Part II: 6 Digital Celebrities That Can Boost Your Brand Quickly Via Celebrity Marketing

When determining effective talent for a brand campaign, it’s crucial to review their overall relevance and likability.

As mentioned in Part I, as the industry continuously leans towards a niche approach, it’s important to realize that digital talent engages younger audiences in a way that lets a brand resonate in a uniquely relatable way.

Arguably the truest way a brand can resonate with an audience is through their funny bone.

While traditional ad campaigns thrive off planned ‘tongue-in-cheek’ and slapstick humor, digital celebrities produce impromptu comedy that is immediate and personal.

Here are the final three influencers from the 2016 Variety Magazine study that particularly use comedy to enhance their YouTube clout:

  • PewDiePie: Since August of 2013, Felix Kjellberg (PewDiePie), has been the most followed YouTube account, only being surpassed once by YouTube’s Spotlight channel. The Swedish video game vlogger begins his videos with a high pitch, goofy voice making it seem as if every viewer is a close friend. His praise comes from the fact that he is genuine and unfiltered, which also drives controversy to his brand. While he may not always say the “right thing”, this vlogger speaks his mind on such an immensely influential platform, making him stand out as a truly new form of an artist.
  • Grace Helbig: This YouTuber has been an influential content creator since 2007 when she began YouTubing with her college roommate. Since then, Helbig has expanded her brand to podcasts, film, books, and television, where she created and starred in her own E! Network talk show. Marriott booked Helbig for a 2015 digital campaign for the brand’s direct booking service, calling for brand followers to “be more direct”. Helbig’s zany comedy chops offer an approach to viral storytelling that has an immediate appeal to young women.
  • King Bach : Andrew B. Bachelor, better known for his web alias King Bach, is most popular for his comedic Vine channel. Since the app’s downfall, Bach has transitioned from the 6-second platform to the big screen, stretching his 15.7 million fan base to multiple platforms. Bach uses parody to his advantage, having played Big Sean, Tupac Shakur, and Pharrell Williams in his short spoofs. Using these well known pop culture icons has allowed Bach to leverage his brand to unforeseeable levels. Bach has been used for several social media brand plugs, providing companies eyeballs that are increasingly difficult to reach via traditional means.

Comedy may not always be the answer for certain brands, but when trying to be direct with a young audience, it certainly presents itself as a viable option.

An authentic message is key, especially for Gen Z brand skeptics. Luckily for brands in the digital landscape, these six individuals are speaking their language.

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Part I: 6 Digital Celebrities That Can Boost Your Brand Quickly Via Celebrity Marketing

With the niche approach that digital influencers bring to their global platform, it is clear that the definition of “mainstream celebrity” has changed.

Especially for millennials and Gen Zers.

Variety Magazine conducted a side by side study that compared the positive Q-scores of top traditional and digital stars, a score that utilizes celebrity familiarity to further show respondent’s “favorite personalities”. Unfortunately, among all respondents, digital influencers still continue to be no match in the awareness category to upper echelon Hollywood starlets.

For digital influencers, overall awareness does not have to be an immediate goal. What matters most is the segment that they resonate with the most: age groups 6-12, 9-14, and 13-24 year olds. The non-traditional content that digital influencers produce attracts these young media message skeptics, plain and simple.

This group had an appeal to their youngest viewers that their overall Q-score doesn’t exactly reflect. What is clear by the Q-scores, is that those that are familiar with these digital influencers also consider them to be their favorite personalities and for many of these top influencers, they are equal to some well-known traditional celebrities. There are several digital celebrities that are finally reaching the same positive feedback as critically acclaimed actors such as Brie Larson and Jeremy Renner.

Unfortunately, a truly precise way to measure the effectiveness of digital influencer brand interaction is still in its infancy. As the industry climate shifted away from a traditional approach, we took a deeper look at the influencers that paved the way as a new breed of celebrity.

