Young Olympians Can Teach Celebrity Marketers About Generation Z

Elena Vasileva (flickr)Now that the Olympic stars of the future have arrived, how can they improve marketers’ understanding of the next generation?

The Olympic Games are a unique event in human history, for they bring the world together through the pursuit of excellence and celebration of the human spirit.

These athletes have unprecedented reach and been used for decades in marketing campaigns to represent brands.

However, the Winter Games have been taken over by a new wave of young superstars like Chloe Kim, Red Gerard, Maame Biney, Vincent Zhou, and Nathan Chen. Not surprisingly, the successes of these athletes have almost been overshadowed by their personalities.

Here are two major lessons that these new Olympians can teach celebrity marketers.

The Myth of “Digital Obsession”

We have all heard the critics of Millennials and Gen Z lamenting that the social fabric is being ruined by rampant use of technology. These cliches have become rather toxic.

If there is anything that these athletes are proving, it is that this myth needs to die quickly. Celebrity marketers must meet Gen Z on their level, creating experiences and content that appeal to them.

Chloe Kim dominated the half pipe on her way to a near perfect score, gold medal, and national headlines. But many outlets reported instead that the tweeted her cravings while waiting for her next run.

That is unheard of in Olympic sport. Instead of folding under pressure, she tweeted and showed her composure, then went out and became the youngest gold medal winner in the history of the event.

It would be naive to suggest there was no danger associated with rampant obsession with technology, but celebrity marketers who understand that technology usage by younger generations is not to be feared will be in position to reap the rewards as it becomes embraced as the new normal.

Influencer Personality Doesn’t Have an Age Requirement

A common perception held by some marketing professionals is partnerships with younger influencers are much more volatile and not worth the risk. Young Olympians have already begun to buck this trend.

Simply by qualifying, athletes like Red Gerard, Maame Biney, and Chloe Kim were approached by top brands for sponsorship opportunities and they have been rewarded by their successes.

Generation Z should not be defined by traditional standards of maturity and the need to reach a certain threshold to be an effective influencer. These athletes are still teenagers by any measure.

However, it reinforces the emerging doctrine that influencers should be recruited for the experience they give consumers rather than relying on old endorsement standards.

A 17-year-old who wins a gold medal in a sport they live for, who willing tweets they are hungry for ice cream or chips to calm nerves can be just as impactful with consumers as a more expensive A-lister with less connection to the product.

Partnering with an Olympic athlete can be tricky since they aren’t in the public eye for long periods of time, but young athletes like those mentioned above are the future. Smart marketers and brand agents recognize, even if you do not partner directly with them, that the way these stars interact with the market should be adopted to succeed.

photo credit: Elena Vasileva via (flickr)

 

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What Celebrity Marketing Can Take from Subscription Box Brands

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In the same way that subscription boxes customize consumer experiences, celebrity marketing must similarly evolve to meet more needs.

Stereotypes of celebrity marketing took some time to change since the advent of social media. The days of the traditional celebrity holding up a product for a camera seem to be long over, as consumers demand new types of interactions with marketing content.

As Jazmin Garcia de Leon of Brandingmag describes it, consumers “are more creative, ambitious, and informed than ever. They are skeptical and savvy about branding and marketing, and they own technology that even enables them to be the producers, promoters, marketers, and event merchants of their own media and product.”

Subscription box brands are a great example of this new consumer mentality. They serve both as a service and a marketing tool, as the possibilities for any combination of licensed products is endless.

Since this form of service receives such glowing praise from consumers and marketers alike, naturally it is important to adopt their best practices. Here are three things that celebrity marketers can learn from subscription box brands.

1. Customization is Key

Consumers want what they want, this is nothing new, but the new breed of consumers require the chance to cater a product they love to their individual needs. The trick for a marketer is maintaining the balance of customizability and relevance to the marketplace as a whole.

Box brands like Birchbox are known for their underlying service for providing five make-up products monthly at affordable prices. Yet they also give subscribers the chance to tailor their box around a specific need for the month, centered around different categories.

This level of customization is not brand breaking or even market restricting, but it is a cost-effective way of using the product to sell the service.

