In my old ad agency life, brands were things or corporate entities, co-managed by the agency strategists, account managers and creatives. Innocent was a brand. Reebok was a brand. MTV was a brand. These brands didn’t talk. Didn’t have good hair days or bad hair days, and they certainly didn’t have complicated ryders in their contracts, specifying that only organic foods could be served at photo shoots.
But brands are now personified by people. In Hollywood it’s no longer a culture of celebrity that drives ticket-goers, it’s the celebrity brands.
Brands are increasingly becoming the currency of business. They link customers with enterprises. In this sense, smart business people now bestow virtual custody of brands upon consumers, while keeping management in the hands of companies. In other words, in the entertainment industry, it’s all about the packaging. In today’s world, entertainment brands define markets as much as they do products, services and organisations.
People like brands because they like making decisions.
I find this part fascinating in a psychology 101 kind of way. When considering how people make decisions, your mind employs two criteria to manoeuvre the complexities of life: moral and aesthetic choice. In almost every case, your conscience decision is based on the delicate balance of the rational and the irrational.
When choosing a bottle of wine, for example, the matter of expressing cultural refinement and personal pleasure is weighed against price and availability. Who you choose to root for in sports has as much to do with peer acceptance and social differentiation (or bonding) as it has with fitness and recreation. And the same analysis can be made with your choice of celebrity endorsement.
Research actually shows that commercials with celebrities are below average in persuading people to buy products. So to all the brand owners out there – are you sure you want to use a celebrity?
Brylcream paid David Beckham £1m to be the face of their brand (until he shaved his hair off), during which time their profits increased by a staggering 30%, so I’m not saying celebrity endorsement isn’t a great thing for the right brand with the right celebrity – I’m just saying that the majority of brands just use celebrities as a knee-jerk reaction to keep shareholders happy.
It’s no different from sports clubs going for the big signing to keep the fans happy, but when all the fuss has died down, they never usually have the impact that their arrival promises and they soon leave. Many businesses would be FAR more successful if they explored the options of spending that same said amount of money on innovation or creativity. It’s not sexy but it will put more food on your table for longer.
The thing is, celebrity spokespeople are expensive and risky, and they don’t always pay off. If you believe your brand is in need of additional equity, instead of borrowing it from a celebrity, develop it yourself…
Take the money you would otherwise hand over to an already well-paid celebrity and invest it in developing original creative ideas that will make your brand stand out. That way, the equity you create will be nothing but your own because for a celebrity endorsement to have even half a chance of success, it needs to be believable.
Tiger Woods endorsing the Buick brand makes no sense at all. There is just no believability that Tiger is dying to drive a Buick home after winning a major competition and receiving his $1m in appearance money. Without believability a celebrity endorsement is worthless. So be warned… and spend your media budget wisely.