Based on the Variety Magazine study, here is a current list of 2016’s top six digital influencers who continue to use YouTube to leverage their brand image across multiple channels:

  • Pentatonix: This five-member a cappella got their break on NBC’s The Sing-Off, which awarded them a recording deal with Sony Music. The group has amassed 12.8 million YouTube subscribers by covering iconic songs and adding their own unique flare that appeals to a younger audience. Riding off their victory at this year’s Grammys, Pentatonix is one of the most desired influencer groups for brands that want to portray youth and vibrance.
  • Ryan Higa: This 26 year old comedian began his career as lip-synching YouTuber in high school. After experiencing difficulty with copyright issues, Higa has been able to transform his brand, owning an impressive 19 million YouTube subscribers. Now Higa spends most of his time in the parody K-pop band Boys Generally Asian, a group headlined by YouTube’s five most influential Asian YouTubers. 
  • Bethany Mota: This lifestyle vlogger loves to show off her fashion purchases and has been doing so via YouTube since she was just 19. Since then, Mota has started her own perfume and clothing line at Aeropostale, essentially saving the brand from extinction. Recently Mota broke the coveted 10 million subscriber threshold, unconventionally positioning her as a dominant force in the fashion market.

Please stay tuned for influencers 4-6, as these three have a knack for comedy that allows users to feel heightened connection to the content they create.

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Resources for Celebrity Marketing: Part Two


Confirm your “gut instincts” with quantitative data from those who matter most.

As mentioned in Part One, the process of choosing a celebrity for a marketing campaign is not simple. The Burns Celebrity Vault allows us to put together a list of viable celebrities, but once this list is created, we need a way to determine which celebrity may be best for a marketing campaign. In doing so, we can help to make sure the heavy price tag does not get wasted on someone who is relatively unfavorable or disliked.

An E-Score is a way to measure the relative marketing effectiveness of an individual celebrity. Essentially, this score allows us to determine how marketable a celebrity may be based on how he/she is viewed by the general public. Each celebrity is given a number based on their appeal, awareness and up to 46 different attributes. In using this number, we are able to compare a list of celebrities and see which is the most marketable.

First, a celebrity is measured based on their awareness. This is first divided between male, female and both, which allows you to see the difference in awareness based on gender. This could be extremely important if your campaign is directed towards a specific group of people.

Awareness is then further broken down into name, face and total. So for example, if you want to know how many males recognize Justin Bieber based solely on his face, E-Score can give you an exact percentage.

The second factor taken to account when calculating an E-Score is appeal, or how the respondent generally feels about the celebrity. This is broken down into six categories: like a lot, like, like somewhat, dislike somewhat, dislike and dislike a lot. Similarly to awareness, these are further broken down by name, face and total.

Through an algorithm, the awareness and appeal scores are weighted and then set against other celebrities to create the E-Score. In this way, the E-Score works like a percentage. If a celebrity has an E-Score of 98, they are in the 98th percentile.

E-Score also factors in attributes for each celebrity. Each respondent is given 46 different attributes and asked to choose any that relate to the celebrity in question. From there, we are able to get a better, more specific picture of how the celebrity is viewed.

For example, Taylor Swift’s top five attributes are talented, attractive, stylish, over-exposed and beautiful. Each attribute is given as a percentage to tell us how many respondents felt the celebrity possessed that attribute.

E-Scores should be used for two purposes: to confirm your formal list of viable celebrities and to guarantee your first choice will be agreeable to an audience and good to promote your brand. E-Score is a guideline to determine how people relate to the celebrity and whether or not this aligns with what your brand is trying to accomplish with the campaign.

While E-Scores can be extremely helpful, they are limited if you miss identifying ALL the potential celebrities within your budget. In many cases, a celebrity with a slightly lower score may be a better fit with your brand than one with an extremely high score. Just because a celebrity has a lower awareness or appeal does not necessarily mean they would be the wrong choice.

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Celebrity Marketing and Music’s Biggest Night: What the Oscars Can Learn from the Grammys


A clear message and a celebrity might not be enough.

Though its ambitions may look more like the Super Bowl, the Oscars would be foolish not to learn from the successes and failures of its fellow award show titan, the Grammys. The show featured some of the most groundbreaking ad campaigns ever aired, and though some may have polarized the public, they left a lasting impression on the 25 million viewers.

After singer David Bowie passed away on January 10th, Lady Gaga teamed up with Intel to celebrate, not only the life of the legendary singer, but also the power of music as it entwines with the potential of technology. Her performance was considered a highlight of the show for many people, but having an Intel ad immediately following it drew criticism for capitalizing on a tragedy. Controversy aside, the campaign’s powerful message won it widespread attention, and with over 56 million followers on Twitter, Lady Gaga appears to have been the perfect partner.