2. Keep Things Exciting but Never Predictable

Often it is difficult to keep entire audiences enthusiastic about the message you are communicating. After all, there are only so many ways to promote a product with a celebrity, right? Not so fast. Subscription boxes create hype around their products by blending the product with what Lucy Whitehouse of Cosmetics Design-Europe calls the “OMG I Got a Present” Theory.

Establishing your brand as one to surprise their consumers by connecting directly is a great way to to do this. Say for example a consumer orders your product online, why not have your celebrity influencer deliver it to them personally or have them add in their personal touch to the order?

3. Focus on Building Communities

Box brands are best known for their ability to create fandoms or communities around their products. Several of them boast high engagement from consumers who look forward to the monthly surprise and share their hauls with the world.

Monthly boxes also have the chance to accomplish CSR goals as well. A pair of women in Naperville, Illinois created their own subscription boxes stuffed with inspiration items for girls to build self-worth in the surrounding community, instantly sparking a media sensation.

The sooner marketers can utilize influencers to enact these lessons, the better for their product in the long run.

The culmination of personalized marketing is the formation of a community following and subscription boxes teach marketers that goals never have to be pursued on-by-one, but can be combined into one product that the right celebrity influencer can deliver for consumers.

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How Pop-Up Shops Can Supplement Celebrity Marketing

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Building buzz with quick events can significantly increase the effectiveness of traditional marketing partnerships.

Over the past few years, brands have decided to experiment with their budgets on newer ways to reach consumers than the traditional media channels. The concept of pop-up shops has inspired a new wave of experimental marketing that has produced promising trends.

A pop-up shop is a temporary branded store or location that can serve any function that the marketer desires. Some choose to simply hand out a product, others decide to use it to give customers one-of-a-kind experiences.

For example, in August of 2017 Amazon set up a pop-up shop in the heart of London named the “Home of Black Friday,” which showcased massive deals and featured brand themed decor. It generated a lot of press from international outlets and helped expand Amazon’s overseas presence in Europe.

Pop-up marketing is so valuable because it has no limits. Brands from tourism to fashion can utilize the medium to create buzz. It is a great way to accomplish guerrilla marketing tactics without the limitations of long term real estate.

More importantly, this type of activation is the perfect pairing for a celebrity influencer partnership. Through the combination of promotion on social media and in person, a pop-up shop can reach vast new audiences and personalize the customer’s experience to build rapport.

In my time at Burns Entertainment, we have overseen several deals that included celebrities and pop-up shops.

The launch of LG QuadWash in 2017 had a pop-up shop and an appearance from Rachel Zoe and her husband Rod Berman. Rather than simply gaining exposure from a launch with corporate executives, the press got to document an influencer couple showing how valuable the product can be to its intended audience.

Another shop we organized was the St. Ives Mixing Bar in New York city’s Soho neighborhood. The shop gave customers the opportunity to customize skin care product to their individual needs and also the chance to meet Lili Reinhart from the hit show Riverdale.

Pop-up marketing is a great way to diversify your brand’s message and interact with your customer base. It can either be your go-to tactic or a last-minute option to solve a problem. Pairing them with celebrity influencers provides a low-cost alternative to a syndicated commercial partnership and can accomplish goals quickly. The possibilities are endless with pop-up shops and they will only continue to evolve over the coming years.

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Using Landmarks to Personalize Celebrity Marketing

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Integrating real-world activations into a celebrity marketing campaign can greatly increase engagement, publicity, and exposure.

Sometimes social media marketing can become kind of stale.

Trends come and go and endorsements remain the same still photo related content. So rather than follow the same formula, why not step outside for inspiration?

Beyond the fleeting trends of social media and meme culture there is an underlying truth that exists, users react the most to content they can relate to. Brands that have understood this phenomenon have become the faces of innovation in the industry and have gained exposure for their efforts.

Consumers desire marketing that relates directly to their daily lives, not the traditional glamorous posts that put celebrities out of their reach. What better way is there to fill this desire than to evolve your social media strategies to include the real world outside the studio?

By producing content that includes features like landmarks, scavenger hunts, or pop up shops, marketers can shape their brand’s relatability with consumers who come to associate the product with their daily commutes, favorite locations, or go-to restaurant. This more in-depth level of recognition not only increases engagement on social platforms, but binds consumers to the brand’s message.

