Celebrity endorsement of luxury fashion is hardly a new phenomenon but has been in practice for several centuries. Charles Worth, the man who invented haute couture in Paris in the nineteenth century understood the importance of linking celebrities to brands, even before this was recognized as an important marketing communications tool. To promote his fashion house, La Maison Worth, he sought a high society lady and influencer of court fashions Princess Von Metternich, wife of the then Austrian ambassador to France and close friend of Napoleon's wife Empress Eugenie. This celebrity's patronage and connection with La Maison Worth contributed immensely to the success and status of Charles Worth's couture house as the most influential in the world at this time.
Celebrities are highly important and valuable to brands especially in the luxury fashion sector. There is no argument about this. They wield enormous power in fashion circles and can contribute to making and breaking brands. Fashion designers pamper them and brand managers recognize their potential to brands and utilize this effectively. For example, Marilyn Monroe's declaration that she wears only Chanel No. 5 to sleep, contributed to making the fragrance an unequalled icon. Celebrity endorsement does not however begin and end with shooting and printing the photo of a beautiful star with a luxury product, in a fashion magazine. There are several factors and dimensions involved in choosing a celebrity to endorse a brand. It is however worthwhile to establish the scope and true value of celebrity endorsement.
First of all, who are celebrities? Celebrities are people that exert significant influence in several facets of the society ranging from arts, music, movies and television, sports, culture, education, politics, government and also religion. They range from film and television stars to musicians, sports personalities, scientists, engineers, royals, politicians and also socialites who have no defined careers apart from looking beautiful and attending the right events. In the fashion world, this list of celebrities would include designers, their muses, models, photographers, image consultants, style advisers and any famous person involved in the artistic aspects of fashion such as makeup artists, fashion consultants and also fashion experts like Mark Tungate whose book Fashion Brands: Branding Style from Armani to Zara, was published in 2005. The celebrities most utilized in the promotion of luxury fashion brands, however, are those in the film and music industry as a result of their high visibility and the prominent role that fashion plays in the entertainment sectors.
According to recent research statistics from advertising and marketing services company WPP, the number of celebrity advertisements has doubled in the past ten years. The Guardian also reports that one in four adverts currently features celebrities compared with one in eight in 1995. Although this statistic is related to a broad range of goods and services, there has also been an increase in the use of celebrities in the brand message communications of luxury brands. Several recent examples show evidence of this practice. Italian luxury brand Versace featured music icon Madonna and Hollywood stars Demi Moore and Halle Berry in its print adverts between 2005 and 2006. Likewise Julia Roberts appeared in the 2006/2007 print advertisements of Gianfranco Ferre; Sharon Stone and Monica Bellucci in Dior's and Jennifer Lopez, Scarlet Johansson and Uma Thurman (Figure 5.22) have all been the faces of Vuitton at different times. Also luxury watch brand Baume & Mercier adopted celebrity endorsement in 2005 in its advertising campaign featuring actors Meg Ryan and Keifer Sutherland. Non-luxury brands such as Gap and H&M are also catching on. Gap featured television and movie star Sarah Jessica Parker in their 2005 advertisement and H&M featured Madonna and her crew in their 2006 print advertisement. The use of celebrities from an earlier period is also not left out in luxury brands endorsements. For example, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of silver-screen actress Greta Garbo, Mont Blanc designed a special edition pen named after the deceased actress.
The reasons that these personalities are used in brand communications are: to make the brand's message stand out among the clutter of advertising and
offerings from competitors; and to convince customers of the credibility of the brand's offerings. In addition to these, celebrity endorsement is important to luxury brands for the following reasons:
• Celebrity endorsement is a great brand awareness creation tool for new brands.
• Endorsement by celebrities helps to position and re-position existing brands.
• Celebrities contribute to sustaining a brand's aura.
• Celebrities are used to revive and revitalize staid brands.
• Celebrities generate extensive PR leverage and opportunities for brands.
• Celebrities are used to reach a global market.
• Celebrities promote a brand's products and appeal.
