How Blockchain Integration will Affect Celebrity Marketing

Ormeus Coin (flickr)

Understanding this new technological tool is key to modernizing business practices and streamlining future celebrity marketing campaigns.

At this point, it is a matter of when not if blockchain fully integrates into the business world. Several companies are utilizing specialized blockchain software across several sectors, with many more to follow.

Blockchain is a repurposed function of Bitcoin algorithms that create an incorruptible network of transaction ledgers. Unlike databases in the past, blockchain does not have a central server that stores the information, allowing for increased security and broader access to the network of users. It was originally used as an approval measure for the sale of Bitcoins but can be extended to work for any transaction between two or more parties.

What effects will this have for celebrity marketers?

Marketers will have even More Control – Similar to the advent of social media, the integration of blockchain gives marketers almost full awareness of how their message is released. Because blockchain is an updating algorithm distributed to every participant, there is much less possibility outside factors can hijack the content. As Jared Dicker of Adweek puts it, “Blockchain-registered publications provide uncontestable records about a publication’s attribution and origins. It’s immutable. It’s the single source of truth.” The problem of accidental association like the YouTube “Ad-pocalypse” will be a thing of the past.

Single Service Agencies will become Extinct – Adapt or die is a rather cliché phrase, but it rings true with blockchain integration. One of its features is that it cuts out the need for a middle man as communication becomes instant and traceable. Without the diversification of services in an agency it will soon become unprofitable to be a single service. Not only will these firms need to compete with one-stop shop agencies but they will also have to deal with circumvention of their services by marketers who can accomplish the same task by analyzing blockchain data and incorporating it into their brand strategies. Consulting will not cease to exist, but it will be much more difficult for firms to sustain themselves unless they diversify their revenue streams.

Full Transparency will be the Cost of Business – It is no secret that transparency has become a major issue in the world of marketing and advertising. Some experts believe that blockchain integration will solve these problems by giving brands a publicly accessible ledger of business transactions that can prove any brand’s legitimacy. To be fair, the software can service private accounts, but its inability to be forged will ensure it cannot be used for corrupt purposes. With blockchain, consumers will demand that brands be authentic in their interactions and will have the tools to guarantee those demands.

Campaign Tracking will become Seamless – The ability for marketers to access a ledger of transactions and activations on a network will provide endless opportunities to track the success of their campaigns. The difficulty in corrupting blockchain data will provide marketers with a large and authentic collection of data to be used for future campaigns. Rather than relying on social media brands to collect relevant data, firms large and small can trust their own data streams for accurate consumer measurement.

photo credit: Ormeus Coin via (flickr)

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Influencer Marketing: Countering the Consistent Threat of Fake Followers

it's me neosiam (pexels)

Four easy steps you can utilize to choose the right influencer for your brand and maximize ROI.

It is hard to argue with the fact that marketing and advertising are going through hard times. Headlines with crises like the YouTube “Ad-pocalypse,” crackdowns from the FTC and the foolish actions of several online celebrities.

Several studies by different organizations found that several micro-level influencers could easily buy fake followers to boost their accounts and become noticed by brands. Social media brands are changing guidelines to combat this phenomenon, but it never hurts to be cautious.

So how do marketers beat this trend to insulate their brand integrity? Here are four steps your organization should take into consideration before partnering with an influencer:

  1. Evaluate Popularity/Cultural Relevance

Influencers don’t always have to be measured by the followers on their social media accounts. Taking a deep dive into other media appearances is always beneficial. If they are known for their fashion choices, did a local blog or publication feature them in an article or photo shoot?

Most influencers do not limit themselves to one social media account. If they truly wish to build a following they will expand into other mediums like blogs, vlogging, or merchandise lines. Any other sources of contact information are also great indicators that an influencer is legitimate.

Unless a marketer is targeting a micro-demographic, they will not usually need to employ influencers with under ten-thousand followers, but still makes an exhaustive research step important in the process.

  1. Invest in Analytical Tools

In response to the “Fake Follower Scandal,” several Search Engine Optimization programs emerged to help brand combat this threat. These programs use several criteria to verify the legitimacy of an influencer’s audience.

Programs like these can save a company a lot of time and money as well as the bad press that can come from a fraudulent partnership gone awry. More importantly though is the ROI implication. Marketers should always find the best methods available to protect their investments and quantify their choices.

Examples of these Analytical Tools are FollowerCheck, Upfluence, SocialDraft, Manage Flitter and Social Audit Pro.

  1. Measure the Growth Rate

How long has the influencer had their account? How often/how much do they post? How many engagements do they receive per post? Are they ever featured on the respective sites front pages? These are all good questions for marketers to ask when vetting an influencer.

