Monday, December 14, 2009

Marketing Strategy : Celebrity Endorsement

The recent Tiger Woods 'confessions' opened a whole lot of debate on the role of celebrity endorsement as a marketing strategy. The issue of celebrity endorsements and its 'side effects' is one of the most widely discussed topic in the branding world. Every time there is a controversy involving the celebrity, these chatter arise and dies down soon .

In this context, it should be understood that celebrity endorsement is a powerful promotional tool . If used creatively, celebrity endorsement can propel a brand to a high growth trajectory. But like any strategy, this option too has its own share of disadvantages. The latest Tiger Woods episode again highlight the issues brands can face when their endorsers ran into trouble.

Will this episode refrain marketers from using celebrities any more ? Never. We will be seeing more of these endorsements in the future also. But there are lessons to be learned from this current developments.

The problems that brands face when their endorsers land up in trouble is more when brand depend heavily on the celebrity for equity ( common sense !). When brands use Celebrities as a pivot upon which the entire brand equity is generated, the risk is more and any adverse actions on the part of the celebrity will affect the brand's strategy.

In the case of Accenture, Tiger Woods was the axis for all their promotions. The brand was so closely associated with the celebrity that coming out of that association will cost both money , time and energy. But the silver lining for Accenture is that Tiger Woods was only a symbolization for the corporate brand. The current controversy is in no way going to affect Accenture's consulting business. Only issue is that the brand needs to find another powerful symbol to convey its message.

For other famous brands like Nike and Gillette too, there is only less impact of this controversy because Tiger Woods does not play a crucial role in their brand building strategy. Both these brands have other celebrities to bank upon.

Marketers should understand that using celebrities should only be a part of the big picture and not the picture itself. There are no short cuts to fame. If at all one is using celebrities as the main talking point, derisk by using more than one (if you can afford that). Otherwise run parallel theme based campaigns to help the brand stand on its own.

Indian brands tend to rely heavily on celebrities for equity. The brand owners should understand that this tendency is because of the focus on short-termism and lack of creative thinking. Celebrity endorsements should only be a part of the strategy not the strategy itself.

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