Avoid the most common pitfalls of celebrity endorsements


By Michael MacRitchie

The power of a Celebrity’s influence is something every single brand that wants to excel in the market should be aware of and fully utilizing to it’s maximum capacity. Celebrity branding and advertisements are absolutely one of the best paths to differentiate your brand and product from the others as well as capturing the customer’s attention over the other thousands of daily messages, building huge awareness and exposure for your marketing campaign.
However there are occasions and reasons as to why some celebrity supported campaigns will not meet the desired expectations in sales and knowing these reasons are absolutely crucial in determining which of the right celebrity endorsements work for your brand.

Using a celebrity just for the sake of using a celebrity is an incredibly ill advised marketing campaign. Celebrity campaigns work when the celebrity’s influence and appearance actually complements the campaign. The problem with some brands is that their advertisements can capture too much attention on the celebrity which then draws focus away from the actual brand itself, which is not just disappointing but also quite a waste of money.
Another problem is signing a celebrity with multiple endorsements. Your celebrity cannot be confused with other brands so timing of the marketing campaign vs. other endorsements is absolutely crucial. When a celebrity is endorsing multiple products simultaneously it can really deteriorate the campaign’s credibility and authenticity.
I read a book by Luke Sullivan which compared branding like marriage and indeed this can be related to celebrity branding and marriage as well. You want your celebrity to be the one and only for your brand and your brand to be the one and only for the celebrity. You want the celebrity to be seen walking down the street, proudly hand in hand with your brand. Marriage and branding to the point where we can all finish each other’s sentences; you say Gillette, I say Tiger Woods.  However if your celebrity is associated with a string of different other company brands, it diminishes the authenticity of their relationship with your brand and most importantly raises questions in the customer’s minds as to how serious the celebrity really takes their relationship with your brand. Relatively you also don’t want your celebrity to use your brand as just another paid endorsement. You want to seek a celebrity who uses and is also a strong advocate for your brand so they can provide a more genuine and believable third party endorsement. This is particularly important as you want to distinguish the actually enthusiastic celebrities for your brand from the celebrities who are just looking for that quick pay-check. During the negotiation process you start to get a feel for the celebrities who are in it for the money by the questions their agent doesn’t ask. Whereas the agent should be concerned about the creative, the campaign messages and want a say in the content as well as who the director is.

Using small campaigns or programs can also lead to a bad marketing campaign. With small programs and campaigns they usually don’t have the budget or sustainability to meet expectations. Consider using a celebrity endorser in social media who would accomplish your goals at a much lower cost. Some campaigns can even fail due to just the lack of pushing from PR. Without PR, a celebrity is limited in their ability to build awareness and break through the clutter. Evidently many companies can fail to distinguish the most logical decisions leading to the costs outweighing the benefits. Many brands would be seduced by the prospect of being associated with Michael Jordan for example, yet they forget that there are many other celebrities who are much more affordable albeit less reputable but can even accomplish the campaign objectives even better. This point even ties in to selecting your favorite celebrity without doing the necessary research. It’s very tempting to assume your marketing team’s or even your own perception is the same as your customer’s, therefore always use research to confirm your opinion.

Furthermore other problems with celebrity branding campaigns are when the celebrity overtakes the brand and message. With the best of intentions, sometimes I see brands try to suddenly re-mould the campaign’s focus to entice the celebrity to sign on and the message get’s horribly lost. The celebrity should shape the brand, the brand shouldn’t shape the celebrity. With the celebrity being such a key element to the brand, you absolutely need to use the right kind of celebrity that your target audience can actually identify regardless of whether the celebrities are trendy or hot. Finally celebrity campaigns can fail due to an inconsistent brand communication plan. Sometimes a marketing challenge or opportunity presents itself mid-year and it’s temptation to just react. You need to take your time, and make sure your celebrity marketer and your brand message are compatible with your each other and your long term marketing goals.