Viral Celebrity Marketing Campaigns Turn Brands into Cultural Phenomena

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Great celebrity marketing partnerships coupled with creative executions can go viral, launching brands into the cultural spotlight.

Pairing a powerful celebrity with an innovative concept provides the opportunity for brands to catapult themselves into the forefront of culture. In an increasingly digital world, the climate is perfect for brands to match celebrities with clever content and go viral, reaching millions of people through shares and retweets. Campaigns go viral because of the celebrities they feature. Consumers are drawn to interesting, funny, inspiring and captivating video ads that include people that they know and can relate to. Here are three elements of viral celebrity marketing campaigns.

 Entertainment Value

Making a campaign entertaining by putting a celebrity in an interesting situation is what makes ads authentic and enjoyable. It allows the brand to integrate with the content rather than being a tack on. This is what blends the brand with the celebrity and message fluidly, without making it seem too promotional.

Nike’s series of ads with Kevin Hart achieved great popularity. The ads were able to entertain consumers and hold their interest because they told an interesting story. Being released right at the New Year when people set goals to work out, the brand had perfect timing using an adored celebrity to position their brand and product at the center of that cultural moment.

 Cost Effective

Producing video ads can be costly, but placing ads at the right time and place is often extremely expensive. When a celebrity marketing campaign is positioned in the right environment for success the ad can go viral, garnering millions of views simply from initial placement on the brand’s social channels.

Apple music’s partnership with Drake and Taylor Swift is a great example of how taking a loved celebrity, a relatable situation and combining it with a funny execution makes a brand the center of social media. These ads had millions of views within hours of their release. The virality of the ads allowed a larger reach for a much lower cost than an alternative medium.

 Leverage From Social Media

Content recommended by friends has extra pull for consumers. They are more likely to trust, buy into, and like messages shared by friends than those placed by brands. Viral videos passed along through social channels from one user to the next have more credibility. Brands benefit when their celebrity marketing campaigns are those being shared.

KitKat created the perfect circumstance to become a cultural phenomenon with their campaign featuring Chance the Rapper. By partnering with a well known celebrity across their target demographic and creating an interesting ad, they reached a vast amount of people in a meaningful way.

By making an authentically interesting ad based around a celebrity, a brand creates an opportunity for themselves to become a cultural icon.

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How to Avoid and Respond to Celebrity Marketing Efforts Gone Wrong

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Take precautions before partnering with celebrities and react appropriately if an issue arises to limit being associated with controversy.

Every element of marketing brings a level of risk. Celebrities are no different. They have passionate and engaged fans, large followings, and high credibility—all of which they can transfer onto brands. However, when a celebrity has a mishap, the public’s perception of the celebrity can instantly change, and when that happens, the associated brand also takes a hit to its reputation.

Here are a few steps companies can take to greatly reduce the risk or minimize the consequences to their brand.

Conduct Research and Recognize Red Flags

It’s important to take a deep dive beforehand to find out as much as possible about the celebrity’s past. Understanding the celebrity’s character will allow for better insight into how they may behave. Brands must look for any signs indicating that the celebrity could be on the verge of controversial behavior. While these things can be hard to foresee, conducting thorough research will greatly reduce chances.

Predict the Good and the Bad

When looking at a potential celebrity partner, it’s critical for brands to evaluate areas for opportunity but also areas of potential concern. By anticipating what may happen, brands give themselves a good way to determine whether they think a partnership is right for them by comparing the conceivable good outcomes with the imaginable negative outcomes.

Decide Whether to Continue the Partnership

Depending on the severity of the celebrity’s mistake, waiting out the initial public outrage might be better in the long run. The brand must also keep their brand identity at the core of the decision making process. If the celebrity is mentioned negatively in the media but didn’t do anything that contradicts what the brand believes, then it may be appropriate to continue the relationship. Another key aspect is to take cues from the public. Seeing how the public reacts will further give brands direction on how to respond.

Squatty Potty decided to end their partnership with Kathy Griffin after she posted a picture of herself holding a replica of a bloody Trump head. The CEO issued a statement saying that what Griffin had done was completely inappropriate and not consistent with the company’s values. They took a strong approach in making sure that the public knew their standpoint regarding the issue.

Strategize How to Fix the Damage Moving Forward

Planning future celebrity endorsement campaigns, implementing PR or ad campaigns, and issuing statements to the public are all things that should be considered.

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Celebrity Marketing: How Authentic Brand Engagement Can Turn Baseball Icons into Baseball Buddies

Following record shattering ratings in the 2016 World Series and 2017 World Baseball Classic, baseball is proving why it is “America’s Pastime”.

Despite the heroics of those two events, Major League Baseball faces the issue of skewing to an older demographic. According to Nielsen ratings, 50% of baseball fans are 55 or older. Additionally, those ages 18-34 are 14 percent less likely to report a strong interest in baseball.

However, MLB Opening Week attendance revealed a modest increase from 2016, and that is largely thanks to baseball’s latest initiative to appeal to a younger demographic.

