This is just one example of celebrities endorsing products for big dollars when their endorsement really means nothing as to the quality, features or durability of the product or the perceptual attributes of the brand.
As a brand coach for many top marketers around the world I often have to explain that there are many elements around the influence of celebrity endorsement on consumer buying behavior and marketing. Marketers pay tons of money to celebrity endorsement hoping that they will bring magic to brand they endorse and make them more appealing and successful. But all celebrity glitter is not gold. Celebrity sources may enhance attitude change for a number of reasons. They may attract more instant attention to the ads than would non-celebrities or in many cases, they may be viewed as more credible than non-celebrities. Consumers may identify with or desire to emulate the celebrity. Finally, consumer may associate known characteristics of the celebrity with attributes of the product that coincide with their own needs or desire.
The effectiveness of using a celebrity to endorse a firm’s product can be greatly improved by matching the image of the celebrity with the personality of the product and the actual or desired serf concept of the target market. There are no questions celebrity endorsement influence consumer buying behavior and effectively build brand awareness, but marketer has to take care of all the aspect that whether the brought personality and image of celebrity matches or not, whether celebrity endorsement has deep penetration among the masses or not, whether he is considered as credible source or not etc.
Case in point, Woody Allen was suing American Apparel for using his image in one of their outdoor poster campaign. Woody Allen was asking $10 million, for using his image, without permission in one of its outdoor campaigns last year. The campaign features a photo of Allen, dressed as a Jewish rabbi in his 1977 award winning film Annie Hall, beside Hebrew script that translates as "The Holy Rebbe."
I was a big Allen’s fan in the 70’s and I’ve watch Manhattan probably 20 times. It was long time ago. Allen’s problem is not there’s a promotional image of himself out there, but rather than the said image isn’t promoting him in a way that he totally controls. That’s kind of fair. His lawyer cited that Allen does not endorse products or services in the US. Second, you take a company that has made its name with 1970s porn-style ads (but nicely executed) that feature either moist looking hipsters or their rather sleazy looking bearded brethren. I do like their anti-glamor photographic style, sort of edgy sex-sells play, a more real version of Calvin Klein ads.
This oddly brings us back to Allen’s story with his adopted daughter of his ex-wife, Mia Farrow, we all know what happened. Here’s the funny part, in response to a query from The Jewish Daily Forward, American Apparel spokesperson defined Allen as the brand’s "spiritual leader." And if you think about it, it’s kind of dead on. American Apparel understand their brand and its essence. From a branding perspective, the two share many common brand attributes, I can think of quite a few.