Target took an even bigger gamble when they also sponsored a unique performance with a blonde pop star. To promote her latest single, Gwen Stefani appeared in an unprecedented four minute commercial in which she filmed her music video live. The entire campaign reportedly cost Target $12 million dollars, forcing the question of why they chose her for such a massive event. It has been ten years since she has released a hit single, and initial forecasts for her current effort do not appear very promising. With her Target-exclusive album due in March, only time will tell if the gamble pays off.

Sometimes, it is best to let the message take the foreground. In a collaborative new campaign titled “Music Makes it Home,” Apple and Sonos sought to inspire people with testimonials from the lead performers of St. Vincent, the National, and Run the Jewels. The ad did everything it needed to and nothing more, proving that simplicity often rings the loudest.

With music taking a supporting role to the stars of the big screen on February 28th, it will be fascinating to see which brands take advantage of the opportunity. Hyundai and Coca-Cola, former centerpieces of the Oscars’ commercial breaks, have both decided to sit out on the show this year, but even still the ads are sold out. With each 30-second spot costing nearly $2 million and 62% of viewers being women, the mission for those participating is clear. With a defined message and a relevant celebrity to get it across, the commercials themselves can feel like part of the show.

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Celebrity Marketing: How Much Should You Pay a Celebrity?

Fair Market Value

Fair market value for celebrity endorsement is like the weather: it will be different tomorrow than today.

It would be great if you could research the price of celebrity endorsements online. For example, Celebrity Endorsement Ads is a great resource of endorsement deals in the entertainment world.

With this type of online research, you can often find some pricing information but it will lack important details such as a varying list of services and usages.

Unfortunately, the detailed information is guarded by agents.

Understanding the nuances of fair market value enables you to make the right offer which is a win for both your brand and the celebrity. An offer that is high enough not to embarrass the celebrity, yet low enough not to wildly overpay.

Here are five things you should know:

1. Agent’s Perception of Fair Market Value

Agents have the most access to celebrity endorsement contract information and pool it to use against brands in negotiations.

2. Celebrity’s Perception of Fair Market Value

A celebrity’s perception of their market value is based on what they’ve been paid for similar endorsements in the past, but can be more emotional. Their self-worth rises or falls based on their future career opportunities, personal finances, ego as well as what they’ve been paid for similar endorsements.

3. A Brand’s Perception of Fair Market Value

Brands often lack the necessary information to negotiate a fair endorsement contract. Naively, they will make a ludicrous low-ball offer which could backfire and greatly increase their cost. To get their celebrity of choice, they may even initially offer their entire marketing budget.

4. Brand Categories Pay Different Prices

Categories which are heavy users of celebrity endorsers pay more. Why? An agent’s nightmare is to reach an agreement, but then receive another offer that is much higher before the original deal is finalized.

Agents hold out for more services and money because of supply and demand. Less celebrities available for brands drives up the cost of endorsement contracts.

5. Over Paying Brands Skew Fair Market Value

I was meeting with one of the largest food companies in the world on a celebrity project when they announced the signing of a high profile golf celebrity. I asked them, how did you decide what to pay? The answer blew me away. Their budget was $800,000 so they decided to offer it all. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t have enough information to know that they could have easily gotten the deal for almost half that price.

So, the asking price for the next endorsement deal just became $300,000 more than it should be.This is how fair market value gets skewed.

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Make Celebrity Marketing Affordable by Using Twitter

Celebrity Marketing with Twitter

A Twitter-only campaign is a cost effective way to associate your brand with a celebrity and reach thousands of engaged consumers.

Compared to buying digital or televised ad time, a paid tweet campaign carries a relatively low cost and reaches your target audience through a credible, third-party celebrity endorsement.

Here are six tips to reduce and control the costs of a Twitter campaign:

1. Hire a Celebrity with Highly Engaged Followers

Quality over quantity.

Some celebrities might have a smaller Twitter following (maybe only 80,000-150,000, which for some brands may seem low). However, if their followers are active and engaged with the celebrity, it can make for a more meaningful campaign, as opposed to using a celebrity that has over a million followers who are not as actively engaged.

2. Twitter Account Activity Guides the Celebrity Selection

You want a celebrity who is an active Twitter user and someone who has posted recently.

If a celebrity is inactive, their followers won’t be as engaged and most will likely miss a branded tweet.