The new 60-second spot “This Season on Baseball” positions the 2017 MLB season as an ongoing reality TV show, diving into the personas of baseball’s hottest young talent. Whether it’s Bryce Harper taking an ice bath or the Mets’ fireballers at dinner, the message is that these icons are real people. The creative is fresh, showing viewers that baseball and its stud stars are spontaneous: which is exactly what young fans demand.

Avid sports fans crave any interaction with their favorite superstars, whether it be as big as an autograph or simply favoriting their tweets.

Along with exotic ballpark menu items, teams have even incorporated VR elements to their stadiums this season, paving the way for unparalleled fan engagement, ultimately bringing a younger crowd into the seats. Fenway Park has added a VR batting cage in their Kids Concourse, where young fans can take a crack at facing their favorite Major Leaguers.

Not only is the MLB virtually connecting to their fan base, but now they are interacting in real-time in a whole new way via social media.

The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) has just released their own social media app called Infield Chatter, designed to provide baseball fans with ultimate player interaction. Unlike other social media platforms, Infield Chatter is designed strictly for players and fans to share pictures, video, and text to their in-app feeds.

While this innovative approach to fan connection doesn’t exactly stretch MLB’s brand appeal to new audiences, it certainly enhances the experience of the most avid followers. The app is still very much in its primitive stages, but has all the makings to generate enough buzz to raise some eyebrows across the entire sports world.

Nearly 1,000 major and minor league players are on the app, including superstars Evan Longoria, Miguel Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes and NL MVP Kris Bryant. While MLB itself has yet to partner with the app, the MLBPA believes that the only way to truly bring viewers to the MLB brand is to have a conversation with them.

What’s key is that these MLB players aren’t talking at the fans. They’re talking with the fans.

This level of intimacy provides a whole new level of brand appreciation and attachment, which should ultimately translate to cross-generation appeal.

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How Celebrity Marketing can Transform Intimidation into Motivation for Non-Techies

In the exponentially growing world of technology, products must be easy to grasp before they can be fully trusted, that is where celebrity marketing comes in.

Many companies have adopted artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive cloud technology, allowing them to implement software API’s and frameworks to increase internal efficiency. Unlike the technology used for the consumer products Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa, cognitive computing technology uses data mining, pattern recognition, and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works.

Despite negative stigma of these technologies, powerhouse tech brands Dell and IBM are paving the way for a tech friendly mindset for all, and not just business insiders.

How are they doing so? By partnering with celebrities that exude a suave sense of authority.

Other than tech insiders, no one truly understands how applicable these technologies can be. In fact, those who are aware of AI are fearful of what the technology can do. According to a global Pegasystems study, 72% of respondents indicated some level of fear of AI and 25% feared that the technology could eventually take over the planet.

Dell Technologies no longer stands for a desktop computer. The company has expanded to information security, business analytics, virtualization and cloud computing. To help make the brand more palatable for the average consumer, Dell debuted “Let’s Make It Real” starring actor Jeffrey Wright. Following his role on the critically acclaimed sci-fi hit West World, Wright was a great fit to unveil the true magic behind Dell Technologies. Wright’s soothing voice and calm demeanor helped emphasize the message that reality is not all that far from our wildest fantasies.

Ultimately, this technology is being utilized in ways that can really help the day-to-day life. Uber is now pre-packaging machine learning algorithms to service their app developers, making the app as route efficient as possible. Software companies SAP, Deloitte, and IBM have all extended their cognitive clouds to partner with companies to aid in areas such as personal tax services and sales efficiency.

IBM strives to achieve brand appeal among the average consumer with the help of their cognitive pal Watson. When Watson isn’t utilizing its cognitive capabilities to predict weather patterns or compile cancer research, it is helping consumers file their taxes. Prior to the Super Bowl, H&R Block partnered with Jon Hamm, the debonair actor of Mad Men fame, to help show how Watson can make filing taxes personal and simple.

The first set of ads featuring Hamm were intentionally humorous to get consumers to engage quickly with the product and “get their taxes won”. Hamm eventually lent a more serious tone in later spots to shed light on the importance of Watson’s expertise. Kathy Collins, H&R Block’s CMO said that Hamm’s range is what really made him the perfect tax-season spokesperson.

In order for tech brands to be digestible to the “non-techie”, they must relay their complex messages through trustworthy celebrity figures.  

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Celebrity Marketing Nostalgia Hits Home for Gen X and Millennials Alike

 

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In such an accelerated age, filled with anxiety and uncertainty, nothing stores more comfort than fond memories of the past.

According to a Harvard Business Review consumer study, nostalgia has proven to make consumers more willing to spend their money on consumer goods and services. Traditionally, the individuals who have the means to act on those feelings are parents falling in Generation X. However, with 16 million millennials now being parents, the appeal of connecting to a simpler time is expanding to a much wider audience.

