You’ve changed, man.
The three words nobody wants to say to, or hear from one of their closest friends. Whether it’s a new job, a new partner or just the passing of time, a sudden change in someone you have known and loved can leave you feeling distant and disorientated.
Humans only develop deep and intimate bonds through a sense of familiarity, which leads to trust. Without delineated and defined boundaries dictating what’s what, it’s very hard for us to feel like we’re standing on solid ground. Not only do we expect those around us to behave pretty much how we think they will, we actually rely on it – because it’s also how we define ourselves.
It’s no different when it comes to brands. So when Bob Dylan promotes Victoria’s Secret, or Samuel L. Jackson wears his jaunty beret and tells us to start playing poker online, we’re more than inclined to take a step back and reach for something solid. Because it falls outside of the prescribed set of values and behaviours that we have come to associate with the initial root of their celebrity – in Bob’s case as a figurehead for the US Civil Rights and Anti-war movements, in SLJ’s as a kickass mofo who would more likely punch the internet in the face rather than use it.
In these cases, celebrity endorsements are doing brands way more harm than good. An aggressive marketing campaign (including Jackson’s endorsement fee) contributed to heavy start-up costs that saw Bet365 cop a whopping $36.2 million dollar loss in their first year of operations.
Would their money have been better spent invested back into the brand’s product/service offering? In Bet365’s case, operating in an extremely crowded marketplace with very little product differentiation available, it’s a difficult question to answer. Generally speaking however, a brand’s core offering should take precedent over flamboyant celebrity-garnished bids for consumers’ attention, because people have eyes and brains that can see right through that sort of thing.
But most of the time, friends change for the better – in ways that reinforce their best characteristics, driving them forward and sometimes makes us like ‘em just a little bit better. Nike do an extremely effective job of snapping up the latest and greatest athletes of our time that continually reinforces their brand positioning as the best in the business. And closer to home, would we watch an ad about lamb if Sam Kekovich wasn’t in it?
There’s no formula, but there is a rule of thumb – does the celebrity reinforce and promote the core values and principles of your brand? Will the celebrity relationship foster stronger affinity and goodwill between your brand and your consumer? If not, you may just have to brace yourself to hear those uncomfortable three words.