3. Connecting to Your Brand

Select a celebrity who strongly appeals to your target audience. This will ensure credibility and will greatly increase their connection with your brand.

It is crucial to the campaign’s success that the tweet(s) are believable.

Example: You wouldn’t want a teenage pop singer posting about car tires, but you absolutely would want them posting about a new brand of clothing or maybe a teenage safe driving campaign.

There are various resources such as E-Scores that measure data and provide analytics on the potential reach and appeal a celebrity may hold amongst multiple demographic.

4. Determine the Number of Tweets

Once you choose the celebrity, determine how many tweets you want posted.

Keep in mind, a limited amount of tweets not only keeps cost down but actually increases the likelihood a celebrity will agree to participate.

Bundling multiple tweets (wrapping 2 or 3 together over a period of time) often creates a per tweet cost savings (i.e. one tweet might cost $5,000, but you could possibly get 3 tweets for $12,000).

Any more than 2-3 tweets is usually less attractive to celebrities as it becomes more like a spokesperson campaign.

5. Don’t Require Exclusivity

Most of the time, celebrities will not agree to exclusivity for Twitter-only campaigns because they don’t want to eliminate a potential product category down the road.

One of the real benefits of a Twitter-only campaign is taking advantage of the cost efficient opportunity to work with a celebrity that might normally be out of your budget range. Asking for exclusivity will drive your cost up significantly, eliminating any of those savings.

While it is not illegal for your nonexclusive celebrity to tweet about a competitor brand shortly after your campaign, it is however very unlikely.

6. Tweet Content

Crafting the Tweet(s) is the most important part of the campaign.

The key is to write it with the celebrity’s authentic voice in mind. This is harder than it seems so allow additional time for editing and input from the celebrity and/or the celebrity’s team.

Also remember the FTC guidelines: If a celebrity is accepting payment for the Tweet(s) they must include #ad or #sponsored at the end of each and every paid Tweet.

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4 Brand Building Benefits of Celebrity Marketing

Consumers are more likely to choose goods and services endorsed by celebrities, than those without such endorsements.

The use of product endorsers in American advertising dates back over a century, to 1870. In 1905, the cigarette industry was the first to use entertainment personalities, when Murad Cigarettes hired Fatty Arbuckle and Harry Bulger to appear in their ads.

The modern era of celebrity endorsement can be traced to 1934, when Wheaties signed Lou Gehrig as their spokesman, beginning the brand’s storied tradition of featuring athletes.

Today, the use of recognized personalities to sell brands has become an increased component of marketing communications, with approximately 20% of all television commercials now feature a famous person.

Practical sales-based evidence along with numerous commercial and academic studies demonstrate that celebrity-based advertising works:

  • Snoop Dogg’s $100 million 1-year positive impact on Tommy Hilfiger apparel
  • “Glow By J. Lo”, which generated $44 million in the first 4 months
  • Kirstie Alley drives up sales 120% over 18 months while losing 75 lbs. on Jenny Craig
  • Jamie Lee Curtis increased sales 50% year one and became synonymous with Activia

The four most important brand-building benefits of celebrity-based marketing are: instant credibility, ready-made likeability, easy-to-grasp product differentiation, and allows brands to cut through the clutter of advertising messages.

1. Credibility

A key to maximizing celebrity endorsements, is properly matching the endorser’s persona to the product’s attributes.

A trustworthy and well-liked celebrity, when matched to the right product (where the celebrity’s use of the product is believable), provides a powerful reason to believe claims made by the advertising (e.g., Jeff Gordon’s use of Quaker State Motor Oil).

In general, consumers are more likely to believe that an endorsed product is of higher quality than a parity item that is not endorsed.

2. Likeability

Purchase of the endorsed product allows the end-user/buyer to share the celebrity’s positive experience. This can have a dramatic effect with lower-priced items.

3. Product Differentiation

Well-known celebrities with high positive consumer ratings can act to coalesce the market around a particular product or brand (e.g., Michael Jordan’s impact for Nike, ESPN, Gatorade, etc.). This allows the execution of copy platforms with a “universal” appeal, thus reducing the need for message variations specific to the more parochial concerns of individual consumer groups.

4. Cut-through

Brand images built through celebrities achieve a higher degree of attention and recall for consumers. Famous people are significantly more likely to hold the viewer’s attention, and an especially important benefit in the current environment of channel-surfing and mass delivery of messages that demand consumers’ time.  

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