If You Want Your Brand to Shine, Shun Celebrities for Customer Recognition


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You won’t see Britney Spears or Beyoncé Knowles with a can of Pepsi, anymore. Pepsi has recently dumped celebrity endorsement for good.

After a long line of disasters, including being associated with Michael Jackson at the time child abuse accusations against the singer came to light and the controversy surrounding Madonna’s music video of with her on a cross, it comes as no surprise that the giant drinks brand has had enough of celebrities. Pepsi has said that it is dumping famous faces because they dwarf the brand. The company paid Britney Spears $80 million (in U.S. dollars) for her promotional run, only to see her famously photographed drinking competitor Coca-Cola.

Chrysler did the same thing with Celine Dion. After signing a three-year, $14 million dollar deal with the diva to appear in commercials driving a Pacifica, it soon became apparent the arrangement was increasing sales—but unfortunately, not those of the car.

Since the early ’90s, companies have searched for celebrities to become the face of their brand, and the bigger the better it seemed. However, many companies have since come unstuck, with the celebrity overshadowing the brand and advertising message. Companies can end up paying millions to use a celebrity face in their advertising campaigns, only to end up footing the bill for raising the profile of the celebrity, while the message and any brand recall is lost.

So why do brands continue to shell out for famous faces to promote their brands?

Celebrity sparkle

Many marketers believe the celebrity helps the brand stand out and cut through the noise and clutter, common in many market places. However, using celebrities to build your brand can bring problems. Does the celebrity fit the image of the brand? And will the celebrity be acceptable to the target audience? Should the lifestyle of the celebrity change, what impact will the change have on the target audience and that audience’s attitude toward the brand?

Recently Chanel, Burbery and H&M all dropped Kate Moss from their publicity campaigns when a British tabloid published photos of her allegedly snorting cocaine. Ion Group’s new research report provides proof that celebrities are not delivering customer value as perceived by the customer.

The survey, which questioned a representative sample of more than 1,000 adults in the United Kingdom, asked people what factors they valued about a company and which would induce them to buy. Of all the factors nominated, celebrity endorsement came in at a resounding last, some 58 percent below average.

The Connection report shows that while celebrity endorsement doesn’t work, well-trained staff—with access to information about each customer, so they can treat them individually—is what people really want from a firm.

The company paid Britney Spears $80 million (in U.S. dollars) for her promotional run, only to see her famously photographed drinking competitor Coca-Cola.

So although glamour and celebrity may dominate our newspapers, magazines and television screening, it does not seem to persuade people to open their purses. Friendly, informed people—whether in a store or on the end of the phone—who can be reached easily and who can talk to customers on an individual basis, are what make customers come back to buy again and again.

Data power

Providing customers with such individualized attention across all channels—mail, web, email, contact center and face-to-face—is dependent on customer data powering or being available in all instances.

Whether your customer is communicating with you on the phone or in person, a house number and a postcode, or a loyalty card, can be used to retrieve the customer’s details. The same method is often used on the web but with the convenience of a “register once” cookie. Outbound mail can now be segmented at the individual level, sending different people contents or inserts tailored to their profile.

Bar codes are used to automatically capture people’s responses and add the information to the database. And face-to-face events and in-store customer and branch transaction desks are starting to be used to demonstrate the personalization that customers value so much, as well as for capturing additional detail to improve that personalization. All these interactions are “joined up” and controlled by the central customer database or databases.

These research findings help to emphasize how much we, as consumers, appreciate and value convenient access and intelligent response, to the extent that it makes us four times as likely to buy from organizations that treat us in this way.

This insight provides organizations with a timely warning to invest in database marketing, which treats customers in a personalized and intelligent fashion, however they choose to interact with a company: in person, over the phone, on the web or through the mail and email. Joined-up contact is driving bottom-line results and competitive advantage.

So it is intelligent, data-driven communication, delivered by knowledgeable and friendly staff that delivers the real value, not money wasted on celebrity endorsements, that, at times, can end up doing more damage than good.

Graham Ede
arvato loyalty services
Graham Ede is managing director of arvato loyalty services, owned by arvato services, Europe's largest CRM service provider and part of Bertelsmann Group. Ede's highly developed sense of entrepreneurialism and enterprise has been gained through working within such prestigious organizations as Barclays Bank, Hoares Private Bank and Porsche Cars.


  1. This celebrity sparkle often backfires. I think there was about to be a release of an Amy Winehouse perfume just before she was discovered to have a serious drug problem and walked out of the treatment she was receiving at Cliffside Malibu. As for Britney spears I think drinking coca-cola is hardly the worst thing she has done to damage Pepsi’s image… It’s good to see companies are realizing there mistakes and changing to less tasteless marketing tactics.


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