There is simply no denying the power of celebrity. From the clothes we wear and the food we eat, to the social causes we support, celebrities are, more often than not, the arbiters of taste and opinion.
We all want a piece of the glitz and the glamour. And so we mimic the lifestyles of the rich and the famous in an attempt to raise our social status and win the respect of our peers.
Perhaps the first to tap into this intangible influence, and apply it on a grand scale, were the advertising and PR pros.
Celebrity and Advertising
” The use of celebrities as brand ambassadors remains a powerful, positive communications platform for marketers to stimulate consumer engagement and to emanate a sense of credibility and relevancy in the eyes of the consumer.”
Celebrity endorsements have long been established as one of the most lucrative and popular tools of advertising.
As famous people are instantly recognisable and attract consumer interest, they can bring attention to a brand in a way that no other type of advertising can.
No commercial sector has been left untouched by the power of celebrity. Rival companies seek to out-do their competitors by collaborating with the biggest celebrity they can. Nowhere is this warring for star power more apparent than with the major airline companies.
Celebrity Airline Advertising & Endorsements
One industry in which celebrity endorsements have been rigorously employed in recent times is the airline industry. Competition between the world’s major airlines has moved beyond who has the best product, or innovation, to who has the biggest celebrity endorsement:
These collaborations highlight the need for airline brands to tell a story, but also to have an ambassador who embodies the airline’s brand values and ‘personality’.
When Nicole Kidman signed for Etihad, the company issued this statement;
“Nicole Kidman, as a globally respected artist, was the perfect voice and face for our story, and embodies worldly sophistication, intelligence, originality, and elegance – values which form the foundations of the Etihad brand.”
Celebrity ambassadors are highly sought after by airlines, who are willing to pay seven-figure sums to use the names and images of the world’s biggest celebrities. And it’s not just brands getting in on the act, politicians and their advisors have also seen the celebrity light.
Celebrity and Politics
While some argue that celebrities play no role, and should play no role, in persuading people to vote, history and common sense tell a very different story.
Voter Ampathy and Influencing the Youth
In a time when social media is prevalent, apathy prevails, and not enough young people vote, a celebrity endorsement for a particular party or candidate can play a powerful role.
Your favourite celebrity tweeting about politics slants it in a relevant and contemporary direction that so many youth feel doesn’t exist in politics.
By bringing together the worlds of entertainment and politics, a celebrity is able to access a much wider and deeper source of support, and reach people that otherwise would not have been aware of a particular party’s agenda. A strong celebrity supporter can amplify a candidates message.
Oprah Winfrey for Barack Obama
A high-profile case of a celebrity endorsing a political candidate is Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Barack Obama. To say that Oprah’s involvement led to Obama being elected president might be an overstatement, but according to a study by University of Maryland economists, Winfrey’s 2008 endorsement of Barack Obama boosted his campaign contributions and his total vote by more than 1 million.
This shows that a celebrity endorsement from the right ambassador can work wonders.
Celebrity and Public Health
For good or bad, people often value the medical advice of celebrities over the advice of qualified doctors and researchers, despite their relevant expertise.
However, this has had some extraordinarily beneficial side-effects.
Angelina Jolie and Breast Cancer Awareness
When, in early 2013, Angelina Jolie publicly announced that she had undergone a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer, genetic testing referrals among high-risk women rose by two-and-a-half times in the following 2 months. In addition, a two-fold increase in testing referrals remained for 5 months following her article discussing the decision.
Gareth Evans of Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention described the potential impact of Jolie’s announcement, stating that it was likely to have had a bigger impact than other celebrity announcements, possibly due to her image as a glamorous and strong woman.
Jade Goody and Cervical Screening
It is not just Academy Award-winners that can have a significant impact on health care trends. When Jade Goody publicly announced her cervical cancer diagnosis, it led to a surge in cervical screening attendances.
A study published in the Journal of Medical Screening reported that about half a million extra cervical screening attendances occurred in England during the period in which Jade Goody announced her diagnosis and died, with attendances 70 per cent higher than expected at their peak.
