Thinking of celebrities as brands

It is common to talk about brands as we talk about people. We will see, furthermore, that one of the facets that make up the singularity and the identity of a brand is its personality, its character. This derives from an increasingly anthropomorphic conception of the brand.

This is one of the consequences of the need to pursue so-called relational marketing: that is, worrying less about the imminent sale than about establishing an enduring relationship between the customers and the brand. We form relationships with people, not products– hence the notion of brand personality, as if we were describing the profile of a friend.

To communicate this, the brand may sometimes associate itself with a genuine personality, someone who brings their own attractiveness and incarnates the brand’s values. Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods are the prototypes of this practice: where would Nike be without them? L’Boreal Paris, whose personality is glamour, is represented by what they call the‘dream team’, a team of Hollywood stars and global top models who appear in all its advertising.

Conversely, some celebrities became genuine brands and were managed as such. By brand, we mean a name capable of generating enthusiasm, fans and customers. Think for example of James Bond or Harry Potter, virtual celebrities whose spin-off products create genuine, profitable and durable business. The failing perfume house Scotty rebounded by developing a new business model: creating perfumes for stars (Alain De lon, Cline Dixon), just as others, upon leaving HEC, hit on the brilliant idea of offering to create a perfume for Salvador Dalai (to their great surprise, he accepted, and it is one of the best-selling perfumes in Japan).

Picasso is not only the name of a famous painter, but also a brand. The company set up by his heirs, with its headquarters on the Placemen in Paris, works constantly to prevent the name falling into the public domain. In order to prevent this, it must be in proven and meaningful commercial use. This is why, 10 years ago, the company went around the car manufacturers and offered them the licence to the Picasso name. Citroen accepted: the name increased the perception of novelty and creativity of its new model, which would go on to successfully challenge the Renault Scenic in the segment it created.

The newest development is that sports stars, for example, are becoming brands. Not all of them – far from it – but some of them. Michelle has not become a brand, nor hastier Henry, nor Indonesian, nor George Best, nor Roger Fender, despite being the world number one in tennis. In contrast, the lyrical poet-footballer Eric Cantonal could have become one, as his too-rare excursions into cinema show.

Among the great footballers, perhaps David, previously of Manchester United and Real Madrid, best represents the notion sofa celebrity becoming a brand (Mulligan, 2004).It is well known in football that celebrities make a profit for their clubs. If Manchester United has 17 million fans in Asia, imagine the number of spin-off products that could be sold to them as objects of their cult.How can we recognize that a celebrity has become a brand? It happens when his or her national or global influence emanates as much from personality as from sporting prowess.

One of the key phrases in understanding what a brand is runs thus: ‘the brand is everything that makes a product much more than a product’. Spokespeople brands when not only does the product (the sport at which they excel) place them above the rest (making them super products), but they are also intrinsically interesting and attractive away from the stadium sand the rugby or football pitches, in their daily lives. Some great sports people, such Asian, never make this step: they refuse to accept that their public life is also the field for expression of who they are, and a source of their influence. Celebrity-brands are loved for what they do, but also for what they are, how they live and what they represent (the myth that they embody).

In this, the celebrity-brand becomes a lifestyle brand, a mediator of new behaviors to the audience. Think of the influence that Andre Glass has over how American and European adolescents dress or cut their hair. David Beck ham’s Mohican haircut legitimized this controversial hairstyle in schools. By putting himself forward with his children, he broke the male stereotype in the United Kingdom and promoted acceptance of the ‘metro sexual’ sensibility. By marrying a Spice Girl, he also added a touch of complexity to his image, moving it further from the stereotype of the pure footballer.

In managerial terms, knowing that they area brand leads such people to managing themselves as such, or even taking on an agent who will be better placed to do so. The essential requirement is to preserve the brand value, doing nothing that would destroy even a little of its attraction. The goal is for the brand to outlive the sportspersons – since all champion shave to retire in the end. Thus, far from accepting all commercial contracts, however lucrative, it is important to know how to say no to some of them. What products should they create under their name: perfume, clothing or…?

First of all it is necessary to understand the driving forces of their own brand. Each person who becomes a celebrity-brand should ask:

  • What are my values?
  • What are the facets of my identity?
  • What role do I play for the audience?
  • What myth do I embody?
  • What are my recognition signs?
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