Q. What’s changed most about your business recently?
A. There are more celebrities. So it’s become a much more crowded space, and brands have to do something that’s unique to stand out. Everything seems more fast-paced, because of social media. But the eye of the consumer has never been more critical. That’s a good thing, but it means it is more important to bring this generation something more relevant, with a new and different cultural angle.
Q. You say it seems more fast-paced. It isn’t really?
A. When you are in the business of creating stories and building in-depth relationships, it takes time. You need time to think things through, and create assets. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Q. You’ve connected Lady Gaga with Michael Kors, and Rihanna with Fendi. Why do celebrities seem to prefer luxury partnerships to mass brands, which would likely be more lucrative for them?
A. There are multiple reasons. One is that when you are trying to be the best in your craft, you have the same kind of excitement for excellence. And another is that many artists see themselves as trying to create some kind of legacy. It’s what inspired them to get into the arts. There is something extremely appealing to them about working with a 100-year old brand. Cartier, for example, is the jewelry of kings and queens, and people want to be associated with it not just out of ego, but from this desire to be timeless. Celebrities like the idea that their art won’t fade, that they can become classics, too. And it’s also more creative. Luxury brands are more likely than mass ones to make room for organic development. They don't come with an exact script of what has to be. They let magic happen, and that excites artists.
So luxury brands are a great kind of playground for expression.
Q. Often, it doesn’t work out. What typically goes wrong in these partnerships?
A. Brands need to be careful about what they are getting themselves into. It’s exactly like a relationship in life. Is it just for the moment? That’s not a bad thing, and there are plenty of good reasons for brands to be associated with, for example, this season’s hottest runway models. Or are you looking for something long-term that will be part of the brand’s legacy? It’s not that one is better than the other. It’s just that brands should be clear about their goals.
Q. What else backfires?
A. I’ve found it only works when you get the right people in the room together, with no go-betweens. When you can have the artist working with the creative people at the company, magic can happen. And it’s also much easier for either side to point out something that isn’t working when something that looked good on paper just isn’t translating. Direct interaction is the No. 1 thing.
Q. Social media drives much of the celebrity endorsement world today. How important is the size of a star’s Twitter following, for example?
A. It’s very important, but it is truly about the artist, and quality matters more than quantity. Someone can tweet 10 times a day and their community may not get tired of it, or it can be every three days and have more meaning. So it’s important to look past the numbers, and see that the artist is making some kind of real connection with the brand. We are facing a generation of people—and I think this is a very good thing—that can smell when something isn’t genuine. They know when a partnership makes sense, or when it’s just a financial transaction.