The press and theory:
According to an article by the AdvertisingAge, Beyonce Knoles has just signed a $ 50 Million brand ambassador deal with Pepsi. Whilst brand ambassadorships are meant to catapult the brand’s reach based on a more credible partnership than just celebrity endorsements, the question of authenticity to consumer remains. Naming will.I.am director of creative innovation at Intel or Lady Gaga creative director of Polaroid is hardly credible to the educated consumer.
The other angle:
Johan Jervoe, VP of creative services at Intel, argues for the celebrity expertise infusion into an organization based on the cultural and process impact these celebrity partnerships may result in. Whilst Intel cannot specify any ROI to backup this claim, it remains questionable how much real operational impact a celebrity can have based on a career in live entertainment or acting. Some consumers surly fall for the Lady Gaga designed printer without questioning Lady Gaga’s stake in the design process besides lending her name to the product and appearing at tradeshows, others surely question the authenticity of these endorsements which widens the brand to consume gap.
The crux of the deal:
On a more subtle base, consumer’s might be drawn in by Lady Gaga, will.I.am and co, yet their brand experience will be defined at every brand touch-point, with an ever increasing likelihood that aspirational celebrity endorsed placements differ from the consumer’s real life product experience.
The harsh reality (a real life story):
As it happens, I am up and jet-lagged after an enduring US – EU trip which made me yet again aware of the difference between story telling and fulfilling the brand’s promise. The most outstanding brand experiences of my recent trip were with airline ground personnel as well as various rental car representatives. Both organizations have worked with celebrities to point a flashy & glossy picture of their service offering. The big difference however was that in both cases, company own and company branded but external staff missed the brand’s value proposition in every aspect, had obviously no pride in working for their respective brand nor cared in any way about the consumer brand interaction, particularly their influence in the game.
The return loop:
No matter if a new mobile operating system inclusive of new hardware gets mass marketed by various celebrities but newly opened flagship employees fall short of being able to sell the product to the consumer and highlight the negatives compared to their big fruity competitor or if airline ground staff does not care about check-in policies, rental car employees disrespect customers and forgoe their own rental policies, these are the touch-points that truly matter, the touch-points defining first hand customer brand interaction, the touch-points that have a driven influence on repurchase / revisit behavior but worst, the touch-points that will lead to negative brand buzz.
Old marketing tantras become the new philosophies, yet again!:
> Stick to the basics! Don’t overpromise but underdeliver. No matter how much marketing budget gets attributed to hiring the next big star for a product world tour, an outstandingly cool tv commercial or “product development” don’t forget to monitor where the action happens: at customer – brand touchpoints
> Don’t forget sales! A great social media campaign, to give the celebrity a break, that falls short of in-store product placements in important retail channels, doesn’t hold up to the promise (e.g. see my Kodak vs. Apple post). The same holds true for a big marketing stunt to promote said new mobile OS but employees lack sales savvy to close the deal with in-store customers.
> Don’t forget the customer! No matter how popular the celebrity, how great your competitor’s campaign based on celebrity affiliation: what your customers thinks, feels and encounters is what matters!