Shaquille O’Neal is a great example of this strategy. He was the king of “scavenger hunt” Twitter culture a few years back. He became famous for his tweets that hinted at the location of a giveaway item or where he would appear at a certain point in the day. It sent fans and media into a frenzy that would draw large crowds at each location.

LG is another example of a company who integrated landmarks and icons into their marketing strategy. In 2012, LG began marketing their new line of smartphones by putting free samples in secret locations and tweeting clues on their specialized page. The events greatly increased fan engagement, became a trending topic online and were included in the local media in New York and London for days afterwards.

The purpose of celebrity marketing is to utilize influencers to become an extension of your brand’s personality and reach their fan demographics. Changing up your social media content with immersion can do wonders for a stagnating brand message and even encourage more celebrities to contribute to the newfound culture of consumer relatability.

photo credit: Gabriel Peter via pexels.com

Part II: Navigating the Pitfalls of Celebrity Influencer Marketing

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Safeguarding your message and having a clear contingency plan can save countless headaches and campaigns.

As in Part I, brands must evolve to have a conscious grasp on the content their consumers want to enjoy. Approaching a partnership from the perspective of the desired audience lends to the authenticity and relatability of the brand.

However, marketers must also keep the worst case scenario in mind, and have a clearly defined plan of action to protect your brand’s assets. Here are two more ways that marketers can avoid the dangers of influencer marketing.

3. Stay in Control of Your Message

Most important for marketers when dealing with celebrity influencers is to remember to maintain control whenever possible. Crises are always hard to accurately predict, but sometimes it may be wiser to turn down a partnership with a slam-dunk influencer that has the potential to rob your brand of its consumer credibility.

No matter how many precautions you take in selecting an influencer, there is always the possibility that a partnership could backfire should a scandal arise. In a scenario such as this, there are questions to be asked:

First, is the character of the influencer damaged enough to damage the brand immediately?

Second, would a continued association be a hindrance to the brand’s message?

Third, has the influencer alienated the desired demographics?

Ending a partnership in the right circumstances has the potential to place you in the good graces of society for taking action. Yet, it could also alienate your consumers should you detach at the wrong time.

Other marketers advocate for a neutral stance on an influencer’s actions and maintaining a partnership throughout a scandal, believing that they will always be valuable for their exposure. Effectively avoiding catastrophe requires a clear crisis management plan that values your brand message ahead of any other factor, and a proactive stance to take the appropriate action.

4. Beef Up Your Brand’s Personality

The amount of access afforded to brands by social media has created a culture of flashy postings like ‘Twitter wars‘ that come to define how a brand is perceived. Utilizing this resource can be a preemptive resource to protect your message from being harmed by an emergency situation.

By infusing comedy or compassion into your brand’s interactions with consumers, you can begin to construct your ideal position in popular culture. In the midst of a public relations crisis, having a brand personality reserves credibility in the minds of consumers and has the potential to alienate the influencer’s bad behavior from your brand values.

Marketers must be aware how much to push the envelope in the content they release,  a topic for another day. Staying proactive is essential in the digital realm and will remove the ability for influencers to hijack your brands message should a crisis arise.

photo credit: Valentin via pexels.com

Part I: Navigating the Pitfalls of Celebrity Influencer Marketing

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When partnering your brand with a celebrity influencer, knowing the proper ways to safeguard your message can be the difference between success and disaster.

As more and more brands decide to utilize digital influencers to reach untapped demographics of consumers, there inevitably comes a time when controversy sours the phenomenon. It is not secret that influencers sometimes create scandalous firestorms, and more recently a few have made national headline news.

With so many brands becoming hesitant to entrust their image to a potential liability, there is massive opportunity for those who know how to properly position their brand to capitalize. Parts I and II of this post will each highlight two ways marketers can avoid the dangers of influencer marketing.

1. Represent Your Audience

It is simply not enough in the current marketing climate to merely know the audience you are trying to reach with your product. To stay on the cutting edge, marketers must now be able to provide their consumers with the content they desire. This means that your brand message must be excessively tailored to fulfill your established values.

Approach the search for an influencer from the mind of who you are selling to. If you are targeting young professionals, identify the trends in that age group and select influencers who represent those trends.

