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20 years

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Value vs. Values: Is There Anything We Should Know Before We Pay You A Gazillion Dollars?

A recent harvardbusiness.org article published by Bloomberg used the Tiger Woods fiasco to question the value of celebrity endorsements (http://bit.ly/6kzMMy).

Using celebrities to promote a brand, product or service has been a tried-and-true marketing strategy for decades. Celebrities have reveled in the publicity from image-building campaigns; in turn brands, products and services have harnessed the push-and-pull between celebrities and the public to drive awareness and increase sales. Everybody wins, right?

What has changed? As the article notes, increasingly the personal lives of many celebrities raise ethical dilemmas that - when made public - harm not only them, but the reputation of any associated brand. Skeletons in the celebrity closet are as old as the hills. But here's the not-so-new twist: there's no privacy any more. The explosion of the Internet in the past decade, and of social media in the last five years has taken care of that.

You might say that's "duh" obvious. Yet sometimes it takes a monumental crisis to get a message through. (PS: As we at CommCore Consulting Group like to ask, "Is your brand crisis plan up-to-date?") Just ask former Tiger sponsor Gillette (http://bit.ly/5aWD7Q). It was only a matter of time before a run-of-the-mill Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears-type embarrassment struck a truly global figure and marketing phenomenon of the stature of Tiger Woods. And now that it has, the question posed by harvardbusiness.org is a legitimate one - is the risk of human frailty being exposed worth the return? If this Paragon of Everything can crumble so quickly before our eyes dragging himself, his family and associated good brand names with him, then what chance does your standard everyday celebrity endorser have?

Perhaps, as the article suggests, it IS time to revert to marketing and messages that link customers directly with brands, products and services without the filter of a famous figure. In a time of increasing skepticism about institutions and leadership in general, maybe the best way to communicate a brand story and value proposition these days is simply to say what it'll do for you.

What do you think? Is the marketing and messaging slogan for the next decade going to be, "Ask Not What a Celebrity Can Do for Your Brand; Ask What Your Brand Can Do for Everybody Else?"

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