Tim Leon
President/Brand Strategist

Celebrity Spokesperson: Can they benefit the brand?

With the popularity of branding today, the question becomes—can a celebrity spokesperson enhance brand image and positively predispose customers to the brand. There is no right or wrong answer here, but our belief is that you have to pick the right spokesperson. Here’s some insight on how to do just that!


Matching the brand to the spokesperson

Can a celebrity be an integral part of the brand messaging? And how do you determine what celebrity matches up to your brand? Our suggestion would be to go a step further in your branding process, and identify the brand personality. Brand personality is identified by attributing human characteristics to a brand. Once you’ve identified those characteristics, assess your shortlist of celebrity spokesperson candidates and how their personality characteristics and persona match the personality characteristics of the brand. This will help you determine if there’s a match.

For example, Volvos are safe, secure, confident and conservative. So what type of celebrity may match up well to these attributes? Maybe it’s ex-presidential candidate Fred Thompson (former star of Law & Order) or Rudy Giuliani (former mayor of New York City). Hey, they’re both looking for work!


Credibility Factor

Advertising legend David Ogilvy once said, “Don’t use testimonials by celebrities, unless they are recognized authorities like Arnold Palmer for golf clubs.” Today, we might substitute Arnold Palmer for Tiger Woods, but that’s another story! The point is, the message becomes even more powerful when the celebrity endorsement carries “expert” authority or relevance for the brand.

While expertise certainly contributes to credibility of the spokesperson, I think traits such as likeability, persuasiveness and character should also be considered while making your selection.

Our society is enamored with celebrities—both their professional and their private lives. And that’s where the risk to credibility and negative impact on the brand can occur. Consumers read and listen to what is said about celebrities. So when a celebrity’s credibility makes the news, the brand can be negatively impacted. Think Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, etc….That’s why, when you are contracting with a celebrity, make sure you incorporate a clause in the contract dealing with moral turpitude (that’s legal ease for doing something immoral, corrupt, or evil). So, should the celebrity’s personal conduct negatively impact their image and ultimately the image of the brand, the client has an “out.”


Relevance to the target audience

You want to make sure you select a celebrity spokesperson that your target audience can identify with. They look like them, think like them, act like them. I’m reminded of Ty Burrell, who plays the hapless husband Phil Dunphy in the TV series Modern Family. I find his commercials for Minute Maid Orange Juice engaging and spot-on for using his character to deliver the message. Maybe it’s because I’m a health conscious, hapless dad myself! Interestingly enough, these spots target moms, and my guess is that they are enamored with seeing a loveable husband figure involved in the grocery shopping decisions.


Celebrities and Brands can be good for each other

In the end, our belief is that the right celebrity, for the right brand, can create effective marketing. It just requires you walking through the process of matching a brand to a celebrity. And doing your due diligence along the way!