When searching for an influencer to partner with your brand, seeking relevance should be as important as influence. Rather than chasing the individual that will gain you the most exposure, marketers should turn to those that have engaged followers that will boos the influencer to consumer relationship.

The logic is simple, reaching many small influencers who have a hardcore fan-base can be much more effective than a larger influencer whose fans may not care about endorsed products, which can greatly increase the efficiency of campaigns.

2. Aim for Authenticity and Transparency

Another pitfall of influencer marketing lies in the product’s connection to consumers. Leaving an impression is certainly important, but shock value or even viral status does not last forever.

A lack of connection to a product has been the downfall of many campaigns, leading marketers to favor advocacy over influence. Advocacy differs from influence in that the talent encourages conversation about the product and requires active participation from both marketers and influencers who desire to equally benefit over a longer period of time rather than a simple one-time transaction.

Shallow partnerships have plagued the industry and have left some consumers feeling disillusioned. Marketers can short this by finding influencers that may already use their product or have a glaring need that can be filled, but it is important to keep the relationship two-sided.

Keeping a brand’s message authentic does not necessarily have to be affected by fears of overexposure either. Provided that influencers are clearly passionate about producing content with the product or service and bringing it into their lives or professions, consumers will connect with the brand message and adopt it for themselves.

To ensure that their message remains authentic, marketers should only partner with influencers who are willing to format their content to fit the needs of the brand. Close coordination is essential to tailor the tone properly and safeguard the inevitability of mistakes in a campaign’s execution.

A well-crafted brand identity will come to directly represent the values that their customers hold, which produces brand loyalty and guarantees future sales.

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Esports Fans Crave Celebrity Marketing Through Social Media

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Combining trends of rising social media usage and esports viewership can lead to significant future growth from any brand partnership.

Esports have grown out of its trendy status and are here to stay. What many thought would be a fad has now grown into a worldwide phenomenon and is challenging conventional entertainment giants.

The largest global esports event, The Dota 2 International Championship, was viewed by 40 million people with as many as two million watching at one point. The entire tournament drew 92 million viewers with over 509 million hours of video consumed.

The League of Legends World Championship brought in even larger crowds than Dota’s with a total of almost 58 million viewers, a yearly growth of 34%. The semi-finals drew a total of 80 million unique people watching concurrently. The parent company, Riot Games, boasts that their events feature professionals from 28 different countries, its global audience consuming over 1.2 billion hours of content.

If these events continue to grow at their current rates, it will only be a matter of time before they surpass the Super Bowl, which reaches over 110 million unique viewers.

Similarly, worldwide social media usage has been rising exponentially, with an estimate two-and-a-half billion global users. Users within the 16-34 age demographic spend an average of 3.21% of their day watching social media video like esports. The average age of a US esports viewer lies within the 25-34 age group, making up almost 40% of the total audience. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have begun their scramble to be included in the esports market.

However, it is important to reach these consumers exclusively on social media. Companies like ESPN and NBC are trying to bring esports to television audiences, but esports ratings clearly point to fans’ desire to keep content in the digital sphere. Brands can capitalize on this by seizing the opportunity to advertise on Facebook, Twitter, and Twitch or even partnering with well-known esports professionals like Lee “Faker” Sang-hyoek, Soren Bjerg, and Yiliang Peng.

Take for example Gillette’s move to announce professional esports gamer xPeke as its Global Brand Ambassador. The Spanish celebrity was featured in first-of-its-kind commercials with esports highlights to promote the partnership and it spread all over YouTube. Gillette also collaborated xPeke with their international superstar partner Neymar Jr. leading to increased exposure for him and esports in general.

Another company, HyperX, decided to endorse a crossover athlete, NBA player Gordon Hayward. This apparel deal showed the early connection between esports and traditional celebrities, with Hayward agreeing to only wear HyperX headsets and appear in campaigns for the brand that is popular with gamers.

Celebrity marketing continues to evolve with the integration of esports into the entertainment sphere. Brands can now reach a sizable market of international consumers through a partnership with talent from prominent esports leagues. Getting in on the action at this point will put brands in a prime position to reap the benefits of larger audiences going forward.

photo credit: nullienphotography via flickr.com