Celebrity Effect on Eating Healthy
When the PHA (Partnership for a Healthier America) needed a new campaign idea to get people eating more fruits and vegetables, they took a page from the ad tactics of companies like Nike and Coca-Cola, combining celebrity endorsements (including Hollywood actress Jessica Alba and athlete Stephen Curry), with edgy slogans and social media marketing.
The result of the campaign was an increase of almost 9% in the number of consumers who said they would definitely eat fruits and vegetables in the next week, and a decrease of 6% in those who said they would definitely not eat fruits and vegetables in the next week.
Celebrity and Lifestyle
But what if the product celebrities are selling is not just a product, or even themselves, but their lofty lifestyle?
A celebrity lifestyle business functions on the idea of authenticity. A celebrity builds their own personal brand in this way and the consumer buys in to the glamour of that lifestyle.
Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop
The most well-known case of a celebrity selling the whole ‘lifestyle’ package is Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, which the Hollywood actress started in 2008—it began as a newsletter—at her kitchen table in her house in London.
Goop offers style, food, and wellness recommendations from Gwyneth and her circle of elite professionals. The enterprise, which also sells fashion and home products, now has nearly 1 million newsletter subscribers, and, according to analytics firm Alexa.com, receives more than 3.75 million page views per month.
Reese Witherspoon and Draper James
Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon arrived late to the lifestyle game. Her Southern-inspired website, Draper James, sells locally sourced home goods, clothes, and accessories for women who think drinking sweet tea should be an Olympic sport. And Draper James is rapidly expanding, opening its first brick-and-mortar store in Nashville in 2015.
Celebrity and Real Estate
In his excellet book, Celebrity Sells, Hamish Pringle dedicates a whole chapter to a celebrity’s effect on property. He states;
“Celebrity has an effect on the price of property and is another extraordinary manifestation of the influence of the famous on the public. People have long been fascinated by the places where celebrities have lived and visiting the homes of the rich and famous has become something of a cottage industry in places like Beverly Hills. TV programmes looking into celebrities’ homes in the USA and UK are testiment to our interest in famous people’s lives.”
Angelina Jolie and Palisades
Who wouldn’t want to live in the house where Angelina Jolie grew-up?
Today Angelina lives between Hollywood, London, the south of France and New Orleans, but her childhood neighbourhood of Palisades, New York has long been a celebrity hotspot.
Palisades (formerly known as the far less glamorous Snedens Landing) currently counts Icelandic singer Bjork as well as Al Pacino and Bill Murray as residents.
Since Angelina’s days the mid-century cottage has undergone a few refurbs. The current vendor paid $1.71 million for the property in February 2015, but it has since been relisted for $2.86 million!
Roger Moore and Sherwood House
And who wouldn’t want to live like 007? Roger Moore’s sprawling 11-acre property went on sale for a staggering £5million in 2015.
Roger lived at Sherwood House for eight years between 1970 and 1978, during which time he shot Live And Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me.
We all see attributes in celebrities we admire and want to emulate them. Our respect and admiration leads us to follow the advice and actions of our favourite celebrities in the hope of acquiring their traits.
And by following we also differentiate. We stand out of the crowd, just like a product with a celebrity’s face on the packaging stands out on the shelves.
“I think we’ve made it clear that we’ve done a lot of work to improve the value we offer and we want to distinguish ourselves through the range.”
–Vision Express chief executive Jonathan Lawson on the Heston Blumenthal range of eyewear.
Celebrity and the Halo Effect
Celebrities also benefit from the ‘halo effect’, the engendeering of feelings of trustworthiness towards the celebrity that extend well beyond their industry or expertise.
Celebrity and Emotional Branding
Emotional branding keeps the consumer as the pivot, is affinitive and uses an approach wherein a story is framed to drive the product such that it gets or filtrates inside the lives of consumers so as to build a deep emotive bond in the minds of the consumers. Adding a celebrity to the marketing mix enhances the message and makes the emotional attachment more powerful.
“What better way to remind our customers of how Virgin Media goes the extra mile to deliver brilliant services than with national hero, Mo Farah.”
–Jeff Dodds, executive director of brand and marketing communications at Virgin Media, on the appointment of Mo Farah as brand ambassador.