An influencer who has posted less than one-hundred posts but has tens of thousands of followers is either a social media phobic celebrity or a fake influencer. Real followings take months if not years to develop.

Tools listed above have the capability to measure the growth rate of accounts to better assist marketers in their search. And to that end, large spikes are not a good thing. Growth graphs with straight lines are an indicator of shady activity.

  1. Tally the Engagement Rates

Do comments from the influencer’s community seem cookie cutter or uninspiring? If so, then you are probably dealing with bots. Follower buying sites are not exactly known for their creative writing skills and have a big problem with copy/paste.

If on the other hand, the community responds frequently with questions, inspiring comments, or even gets into arguments it is a good indicator of a healthy follower community.

photo credit: it’s me neosiam via (pexels)

The Monthly Report Card: April

Showcasing the best practices of the industry and providing feedback into how to best use celebrities or influencers to your brand’s advantage.

(1). BodyArmor – James Harden/Kristaps Porzingis/Mike Trout/Skylar Diggins

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Grade A+

One of the most talked about advertisements of the year so far was this pot-shot of a commercial directed by Kobe Bryant. Not only do they include world class athletes in their pitch, but they made their intentions clear by claiming that their competitor Gatorade should step aside. Consumers in the age of social media love to see intense competition between brands and this helps establish one. They also established credibility by having Bryant direct, which will help BodyArmor disrupt the energy drink market. This is a great example of matching the right celebrities to brand values and executing a relevant strategy.

 

(2). Under Armour – Will Finds a Way

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Grade: B+

This Under Armour ad features athletes like Zoe Zhang, Dennis Smith Jr, Natasha Hastings, and Teddy Riner. What makes it so special though is the underdog mentality established by the creative direction. CEO Kevin Plank has always held the opinion that Under Armour is the underdog of the sporting goods space, and a consistent brand message is always a good thing. Dwayne Johnson’s father figure persona is a great fit for this type of campaign, and he will continue to inspire the next generation of athletes and consumers.

 

(3). Solo – Denny’s

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Grade: B+

For a Denny’s ad, this was pleasantly surprising. There is a fine line between incorporating a movie-tie in well and not well at all (as will be discussed later), but the care that went into this spot is admirable. Rather than flaunt a new pancake with Chewbacca’s face on it, Denny’s decided to market directly to kids and feature an old-fashioned trading card promotion that matched the spots story. The sketch itself was filmed on the actual set of the movie and featured help from the movie’s production crew. Overall this was a well purposed and executed tie-in that drew clear line between the product and movie, maintained those roles, and leveraged the wonders of childhood.

 

(4). Foot Locker – LGP Qua

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Grade: A-

Foot Locker has to be commended for their ingenuity in this spot. Rather than partner with a well-known rapper like Kanye with Adidas or Big Sean with Puma, they sponsored and produced the first music video for the up and coming Philadelphia rapper LGP Qua. It is much different from most commercials in that is an actual music video, and the song was made completely independent from the brand, but the shoes and other features are planned tie-ins. The beneficial relationship between the two here is telling of how celebrity marketing should work. It is not predatory, not out of left field, but a well thought out collaboration and an artistic endeavor more than an effort to sell shoes. Maintaining authenticity to the customer is imperative, and now many will think of Foot Locker when buying shoes because they support the rap community.

 

(5). Hostelworld – Mariah Carey

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Grade: B-

A rather confusing choice for most people when first viewing, but the randomness of the sketch and the pairing was the point. Comedy always makes for the best advertisements and it reinforces the brand message wonderfully. However well the first half of the ad worked, he second half fell on its face. The joke was rather flimsy to begin with but dragging out the sketch into the dance party scene is guaranteed to lose interest from consumers. While this was a good example of how creative strategy can boost the advantage of a celebrity partnership, it is also an example of perhaps poor negotiating that locked them into producing a longer commercial.

 

(6). Nike – Welcome Back Tiger

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Grade: A

After a long hiatus from golf’s most beloved tournament, Tiger Woods made his return to the Masters in 2018. Nike took the opportunity to revisit the glory days of one of the greatest golfers of all time and its own personal journey with him. They took some flak for sticking with him after his misdeeds came to light, but now they can congratulate him on his recovery and redemption. The ad itself is a great nostalgia trip for any golf fan and a touching gesture between two parties. Feel-good advertisements always score well with consumers and this spot is no exception.