There are several ways that celebrities can be utilized to either endorse a luxury fashion brand or show some connection to the brand. The classic and most widely used method is the paid-for media advertisement mostly found in fashion magazines and on television. This is when a celebrity is photographed or filmed with an often-appealing product of the brand in question. The themes of these advertisements vary but the underlying message is uniform and gives an indication of a direct connection between the brand, its products and the celebrity. The ways that celebrities are used to endorse brands include the following:
Print media advertising found in various magazines such as the 2005 spring/summer and autumn/winter adverts of Versace that featured Hollywood stars Madonna and Demi Moore respectively. Television advertising such as the video clip advert of the Chanel No. 5 perfume featuring Nicole Kidman, which ran from 2004 to 2005. Product use in movies and television programs, sitcoms and soap operas such as the 1984 film American Gigolo, which was a showcase of Armani designs and contributed to the global appeal of the brand. Other movie brand promotion includes Legally Blond II for Jimmy Choo, Le Divorce for Hermès, Miss Congeniality for Fendi and Dolce & Gabbana and the sitcom Sex & The City, which patently promoted both Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik, among others.
Fashion spreads showing celebrities in the apparel and accessories of luxury brands at different events and locations.
Photographs of paid celebrities casually using the products of a brand. This tactic involves brands paying a highly photographed celebrity to appear with their products in an indifferent manner indicating that the product and brand is a part of their daily lives. Although this practice might be thought uncommon in the luxury goods category, as luxury products are highly desirable even to celebrities, it is frequently utilized. It is also highly effective as it portrays a true lifestyle which the public can relate to better than a glossy advert.
Photographs of unpaid celebrities using the products of a brand. This is called 'gratis' product placement. It occurs when a celebrity embraces a product or a brand they truly like and visibly uses these products in public. Since these celebrities are often photographed, they become promotional tools and grant the brands exposure that yields both short-term benefits and long-term rewards. This aspect of celebrity endorsement is however becoming rare, as celebrities have got wise to their powerful influence over consumers and increasingly use this influence to their own advantage. The mention of luxury brands in music lyrics such as the inclusion of Jimmy Choo in the lyrics of Beyoncé. Another example is that of Maria Carey, who sang extensively of Louis Vuitton in her last album. In some cases, luxury brands pay the musicians to mention them in songs while in other rare cases the musicians voluntarily adopt the brands. Music celebrity endorsement of brands is increasingly used by both luxury and non-luxury brands. The concept has become so commonplace that a chart called The American Brandstand Chart, has been created by a company that tracks the mentions of brands in music lyrics. The chart indicates the hierarchy and level of influence of the brands that have been mentioned in song lyrics. Inviting celebrities to be co-creators and partners in designing specific products. Japanese designer Samantha Thavasa adopted this strategy through her collaborative bag designs with Beyoncé, Penelope Cruz, Victoria Beckham, Maria Sharapova and Paris and Nicky Hilton. Louis
Vuitton also teamed up with American rapper and music producer Pharrel Williams to create a limited edition sunglasses line in 2005. Also non-luxury fashion brands like Dorothy Perkins have collaborated with stars Sienna Miller, Nicole Kidman, Sharon Osbourne and Charlotte Church to create a T-shirt collection in aid of breast cancer research.
• Naming products after celebrities, (with their approval of course). Gucci has the Jackie bag, named after Jackie Kennedy and Hermès has both the Kelly and Birkin bags named after actresses Grace Kelly and Jane Birkin. Tom Ford also named one of his newly launched eyewear after celebrated actress, Farrah Fawcett.
• Other creative cross-marketing methods such as Jimmy Choo's book Four Inches, which featured photos of several celebrities including Paris Hilton, wearing nothing but Jimmy Choo shoes. Also, Pamela Anderson posed as a nude mannequin at the window of Stella McCartney's London store. The two endorsements were aimed at promoting several social courses but also generated immense publicity for the brands in the process.
