The Sunday New York Times business section featured a pretty lengthy article on the trend of celebrities and brands. Nothing real new here, but the article painted the tactic in a fairly positive light, and backed it up with sales statistics.
I agree that for certain brands, and certain celebrities, tie-ups can make a lot of sense. I liked what Totes did with Rihanna. Rather than take advantage of her hit song, Umbrella, simply by using it for a commercial, they worked with her to design umbrellas.
Now, this is a good match today, but will Rihanna always be known for the song (how long will she be known at all?). I’m having a hard time thinking of really long term deals between companies and celebrities. Arnold Palmer and Pennzoil. Michael Jordan and Nike. But has a musician or actor been aligned with one brand for a decade?
Conversely, look at some of the success brands have had creating their own celebrities: Jared (Subway), Mr. Whipple (Charmin), Madge (Palmolive). Or even characters: The King (Burger King), Ronald McDonald (McDonalds).
Do you need to borrow celebrity cache? Ask Starbucks, Google or Red Bull.
Celebrity endorsement can be used effectively, but you have to understand what your goals are. Is it long term brand growth, or short term gain? Does a celebrity make sense not just today, but could you see being with them in 10 years? Perhaps you’re better off creating your own icon, one that you can control and one that won’t also be promoting several other products. Do you even need a celebrity at all, or is it better to let consumers project their own emotional cues onto your brand? Ideally you want to build a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe for your brand. If you do so correctly it’s more likely that you will create your own celebrity or that celebrities will be attracted to you and use your brand, not because you paid them, but because they are consumers too. And that’s much more compelling for other consumers.