 

(7). Wix.com – Rhett & Link

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Grade: B+

While this partnership has been going on for a while, this is taking advantage of the newly released spot from April to discuss the partnership as a whole. Wix has been known for disrupting the GoDaddys and Squarespaces of the tech industry with their inexpensive services and user-friendly features. Now they are pushing hard for grassroots consumer loyalty with a massive campaign featuring several prominent YouTubers and internet personalities like Rhett & Link, iJustine, comedian James Veitch, Cord Hosenbeck (a bald Will Ferrell) and Karlie Kloss. The first pair is particularly genius for their relevance to the space. Their show, Good Mythical Morning is one of the top series on YouTube, lending to the spots credibility and reach. At times the sketches can get a bit ridiculous which takes off points, bu this is a match made in heaven.

 

(8). SodaStream – Hafthor Bjornsson

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Grade: C

A holdover from the influx of April Fool’s Pranks that brands attempted earlier in the month. This one catches attention for the comedic value of the partnership. While the prank itself was quite weak and did not make much sense, it was sure to make consumers laugh when seeing the “Strongest Man on Earth” in a tiny tub. This was a good choice by SodaStream, but the creative side of the spot was lacking. There were also many consumers that would recognize Hafthor from his role on Game of Thrones.

 

(9). Nike – Shoe Therapy/Lena Waithe

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Grade: B+

In contrast to the Tiger Woods spot above, Nike went for a more comedic angle to this campaign that features Lena Waithe from Masters of None and The Chi. The premise relaunches a concept from the 90’s that revolves around various celebrity/athlete’s “addiction” to their shoes that is discouraged by the “therapist” Waithe. Overall it is a lighthearted way to promote your brand and poke fun at the subculture of sneaker heads to encourage bonding. Partnering with Lena Waithe, who is a rising star in the entertainment world, was a solid choice and she plays the character convincingly.

 

(10). Avengers: Infinity War / GEICO, Quicken Loans, Infiniti

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Grade: D

While licensed character tie-ins can certainly be beneficial to celebrity marketing, these spots were poorly matched and executed. As explained in the Denny’s entry above, there has to be clear lines between the product and license as well as a proper explanation to the consumer why the partnership is taking place. When consumers need car insurance, will they be persuaded to go with GEICO because the gecko wants to be an Avenger? Of course not. They will be persuaded by lower prices and better service features that Progressive and Allstate commercials provide. Same goes for Quicken Loans. A woman walking through an Avengers battle scene being saved by Iron Man has absolutely nothing to do with a home mortgage. Infiniti’s spot can be forgiven in that it didn’t go over the top, and to be honest they couldn’t pass up on a movie called “Infinity War.” Regardless, brands should not license movie characters for the sake of looking cool, there needs to be a proper connection in place or consumers will just tune out.

Why Celebrity Marketing Should Embrace the Streaming Revolution

FirmBee (pixabay)

For a more effective digital marketing campaign, place ads on streaming platforms to get Millennial and Gen Z appeal.

In an evolving marketing industry, the effectiveness of certain advertising platforms is a a fiercely debated topic. The jury is still out on radio and TV, but digital marketing is taking over. However, video and music streaming services have quickly risen to dominate entertainment consumption by younger demographics, with platforms like Spotify, Twitch, Hulu, and Netflix seeing the most success.

For example, Spotify’s Initial Public Offering became one of the most anticipated and successful financial events of the decade. “Spotify’s current [market] cap of $26.4 billion makes it more valuable than CBS, Twitter, Snap, Sprint, Dish Network and Viacom. Spotify is the No. 1 global music streaming provider with an estimated 42% worldwide market share in 2016.” 

That 42% market share has given Spotify a total of 157 million active users from 65 countries. Research shoes that of those 157 million, 72% are Millennials or younger.

Twitch is a similarly successful case study and while not publicly traded is owned by Amazon. As mentioned in a previous blog on the topic, Twitch services 15 million daily users with millions of hours watched per year. Their audience is almost entirely millennials (over 70%) with younger generations catching up.

It almost seems cliche to imply that Netflix is a tech giant, so let us focus on the numbers. The platform now services almost 120 million people worldwide and reached new peaks by adding 8 million subscribers in the last fiscal quarter of 2017. Netflix currently does not host ads on their platform, but industry experts predict that it will eventually be integrated to support ads. Major advertisers are putting on pressure to make this happen and there is little doubt that Netflix can continue to pass on the large sum of estimated profits by doing so.

What makes these platforms so valuable for celebrity marketing is the potential for authenticity and fluidity in marketing execution. Many musicians, gamers and celebrities are already features on the platforms, so it makes sense to utilize them where their fan base is strongest.

