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The [Right] Celebrity Sells

By: Alisa Marie Beyer
Posted: July 9, 2012, from the August 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

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One of the key points of getting a celebrity to endorse your brand is to shock your brand into awareness, or build a groundswell of awareness as you hit the market. In order to shock your audience in the right way, you need to know what they think of your celebrity, down to the smallest degree. What do they think of her look, her smile? Do they think she fits the brand and all that the brand stands for (or is promising)? Most importantly, do they believe she fits the brand?

Once you have tested the image of the celebrity you are considering in conjunction with your brand’s name, tagline and messaging, you have a much deeper insight into the feasibility and believability of your brand’s association with the celebrity. We all know that just seeing a celebrity is often enough to drive interest in a brand initially, but the real measure of success will be when your chosen celebrity continues to inspire interest long after she has made her debut with the brand.

A guided, focused consumer test can help you tease out the nuances of the celebrity, which may or may not resonate with consumers, as well as the reasons for this resonation or lack thereof. As an open forum where consumers can speak their minds, these tests distill critical information that might otherwise get missed, and that will make a distinct difference in the success of your endorsement and your brand.

What It Takes for Success

According to Brand Strategy Insider, a successful celebrity endorsement must have three key criterion: an attractive celebrity, a credible celebrity, and a meaningful transfer between the celebrity and the brand. Just as a great tagline can make your brand name stand out, a great celebrity face can transform your brand from a niche offering to a household name. If I say Michael Jordan, Bill Cosby, Ellen DeGeneres, Julia Roberts or Diane Keaton, what brands immediately come to mind? The fact that several of these endorsements are decades old is testament to the success of that brand partnership. Will anyone really champion Jell-O quite like Cosby, and who among us doesn’t want to dance like Ellen before swiping our American Express cards?

Each of these celebrities is attractive, has credibility within their profession, and has created a very successful link (or transfer) between the brand and consumers in a completely synergistic and cohesive way. Perhaps even more importantly, each of these celebrities also has transferred their DNA to the brands they represent, as well as the consumers who use the products they endorse. I may not be Ellen DeGeneres, but when I’m out shopping with my Amex card, you’d better believe somewhere in the back of my mind is a small mental image of how happy Ellen looks while shopping with her card—and indeed, how happy I, too, feel when shopping with mine.

For a celebrity endorsement to be truly successful, consumers must believe the person selling them their face cream or their shoes or their breakfast sandwich is just like them, i.e., attractive, smart and engaging. In this way, even a small brand can make a huge impact. When Jabot Cosmetics launched, Tracey E. Bregman, a successful Hollywood actress for more than 20 years but with relatively little in-market consumer awareness, was the face, and she was a brilliant fit. Consumers loved her, and it showed in the numbers.

By carefully vetting out and choosing the right celebrity and positioning her in front of your brand in a compelling way, a successful celebrity endorsement generates powerful external cues that help consumers navigate the marketplace to your brand and then stay loyal.

Alisa Marie Beyer is the founder and creative director of The Beauty Company (TBC), a global beauty consulting firm offering business, strategy, consumer intelligence and branding. Serving its clients at every stage of development (from start-ups to 13 of the top 15 global beauty companies), TBC intimately understand the industry, the consumer and the market, and becomes an integral part of each client or project team. alisa@thebeautycompany.co; thebeautycompany.co