Celebrity branding or celebrity endorsement is a form of advertising campaign or marketing strategy used by brands, companies, or a non-profit organization which involves celebrities or a well-known person using their social status or their fame to help promote a product, service or even raise awareness on environmental or social matters. Endorsement is a channel of brand communication in which a celebrity acts as the brand’s spokesperson and certifies the brand’s claim and position by extending his/her personality, popularity, status in society or expertise in the field to the brand. In a market with a very high proliferation of local, regional and international brands, celebrity endorsement was traditionally thought to provide a distinct differentiation. But over the years, many aspiring brands in Africa have jumped on to this celebrity endorsement bandwagon. In Kenya brands such as Marini Naturals and Pauline Cosmetics have joined the celebrity endorsement and branding route.
Make sure you’re clear on the difference between a celebrity endorsement and celebrity branding. An endorsement is the traditional paid statement sort of advertising, where the celebrity is paid to say nice things about your product. Celebrity branding is all about using a celebrity’s position of prominence to start a conversation. It’s meant to make your product more visible, to get people talking about it and genuinely considering its merits.
No two products are the same, and no two situations are the same, but celebrity endorsements are almost always a powerful boost to a brand.
Essentials of Celebrity Branding;
Attractiveness of the celebrity: This principle states that an attractive endorser will have a positive impact on the endorsement. The endorser should be attractive to the target audience in certain aspects like physical appearance, intellectual capabilities, athletic competence, and lifestyle. It has been proved that an endorser that appears attractive as defined above has a greater chance of enhancing the memorability of the brand that he/she endorses.
Credibility of the celebrity: This principle states that for any brand-celebrity collaboration to be successful, the personal credibility of the celebrity is crucial. Credibility is defined here as the celebrities’ perceived expertise and trustworthiness. As celebrity endorsements act as an external cue that enable consumers to sift through the tremendous brand clutter in the market, the credibility factor of the celebrity greatly influences the acceptance with consumers.
Meaning transfer between the celebrity and the brand: This principle states that the success of the brand-celebrity collaboration heavily depends on the compatibility between the brand and the celebrity in terms of identity, personality, positioning in the market vis-à-vis competitors, and lifestyle. When a brand signs on a celebrity, these are some of the compatibility factors that have to exist for the brand to leverage the maximum from that collaboration.
Celebrity endorsements – Do’s and Don’ts
All brands must be aware of some of the important aspects of celebrity branding as discussed below:
Consistency and long-term commitment: As with branding, companies should try to maintain consistency between the endorser and the brand to establish a strong personality and identity. More importantly, companies should view celebrity endorsements as long-term strategic decisions affecting the brand.
Three prerequisites to selecting celebrities: Before signing on celebrities to endorse their brands, companies need to ensure that they meet three basic prerequisites, namely the endorser should be attractive, have a positive image in the society, and be perceived as having the necessary knowledge (although it might be difficult for a celebrity to meet all three prerequisites).
Celebrity–brand match: Consistent with the principles discussed earlier, companies should ensure a match between the brand being endorsed and the endorser so that the endorsements are able to strongly influence the thought processes of consumers and create a positive perception of the brand.
Constant monitoring: Companies should monitor the behavior, conduct and public image of the endorser continuously to minimize any potential negative publicity. One of the most effective ways to do this is to ensure that celebrity endorsement contracts are effectively drafted, keeping in mind any such negative events.
Selecting unique endorsers: Companies should try to bring on board those celebrities who do not endorse competitors’ products or other quite different products, so that there is a clear transfer of personality and identity between the endorser and the brand.
Timing: As celebrities command a high price tag, companies should be on the constant lookout for emerging celebrities who show some promise and potential and sign them on in their formative years if possible to ensure a win–win situation.
Brand over endorser: When celebrities are used to endorse brands, one obvious result could be the potential overshadowing of the brand by the celebrity. Companies should ensure that this does not happen by formulating advertising collaterals and other communications.
Celebrity endorsement is just a channel: Companies must realize that having a celebrity endorsing a brand is not a goal in itself; rather it is one part of the communication mix that falls under the broader category of sponsorship marketing.
Celebrity ROI: Even though it is challenging to measure the effects of celebrity endorsements on companies’ brands, companies should have a system combining quantitative and qualitative measures to measure the overall effect of celebrity endorsements on their brands.
Trademark and legal contracts: Companies should ensure that the celebrities they hire are on proper legal terms so that they do not endorse competitors’ products in the same product category, thereby creating confusion in the minds of the consumers.
The important aspect that companies must note is that celebrity endorsements cannot replace the comprehensive brand building processes. As branding evolves as a discipline companies must be extra cautious to utilize every possible channel of communication rather than just a celebrity endorsement. When all other steps in the branding process is followed and implemented, then channels such as celebrity endorsements can provide the cutting edge as it did for Nike and many others.