Every awards season, marketing and Hollywood experts start predicting which actors are poised to see a dramatic rise in their marketability spurred by big wins on the red carpet and at all the shows, including, of course, the Academy Awards.
But this year it comes with some added questions that marketing communications agencies and their clients are not exactly excited about addressing. In the current political climate, brands are not just watching to see who will stand behind the podium and take home the accolades, but also what they will say once they get there.
While the gut instinct of many clients is to “stay neutral,” I’m actually counseling brands not to hire celebrities who are politically agnostic because they lose credibility with consumers. In today’s political environment, many people expect public figures to have an opinion and be vocal about it.
It’s more a matter of finding someone whose opinion is one your company or brand can get behind. So if your clients are on the hunt for a celebrity spokesperson, roll up your sleeves and get ready to ask some really pointed questions to make sure the brand stays true to itself.
For example, if a client indicates that the celebrity can’t be too “politically outspoken,” it will require a conversation to clarify. If a celebrity participated in the Women’s March to stand up for causes he/she believes in, but wasn’t actively spitting vitriol at anyone, is that too outspoken? Is wearing a safety pin showing solidarity for all people outspoken? Is publicly showing support for controversial policy decisions too outspoken?
File under “things you never wanted to have an 8 a.m. conference call about,” but the current political situation is forcing people to talk about exactly what they’re really comfortable putting their brand alongside. Most companies think personal opinions are fine, as long as there is no malicious intent. Other companies want to avoid all political conversations to avoid potential conflicts or alienation of their consumers.
While a brand’s intention is never to censor their spokesperson, celebrity partnerships now require a mutual understanding that publicly shared opinions are in association with the brand and could have far-reaching implications on a company’s business.
While all eyes will undoubtedly be on the red carpet on Feb. 26, I think people will be looking beyond the dresses this year and will be more interested in the words spoken on stage and trending hashtags in social media.