Celebrity endorsement entails that the personality and status of the celebrity as successful, wealthy, influential and distinctive are directly linked with the brand. Other personality attributes that the celebrity may have such as glamour, beauty, talent and style will also be ultimately linked with the brand. This factor however appears to be required less among luxury brands than consumer brands because luxury brands already have well-defined and strong brand personalities. The reality is that luxury brands need to define the connection between their brands and celebrities. This fact raises the question of the choice criteria of a celebrity for a luxury brand. How can the right celebrity be matched with the right brand in order to achieve the desired maximum impact and results? The following five rules of celebrity endorsement for luxury brands provide an indication of this.
Rule 1: Credibility The celebrity must be credible. This means that he/she must have a high level of expertise and talent in their field. These merits bring value to the brand and indicate the intent of the brand to be associated with the very best. Actors Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Nicole Kidman and Hilary Swank have star power because of their talent.
Rule 2: Global Appeal The celebrity must have global appeal. This means that the celebrity must not only be known worldwide but must also be appreciated and liked by the majority of the people in the consumer and fashion societies. Charlize Theron and Halle Berry are two actresses that satisfy this criterion effortlessly.
Rule 3: Personality The celebrity's personality must match the brand's personality. Several brands often wrongly choose a celebrity to endorse their brands based on their popularity and appeal. Although these attributes are important, it is essential to understand the significant role that a celebrity's personality brings to the brand. For example, a classic brand such as Hermès is most likely to give a clear brand message by using a celebrity who portrays the quality of 'classic chic' rather than one who exhibits non-conformism. In the case where luxury brands use a celebrity that portrays a different brand personality, it should be for a strategic purpose such as brand re-positioning, new product launch or brand extension. When the celebrity's personality matches that of the brand, the result is often an enhancement of the brand's image. For example, there is a definite match between Nicole Kidman and Chanel; and between Uma Thurman and Louis Vuitton and these celebrities brought a positive brand enhancement at the time of their endorsements of the luxury brands.
Rule 4: Uniform Power The celebrity must not overshadow the brand. This is particularly important for new and up and coming luxury brands. Several established luxury brands already have powerful brand personalities, making it a challenge for celebrities to outshine the brand. However other brands that are yet to ascertain a high level of brand strength have to be careful in choosing a celebrity whose strength doesn't surpass that of the brand.
Rule 5: Constancy The celebrity must have constancy and lasting appeal. This means that the celebrity should have sustainability and the knack to maintain their image and career accordingly. It is often based on how predictably successful a celebrity's career and role as a star is projected to be. This is quite similar to the sales forecast projections that companies make using previous and current cash-flows. Several stars that have been successful in their careers for decades might at the same time lack constancy and appeal, which cannot be ignored if they are to endorse a luxury brand.
Luxury brands that utilize celebrity support must also maintain high appeal through their product and service offerings even after the celebrity campaign is over. Celebrity endorsement facilitates an increased customer expectation level and this expectation must be constantly met and exceeded. Also, the use of celebrities to promote a brand shouldn't be a one-off strategy but should be revisited periodically.
Luxury brand managers constantly evaluate celebrities through unclear criteria. This is largely because this strategy has been viewed for a long time as one that doesn't require complex business decision grids. The increasingly sophisticated global business scene especially in the luxury fashion sector, however, calls for clear and structured decision criteria in managing the celebrity endorsement strategy. The closest evaluation measurement that exists today is The Davie-Brown Celebrity Index developed by Davie-Brown Entertainment and i-think Inc. This index evaluates the worth of celebrities through a systematic and controlled method that resembles financial brand valuation and forecasting. It aims to remove the ambiguity that surrounds celebrity appeal and acts as a guideline for celebrity choice in advertising.
Celebrity endorsement is not rosy at all times. Several risks are associated with this brand communications strategy; therefore luxury brands should meticulously evaluate all the inter-connecting elements related to this strategy. The following list covers some of the potential hazards involved in celebrity endorsement:
1 Celebrities can get into public controversies that might harm the brands they endorse.
2 The image of celebrities can be damaged as a result of professional or personal circumstances. This is automatically transferred to the brands they represent.
