Rethinking Celebrity Endorsements: Authenticity And Fit Are Key

In today’s complex marketing landscape brands need to feel confident that their choices for celebrity endorsements will help move the needle.  The volume of coverage around Nielsen’s recently released N-Score has been surprising, considering it focusses on only one medium (TV) at the end of the process – after the deal has been done, money invested, and commercials are on the air. 

In my experience, clients are looking for partnerships with talent that go beyond a simple television endorsement.  They want a compelling rationale supported by data-driven analytics before the deal is signed.  Brands want to know that the individual will be a good fit and will resonate with their target audience, not only as a likeable individual, but also someone who will influence purchase behavior. 

Choosing the right person to endorse or promote your brand is vitally important.  There are numerous examples of brand / celebrity partnerships that are incompatible from the outset.  Take Brad Pitt and Chanel No.5 – although his fan base is likely to include females who use perfume, he himself is unlikely to be a frequent user.  Consequently, the partnership could be perceived as inauthentic. 



While consumers are influenced by celebrities, they are also savvy enough to know when things are out of sync and an endorsement isn’t authentic.  Our research has shown that authenticity is most important among the very desirable youth market (ages 12-29).  Being able to tell whether the individual is a good fit for the proposed endorsement is an important piece of the puzzle to consider, before talking details of a deal, not after.  Fit can be measured in many ways – does the individual resonate with the target audience?  Do they reflect the attributes that brand is trying to present? Do consumers think they are a good fit for the category or brand?  Do consumers think the celebrity even uses the product they are endorsing?

For the most part, marketers are now looking to celebrities to endorse their products beyond TV commercials.  They realize that consumers are DVRing content and skipping ads,[1] and that TV is no longer the dominant medium in consumer’s lives[2].  Partnerships with celebrities are typically multi-faceted and incorporate traditional media, social media, appearances, and more, to ensure their campaign reaches the brand’s multiple audiences, who are consuming brand messaging in various ways. 

For that reason, it’s important to have a comprehensive picture of the celebrity partner.  The celebrity’s own social media audience will be instrumental in promoting the campaign and creating authenticity in the partnership.  Nielsen’s Top 10 for Q1 2015 are all actors, while marketers look far beyond Hollywood when searching for their ideal celebrity partner.  Where social media is concerned, our own research into the digital footprint of celebrities[3] indicates that actors are generally the least active in social media, and therefore limit the potential for a brand in any partnership.

Although Liam Neeson tops the N-Score rankings, if a deeper layer of research is applied, one that includes data on his purchase influence and social media footprint, the results are likely to be quite different.  According to Fanatomy[4], despite his high recognition (89%) and familiarity (73%) Neeson exerts only average purchase influence (30%) among those aware of him but has lower category fit – Automotive 51%, Alcohol Brands 41% and Financial Brands 34%. 

Rihanna has slightly higher recognition (93%) and familiarity (74%), lower purchase influence (16%) among those aware of her but much higher influence among the coveted youth market (25%).  In addition she has a highly engaged social media following of 170M+ whereas Liam Neeson is currently inactive across all social media channels.

All things considered it is vitally important to have a solid understanding of the goals and objectives of the campaign before committing to any partnership.  These aspects coupled with the target audience and a robust analytical approach across all mediums, not just TV, will help match a brand to their perfect celebrity partner before any money changes hands.

[1] HUB Research, “Time Shifting,” Feb 26, 2015

[2] US Time Spent with Media: eMarketer's Updated Estimates for Spring 2015, April 2015

[3] Celebrity Digital Strength Index is PMK•BNC’s proprietary analysis of 750+ celebrities’ – including actors, athletes, musicians, comedians, YouTube stars and more – digital presence and engagement across 120+ touch points, indexed on a 1 – 10 scale as to how the talent engages on digital and social platforms.

[4] Fanatomy is PMK•BNC’s proprietary research study focused on consumer perceptions of celebrities and their potential fit and impact on brands and various product categories.

Next story loading loading..