Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Celebrity Brand Match

Using celebrities to advertise products is nothing new. Even before Hollywood legends Rita Hayworth and John Wayne took up the challenge of promoting Tru-Color Lipstick and Camel cigarettes respectively in the 1940s and 1950s, brands had recognised the allure of being associated with the idols of the day.

So this week’s news that chocolate bar Snickers is replacing A-Team hero Mr T with former Dynasty sirens Joan Collins and Stephanie Beacham shouldn’t be that much of a news story. Except it raised eyebrows in our office and nobody I have spoken to since can see an overt Joan Collins – Snickers connection. But we also remembered that some initially arresting associations turn out rather well (John Lydon with Country Life); and some which look solid gold (Tiger Woods and Gillette) can become somewhat tarnished.

Is the use of Joan Collins an example not of direct “endorsement” or association, but of the way that some brands are abandoning the traditional view of needing a celebrity that has an obvious brand fit in favour of one that offers talkability? Or is the brand merely continuing to tap in to the prevailing mood of 80s nostalgia providing a warm feeling from the past as we contemplate a somewhat chilly immediate future ! Time will tell when we see the campaign.

Whilst ad agencies might be nervous of the role of research in such “irrational” celebrity associations, we think that good research should be key. It can be fundamental to understanding how to maximise the value of this style of campaign and can explore irrational appeal of an apparently unconnected character, as in this case, as well as the more straightforward fit of an obvious celebrity link (Parky with over 50s life assurance for example). Ensuring that you bring on board the right ‘face’ (one which can resonate with your target audiences whether rationally or irrationally) as well as getting the tone and humour content of the campaign is essential and research will help here.

We can only presume that research has been undertaken that shows Joan Collins works – in the context of this campaign - for Snickers’ target audiences. Although an older celebrity like Joan Collins significantly reduces the risk of tying your campaign up with a one hit wonder, none of that is beneficial if it doesn’t achieve the desired cut-through and again good research which “gets” the creative idea can help here.

The choice to link Snickers with Mr T was clearly well researched. Not only was he retro and identifiable to those of us of a certain age, he was also cool to a younger generation through a resurgent interest in The A-Team on the back of the Hollywood remake of the television series. It remains to be seen how well Joan Collins will straddle these various demographics.

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