In the advertising world, no fictional character resonates quite like Jon Hamm’s portrayal of Don Draper, the elusive star of Mad Men. In the show, Draper pitched a bold tagline to Heinz executives: “Pass the Heinz”. Rather than show ketchup, the creative would show food missing ketchup. Heinz’s current agency David Miami recognized this incredibly simple, yet genius concept and now have three ads running via the New York Post and Variety.

The conviction of Hamm’s Draper influenced Heinz’s creative approach, allowing them to connect to those who love the old Madison Ave style of advertising as well as the wide range of ages who fell in love with the show.

Revisiting a definitive era marked by beloved figures of the past enables consumers to relive the reason they first fell in love with the brand, creating positive brand association.

Domino’s has caught the nostalgic bug as well, having casted Stranger Things’ Joe Keery as Ferris Bueller, and Alan Ruck (aka Cameron Frye) in a cameo appearance, to promote the new Domino’s Tracker. By casting Keery in the Broderick role, the brand expanded to both Stranger Things and Ferris Buehler’s Day Off fandoms, cohesively meshing stories that multiple generations have fallen in love with. While nostalgic, the spot effectively targets a young tech savvy audience, showing that Domino’s can be delivered digitally via Amazon Echo or even with a waterproof watch.

AT&T’s latest campaign “Everywhere” focuses on how the magic of cinema is an experience, especially it is live-streamed. Beginning with an homage to Rocky, the creative further pays tribute to a laundry list of memorable titles including Cheers, Seinfeld, and Back to the Future.

Featuring David Hasselhoff and Big Bird, this campaign successfully unifies dated material to a product that is transcending the way consumers watch their shows. Bringing millennials and Gen X together isn’t simple, but having a unifying message with nostalgic A-list figures is certainly a good place to start.

To understand the correct way to implement brand nostalgia, it’s important to recognize potential pitfalls the tactic has with millennials. It’s crucial that nostalgia creatively ties back to topics that currently resonate with them, usually through an experience or activity. If the message doesn’t have a modern twist, nostalgic advertising’s success is brief and can be viewed as pandering by young viewers.

However, when a blast from the past is combined with a story or star that resonates with multiple generations, the old message becomes new again, revitalizing the brand in a simple yet effective way.

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Campaigns with a Cause: How Celebrity Marketing Can Empower the Masses

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From a progressive 21st century lens, it’s not “what” a brand is doing that sticks. What matters most is “why” a brand is doing so.

A well-polished brand is a promise to its following. When that promise is supported with strong social consciousness, a brand’s “why” becomes that much more appealing to those who trust their mission.

As brands increasingly become socially aware, it is important to understand the basics of Cause Related Marketing (CRM) and why the strategy is an all around winner for its four key players.

  1. The Charity
  2. The Brand
  3. The Perfect Celebrity
  4. The Consumer

CRM is a strategy used by organizations to boost revenue exchanges in both for-profit and nonprofit businesses. This philanthropic driven effort is ideal for charitable organizations because it boosts consumer awareness and provides a generous donation from the partnered brand. Many celebrities are interested in partnering with projects driven for the greater good of the world. Not only does it look good for these stars, but it feels good. When having the perfect celebrity signed for these projects, the conviction of the cause has the potential to skyrocket.

In honor of International Women’s Day this year, an A-List class of powerful women including Kerry Washington, Reese Witherspoon, and Gabby Douglas stirred incredible social media buzz for Tory Burch, calling all users to #EmbraceAmbition. Proceeds from Tory Burch sales are to go to her foundation, which is geared to empower future female entrepreneurs.

In 1994, MAC Cosmetics created their own charity, the MAC Aids Fund, where they promptly signed Rupaul as their first celebrity endorser. Over the next 22 years, the Viva Glam campaign has featured artists such as Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliot, Rihanna, and most recently Taraji P. Henson and Jussie Smollett. The company continues to outperform itself annually, as Miley Cyrus brought Viva Glam to its incredible $400 million benchmark in 2015.

These celebrity driven CRM campaigns get their deserved recognition within the brand world as well. Under Armour’s “I Will What I Want” campaign featured ballerina Misty Copeland, making the brand one of the biggest winners at the 2016 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Today Under Armour controls 75% market share in athletic wear, and much of that is thanks to the empowerment that the brand instills in its user base.

The beauty of CRM is that it’s overwhelming positivity allows for its reach to span across brand types. This calls consumers of all ages, races, shapes, and sizes to use brands that they typically wouldn’t respond well to.

The push for clean water in developing nations is an issue in particular that multiple brands have taken into consideration. Unicef’s partnership with Selena Gomez and Matt Damon’s partnership with Stella Artois both broke boundaries that have called all users to take action to take part in helping the water crisis. The issue transcends multiple brands, charities, and viewer bases, driving immense amount of funds for one sole cause.

While the celebrity certainly gets the glory, these campaigns are made to empower the consumer. For these individuals, there is a sense of pride knowing that they are doing something for the better good, alongside the celebrity they adamantly trust.

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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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