Celebrity endorsement, when used well, can be a powerful brand communications strategy and give a huge boost to start-up brands. A few months ago, we discovered Stylight’s report about the Meghan Markle effect and asked the company to explain this phenomenon to us and offer tips on brands new to the celebrity endorsement game.
The Meghan Markle effect
May 8th, 2019. This date probably doesn’t mean anything to most, but it certainly marked a milestone in British fashion designer Grace Wales Bonner’s career. On that day Meghan Markle and Prince Harry made their first public appearance with their son Archie, with Meghan wearing a white trench dress from Grace Wales Bonner. Even if all eyes were initially on baby Archie, the Duchess of Sussex’s style quickly overshadowed the news in the fashion and celebrity magazines. Wales Bonner’s name was on everyone’s lips (and keyboards) after this: right after the picture was taken, search enquiries for Wales Bonner on Stylight increased by 1633%. Similarly the Duchess wore a pair of black Aquazurra high heels for a Commonwealth Day event in London on 11th March and over following days Stylight saw Aquazurra search queries increase by 90%. If the Duchess of Sussex’s indirect endorsement has boosted these brands for a lifetime (royal family members are not allowed to endorse any brand and have to pay for all of their outfits), this tells us a lot about the potential of proper brand endorsement and why brands embrace this marketing strategy.
Meghan Markle is also far from being an exception when it comes to the power of celebrity endorsement. Take Beyoncé and her red Bourguessa dress that sold out shortly after Queen B decided to wear it at Solange Knowles’ Saint Heron party, or Dwayne Johnson’s -aka The Rock- Under Armour signature sneaker, Project Rock 1, that sold out only 30 minutes after its release. Let’s also not forget Selena Gomez, whose partnership with Coca Cola on the “Share a Coke and a Song” campaign became the most liked picture of 2016 on social media Instagram and was a major win for Coca Cola, which was able to boost its brand exposure amongst the celeb’s 104 million users.
To sum it up: No matter what product your company is selling, its endorsement by a celeb could be your ticket to brand recognition and increased sales. This type of marketing strategy does not only enable brands to cover important variables in the consumers’ purchase decision-making process -such as brand awareness, trust, and familiarity- but can also have an impact on other levels of their business, such as sales and stock prices. However, companies should not expect that Instagram likes or impressions alone will increase the sales of their promoted products: celebrity endorsement is for sure a powerful tool, but will most likely only serve to enhance the effect of a whole campaign.
Influencer marketing vs. celebrity endorsement: what's the difference?
Celebrity endorsement and influencer marketing, while on the face of it similar, are two different concepts. Celebrity endorsement attaches the fame of a celebrity to a brand or product. With this strategy, a brand is buying people who are idolised to associate themselves with their product so people want to buy it. Influencer marketing creates word-of-mouth advertising – usually via social media - using people that are trusted in certain circles. Celebrities differ from other influencers in having achieved offline recognition or fame not just through digital channels.
How do brands and endorsers choose each other?
There are two types of endorsers in celebrity marketing: those who would endorse anything and those who carefully choose which brand(s) to partner with. If you ask us, we would tell you that the second type of endorsers will most likely bring more value to your business than the first one. Let’s take Selena’s Gomez example again: she might have posted the most liked picture of 2016 on Instagram, but she is certainly one celebrity who tends not to engage regularly in endorsement campaigns. For Frank Spadafora, CEO of the fashion technology and social media analytics company D'Marie Analytics, Selena is "aware that over-saturating her social feeds with sponsored content could negatively impact the relationship she has with her audience." And that’s how you should choose your endorsers: make sure they will actually magnify the impact of your campaign. Well done, Coca Cola and Selena!
We mentioned earlier that a brand signing a celebrity endorser can have an impact on various levels of a company (potentially even on your stock prices), but beware of the fact that partnering with the wrong endorser could also have repercussions on your company. Nike, who saw their market share increase after signing an endorsement deal with Tiger Woods in 2000, also lost $1.7 million in sales and 105,000 customers after their announcement that they would stand by the golfer after his infidelity scandal. If you don’t want your brand to go through the same thing, make sure you choose your endorsers wisely. “But how do I choose them”, you may ask.
Here are a few tips:
First things first: make sure your product actually fits your endorser: You wouldn’t see Gisele Bündchen promote a plus-size clothing line, or Selena Gomez, say, protein powder. There needs to be coherence and consistency between your product and the celebrity endorsing it. Otherwise, no matter how famous your endorser is, it won’t bring you new customers.
Make sure your product performs: There is nothing worse for a brand than investing millions in an endorsement for a product that, in the end, does not perform. And there is nothing worse for consumers than the feeling of having been scammed. Having a non-working product endorsed could have a significant long-term impact on consumers’ perception of not only your product, but also -and most importantly- your brand (and the celebs themselves, who will most likely not want to work with you ever again).
Choose drama-free endorsers. Think back to the Tiger Woods/Nike example and the monetary impact it had on the company. If you don’t want this to backfire, choose a celebrity that fits your values and that is not (or even better, has never been) involved in any sort of scandal.
Avoid the endorsers that basically promote anything and everything. Customers are not dumb and will recognise the difference between authentic and unauthentic promotion. If your endorser continuously promotes different brands, you might get impressions on their social media channels, but the engagement rate and sales impact on your side will likely be far less impactful.
To learn more about the Meghan Markle effect and other Stylight insights, read Stylight Insights here