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The use of celebrity endorsers is a common---and tricky---brand building strategy. Consider these recent ‘incidents’ involving celebrity endorsers:
Christian Dior dropped celebrity spokesperson Sharon Stone from their advertising in
Conservative bloggers protested a Dunkin Donuts ad that featured Rachel Ray wearing a scarf that they charged resembled keffiyeh, the patterned and fringed scarf that is the traditional headdress of Arab men---and associated by some Americans with terrorism.
A 2007 print ad for Deréon Girls, Beyoncé’s fashion line for young girls, resurfaced as the target of criticism by a new round of bloggers for oversexualizing and ‘tarting up’ young girls. The label is an offshoot of the Hip Hop fashion House of Deréon.
Celebrity endorsements have the potential to significantly raise sales and market share, and introduce the brand to a new target audience. For example, Forbes reports that Chanel’s endorsement deal with spokes icon Nicole Kidman increased business by nearly 16%, without any changes in fragrance or packaging, because “all of a sudden, younger women took notice of the brand.” (Reportedly Nicole Kidman is being replaced by "Amelie" star Audrey Tautou)
But endorsement deals can turn bad in an instant. Who can forget actor Ben Curtis’ famous utterance, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell”? The consumer campaign, was “hugely successful” for Dell Computer Corp. In 2002 Dell began to transition away from Curtis’ character and it’s just as well since the actor was arrested for attempting to buy marijuana on Manhattan’s lower east side.
As a result, the memorable line and character spawned a host of parodies and late night jokes, many of which were at the Dell brand’s expense. After Kobe Bryant’s rape arrest, Nutella and McDonald’s hastily dropped their agreements with the basketball star.
Celebrities are human after all; it’s impossible for marketers to remove every bit of risk from a deal. But here are three things every marketer must to enhance the potential for celebrity endorsement success:
Going Global? Make sure you understand cultural sensitivities. Blogger Daisy Kong asks why Dior would pick Sharon Stone to endorse their brand in
Does the endorser/endorsee relationship make sense?
Seriously, when you think brand extensions for sexy, R&B star Beyoncé, do you immediately think children’s clothing line? Strategically smart celebrity/brand pairings enhance the core brand equities of each partner---and this doesn’t work for either.
Put fires out quickly. Despite a marketer's best efforts, sometimes stuff just happens. In the case of Rachel Ray’s scarf, most critics were also fans--- even the most vocal doubted she was trying to make a political statement. (Personally, the only reaction that I had to Ray’s scarf was that it was unattractive. The connection between it and a keffiyeh is a stretch.)
While it's absurd to suggest that Dunkin Donuts was promoting a terrorism symbol, the company was right not to provide fodder for those bloggers who live for controversy. The company simply pulled the ad and got back to making donuts.