A small but passionate audience can be more effective than a larger one. Streaming platforms give direct access to audiences with impressions nearly every second. It does not make sense to gamble all your budget on digital marketing with streaming platforms, but there is not better way to reach coveted younger demographics and take advantage of future trends in entertainment.

photo credit: FirmBee via (pixabay)

 

Five Keys to In-House Celebrity & Influencer Marketing

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There are significant benefits around using an in-house, trusted team to identify, negotiate, contract and service endorsement deals for celebrities and influencers.

Despite beneficial relationships that marketing agencies and corporate producers build every day, there is also a power struggle dictated by market trends and the effectiveness of campaigns. I have laid out before the benefits of partnering with a specialist agency. Some brands are moving their work in-house.

Managers face tough decisions, and some may consider moving operations in-house to cut costs and gain greater control over content. There is a lot to consider.

For reference, in this post the term celebrity also includes influencers.

Successful celebrity marketing takes a significant operation and constant collaboration. It might not be possible to satisfy necessary requirements with current resources, and an expansion of staff may be in order to maximize effectiveness.

When deciding who will lead and execute celebrity identification and contracting, consider five key areas:

1. Experience

Does your team have years of celebrity experience? In my agency, it takes 10-20 deals before an account service person with the most sophisticated training can independently lead a best-in-class celebrity campaign. Even then, pitfalls put deals at risk from lack of experience.

2. Networking

How deep is the team’s network with agents? Managers? Publicists? Many deals take weeks or months too long or fall apart because there are not strong relationships with Hollywood, sports and entertainment management teams. Credibility, trust and rapport take time to build and maintain.

3. Brainstorming

What process does the team have to move beyond white boarding and brainstorming? This is only the FIRST step in a process of considering all celebrity options. How can one hire a game changing celebrity if they are not identified up front? My agency created a nine-step process to identify celebrities who are the perfect fit, within budget and willing to participate in the campaign.

4. Speed

A celebrity deal takes on average two to four weeks to complete if executed well. Celebrity deals can be shorter or longer depending on how knowledgeable the team is and how quickly the agent who represents the celebrity in question works. Can your team devote hours over a number of weeks or more to execute? Should the team take its eye off core work to execute a deal from start to finish? Is it the best use of time? It may or may not be depending upon what is going on with the brand at the time.

5. Time

Multiple team members may be working on this. Do they have time to do their “day” job plus work on this and deliver the work that is expected? After 48 years plus executing successful celebrity campaigns and making every mistake in the book, we use a 25-step process which leads away from pitfalls and moves a brand through a successful, turn-key celebrity endorsement.

photo credit: Damon Duncan via (flickr)

 

April Fools Review: The Thin Line Between Success and Failure for Social Media Pranks

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How brands can successfully accomplish a festive brand promotion without drawing the ire of internet trolls or general backlash.

April Fool’s Day is always an entertaining day in the calendar to engage in fun jokes/pranks with friends, family and colleagues. Brands have become more involved over the years in these festivities with strategic promotions played off as pranks that are spread to consumers.

The practice lives mostly on social media, to control the spread of the message, rather than on more traditional channels.

However, with the saturation of case studies year after year consumers are becoming much more vigilant and unforgiving in their responses to these kinds of promotions.

Take this prank from White Castle promoting a new “whey protein” product. It was clearly meant to be light-hearted and fake, but it was lambasted for its shoddy production quality and random message.

Granted, this could have been a deliberate attempt to make use of a cheap pop culture term and go viral, but that signals a larger problem of vision and quality in marketing campaigns.

When pranks are pulled off correctly, they can be big boosters for a brand’s image, but marketers must be careful not to be perceived as out of touch with different subcultures on the internet. Studies showing the importance of the humor in advertising are often touted, but content that is one-dimensional will often fall on deaf ears.

On the contrary, a great example of a brand prank from April Fool’s Day was from a startup textbook rental company Chegg. They “introduced” a new energy drink called Chugg to help students get through their stressful finals season.

While it is not groundbreaking, it is a clever brand extension that is both humorous and relatable to their core clientele. The promotion does not attempt to co-opt a viral trend but rather speaks to the target demo directly while subtly showing the value of their own product.

A great example of a celebrity marketing hoax came from NBA star Anthony Davis in association with Red Bull. For the entirety of his career he was known for his uni-brow look that ran counter to traditional grooming culture. The week before April 1st, Davis posted a poll on his Twitter account asking his fans whether it was time for a change. The day of, he posted a video where he appeared to shave it off.

Yet, the next day he revealed it was all a hoax. Some may consider it cheesy, but the stunt garnered front page coverage on sites like ESPN, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, USA Today, and Sports Illustrated.

