A celebrity today can be anyone with a platform to amplify. And with so many layers as to what defines a celebrity, determining the best way to work with them has become even more challenging.
Monica Chun, PMK-BNC
Leveraging the power of a celebrity is hardly a new concept for brands. If done well, celebrity endorsements can create widespread visibility, reach, and deeper consumer engagement.
However, thanks to social media, the definition of “celebrity” has become democratized. It’s no longer just famous athletes, actors, or musicians at the top of their crafts. A celebrity today can be anyone with a platform to amplify. And with so many layers as to what defines a celebrity, determining the best way to work with them has become even more challenging.
A good way to start thinking about it is this: Don’t focus entirely on who they are. Really ponder what they’re about and how you’re partnering with them. Here are some helpful tips.
Start with the idea (not the celebrity)
The key to good branded entertainment partnerships is good storytelling – a central idea that scales beyond the actual product or service being sold. It should focus on a shared belief, interest, or point of view. Think of Rihanna and the clear message of inclusivity and diversity that stand out in all of her brand partnerships from Fenty Beauty to Fenty X Puma to Savage X Fenty.
This core value helps to emotionally connect with consumers in a more impactful way. It also makes it easier to narrow down what type of person can help bring to life the story you are telling and share it in a way that builds community in addition to commerce.
Relationship marketing versus checkbook marketing
Sometimes when brands decide they want to tap into the equity of celebrity, they mistakenly focus first on the biggest name with the biggest reach that they can afford. What they should be thinking about is identifying the talent with whom they can build the most meaningful relationship.
Many celebrities open to working with brands don’t only want to be spokespeople. They have other interests and want to be partners, collaborators, and co-creators. Buying into an idea is not enough for them. They want to help build it.
Brands often fear that ceding creative control means they lose control, but it’s actually the opposite. When celebrities feel invested and believe there is a bigger goal, the end result will feel more organic and satisfying to everyone involved – including consumers.
Also, if you partner with a celebrity who has a huge audience or following, make sure it complements – and doesn’t compete with – your current consumer base. Too often brands are so fixated on a celebrity they think will help expand their audience, they end up in a partnership that alienates their existing base.
Authenticity over everything
It’s hard to have any conversation about comms without the importance of authenticity entering the spotlight. That’s how it should be – and it’s particularly relevant to working with celebrities.
Consumers today are savvier and more educated than ever. With the internet at our fingertips, it takes mere minutes to learn everything there is about a celebrity – from their passions to their pet peeves to the most intimate details of their lives. As such, consumers know right away when something in inauthentic and they’re not shy about calling brands or celebrities out.
I recall a recent episode involving a famous celebrity, known for her extravagant tastes, who posted a photo of herself using a drugstore skincare brand that resulted in immediate backlash from her followers. The comments literally said, “I don’t even believe you use this.”
Think about how many times you’ve seen a celebrity who was representing one brand, but in their daily lives was actually using another. When consumers see that lack of transparency and consistency, brands lose credibility.
Brands should not only want to partner with talent who share the same sensibility and brand ethos, they should take it as a mandate to ensure they do. When there is shared passion, there is deeper engagement and involvement from the celebrity. In turn, the association feels seamless and not forced. Consumers can easily identify when it’s the latter.
Celebrity-brand partnerships are and will continue to be a great vehicle to emotionally connect with consumers, tell your story in a unique way, and gain mass visibility. There’s a reason it’s such a popular tactic. And the possibilities are endless – if done the right way. On the flip side, if done the wrong way, you’ll know and see the impact because your consumer will most certainly tell you.
Monica Chun is president of PMK-BNC and co-author of The Art of Branded Entertainment.