3 Celebrities can disappear from the spotlight of their careers even before the advertising campaign is over.
4 Celebrities can become over-exposed and lose their star appeal as a result of endorsing multiple brands in different categories. For example, Kate Moss has represented luxury brands Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel but also mass cosmetics brand Rimmel, which is sold in supermarkets.
As a model, Kate Moss is performing her professional duties by endorsing various brands but when her status transcends to that of a celebrity, then the luxury brands' image balance with her celebrity status should be checked.
5 Celebrities can also decide to change their image, which might sometimes be a contradicting image to the brands they currently endorse.
6 Celebrities can decide to intentionally damage a brand if they feel that the brand did not meet their (sometimes extraneous) demands or did not give them the star treatment they desired.
As earlier identified, a key aspect of celebrity endorsement is related to the issue of the over-exposure of celebrities who endorse multiple brands within a short time period. This is often found among celebrities that are in 'popular demand' at a particular time. The multiple brand endorsements could lead to an over-exposure of the luxury brand or an undermining of its brand perception. This is because consumers could associate the luxury brand with the overall package that the celebrity and the multiple endorsements represent. If the multiple brands that the celebrity represents constitutes of mass-market brands or 'low-value' brands in other product categories, the damage on the luxury brand's equity could be worse. For example, the talented musician Madonna has represented luxury brand Versace as well as mass-premium brand H&M. Do her multiple endorsements affect the brand equity of the luxury brands she represents? In the evaluation of these endorsements, it is important to understand whether the two brands and adverts address the same group of consumers. It is also essential to ascertain what impact Madonna's brand endorsements could have on the brand equity of the two brands and on Madonna's own personal brand as a celebrity.
Celebrities are getting wise to the branding leverage their star strengths and powerful appeal provide them and are also more inclined to use this in branching out in their careers. They now understand the importance and influence of personal branding and are exploiting and extending it to commercial branding. As a result, several celebrities have ventured into the fashion and accessories businesses and more are on the way. Examples include Jennifer Lopez, Sean Combs, 50 Cents, Eminem, Sadie Frost, Gwen Stefani, Pamela Anderson and Jessica Simpson who all have clothing or accessories brands. Others are Kylie Minogue who owns a lingerie brand, Victoria Beckham who recently began designing jeans and Elizabeth Hurley, who launched a swimwear brand in 2005. In addition, the list of celebrities that have launched perfumes named after them is steadily increasing including Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Celine Dion, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jordan, Naomi Campbell, Jessica Simpson, David and Victoria Beckham, Antonio Banderas, Donald Trump and Cindy Crawford, among many others.
The fashion business ventures of celebrities could also affect the brands they endorse in terms of image and competition. For example Sara Jessica Parker, who featured in the extensive global advertisements of Gap in 2005 was also the model in the advertisement for her own fragrance shortly afterwards. Also, Jennifer Lopez who appeared in Louis Vuitton advertisements in
2003/2004 (Figure 5.23) has also featured in the advertisement of her own branded fragrances before, during and after this period.
These product and brand launches result in an increased and steady source of revenue income for the celebrities and is also a way of increasing their visibility in the already cluttered celebrity market. However,
Figure 5.23 Jennifer Lopez for Louis Vuitton (2004). The celebrity has also appeared in several advertisements for her own branded fragrances before, during and after this advertisement
Figure 5.23 Jennifer Lopez for Louis Vuitton (2004). The celebrity has also appeared in several advertisements for her own branded fragrances before, during and after this advertisement being a celebrity doesn't mean an automatic success potential in fashion branding. The real issue is to apply effective business strategies required in the development, management and sustenance of a brand because relying on a celebrity name alone to uphold a business venture is the fast lane to business failure.
Endorsement of luxury fashion brands by celebrities is a strategy that undoubtedly has great importance in the luxury goods sector. Although the short-term results are difficult to accurately measure, if managed effectively, this strategy often yields long-term benefits such as increased brand loyalty and brand equity, which ultimately translate to higher sales turnover and brand value.
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