As I mentioned previously in my blog on the topic, April Fool’s Day promotions/pranks can be valuable given the proper circumstances and creative vision, but marketers must also be careful to properly gauge the pop culture environment and not overextend their efforts into content that consumers will not appreciate.

photo credit: Joseph Alessio via (dribble)

The Monthly Report Card: March

A new monthly series that will showcase the best practices of the industry and provide insight into how to best use celebrities or influencers to your brand’s advantage.

With a rather busy month of celebrity marketing news in March behind us, a new series is beginning on the Brand Agent Blog. Each month, I will grade the performance and creative aspects of the major celebrity/influencer partnerships that were announced and offer my take on how effective they were…or were not.

Here are some good, and not so good, examples of celebrity marketing in action:

(1). Isle of Dogs Movie – Bill Murray Dog Poem (SXSW)

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Grade: B+

Following the budding trend of colorful brand activations at the SXSW convention, Fox Searchlight used this poem as a clever extension of director Wes Anderson’s style by blending spoken word poetry (about a dog of course…) with a Bach accompaniment. Added bonus points for its cost effectiveness as Murray was already attending the event for the press junket.

 

(2). Tommy Hilfiger – Lewis Hamilton

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Grade: B

This is a good move for Hilfiger. Hamilton is Formula 1’s international superstar and perennial title contender; the perfect way for them to continue their longstanding association with the sport. Would be an A if not for Hamilton’s lack of reach into the US market.

 

(3). McDonald’s – W (International Women’s Day)

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Grade: A+

Not celebrity marketing per se, but Chief Diversity Officer Wendy Lewis deserves recognition for this one-off. What at first looked like a vandalism prank garnered more attention when it was discovered as a deliberate attempt to honor the women of the company. A very simple, but powerful and authentic statement in support of a noble cause. Well done.

 

(4). Apple – FKA Twigs & Spike Jonze Short Film

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Grade: B

As I mentioned in my blog post on the spot, this short-film is a great example of the innovative side of celebrity marketing. It is stunning to watch, but it is missing one major element, the product! A HomePod commercial should feature the product for more than three seconds when the music turns on. If you blinked wrong, you might not have even realized it was an Apple commercial!

 

(5). Burger King – Conor McGregor

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Grade: D

This just does not make much sense. It seems Burger King is trying to associate their brand with luxury and excellence, but it just came off as cheesy and unnecessary. Not a great fit between the two. Honestly, this does not seem the best response to falling behind in the Twitter wars with Wendy’s.

 

(6). Sonic – Ellie Kemper and Jane Krakowski

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Grade: C

This was clearly an attempt to shake up the rather stale lineup of comedians Grosz and Jagodowski (the two guys in a car), but they could not help but repeat the same formula. Attempting a shake-up but leaving your spokesmen in the spot seems like some sort of bad fan service. They deserve credit for landing a recognizable comedic duo, but a missed opportunity overall.

 

(7). Barbie – Role Models (International Women’s Day)

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Grade: A

Mattel has been facing backlash for years over the uniformity of their Barbie products, and this new Role Models line is proving they are stepping up to the challenge and embracing diversity. The lineup in particular is genius with figures like Chloe Kim, Patty Jenkins, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Amelia Earhart and Ashley Graham. Representation is key, and Mattel hit the nail on the head with this effort that will inspire the next generation of female leaders in any field.

 

(8). Dos Equis – Ditching “The Most Interesting Man in the World”

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Grade: D

Mixed feelings about this one. While the brand did see a decline ever since Jonathan Goldsmith retired his character and was replaced, you’d be hard pressed to find a consumer who doesn’t associate the brand with the famous campaign. It is understandable to want to go in a different direction but erasing the character from your channels is a step too far, major points off.

 

(9). Zumba – Meghan Trainor

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Grade: B

It is not secret that Megan Trainor has tailored her music to be rallying cries for females around the world. This is a great way to continue that identity by pairing with another icon in Zumba. While it is rather down the middle in terms of ambition (and why its not an A), it is a solid example of how the right celebrity can be a perfect fit with a brand’s values.

 

(10). Tourism Australia – Chris Hemsworth

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Grade: A

Kudos for keeping your foot on the gas Tourism Australia. This entry refers more to their ingenious Dundee: The Son of a Legend Returns spoof they pulled off during Super Bowl LII, but the agency is continuing their partnership with Hemsworth by releasing a series of digital videos. Not only did they pull off a perfect marketing hoax, but they incorporated nearly every A-lister associated with the Land Down Under with perfect casting for the campaign. Top marks all around.

 

What are your thoughts on these partnerships? I’d love to hear your opinions on Twitter at @bobwillia.