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Celebrities in marketing – aren’t you sick of them?

February 19, 2011
Edward Turner, Triumph Genius

Edward Turner, design genius of Triumph Motorcycles - celebrity endorsement the proper way; by the man who did the work

I don’t know about you but I grow weary of celebrity endorsements for products and services. As a long-term marketer, I suppose my weariness stems from the fact that I can see through the nonsense which is “success by association”. Does this sycophantic iconoclasm actually work? Does this visual hagiography have a purpose other than to fill the celebrity’s bank balance?

It is increasingly wearisome to see brands defined by the deeds of others rather than the functionality of the brand itself. Whether it’s Tiger Woods and Accenture or David Beckham and shaving products, the use of celebrities (or, worse, “personalities”) is to my mind a weak and indolent method of defining a brand’s power and assets. If a brand cannot stand up for itself then, to my mind, it has no emotional value.

Which is why I was delighted to see this blog from Brand Strategy Insider which found that, with rare exceptions, celebrity endorsement is largely ineffective. Social media and word of mouth is now fighting back against vanity (and the  increased prices necessary to pay for it)

It’s about time some work was done on this. It’s about time that the vanity and vacuity of the modern age was assessed for what it is: a sham reflection of a decadent time. If all we have to offer the world is association by emotion then surely we have lost our way?

Brands grow and survive through inherent truth. In past times, we idolised real people who did real things: R J Mitchell’s Spitfire, Edward Turner’s Triumph Motorcycles, Sydney Camm’s aeronautical genius, Barnes Wallis’s bouncing bomb and astonishing geodetic structures – or even Allen Lane’s Penguin books. We celebrated achievement through delivery rather than tried to persuade purchase by vanity.

One good thing about the publishing industry is that by and large it is too impoverished to adopt this sort of lazy selling. But now, if Brand Strategy Insider is right, it may well be that we will see the end of this trivia. I sincerely hope so – honesty and truth is a better sales tool any day than a crass illusion.

After all, when your razor gives you a nasty cut on the lip, what then David Beckham living in his mansion sipping champagne on the profits of his image rights? Good riddance to crass tactics. As we have said before, to quote Keats: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.”

Nice one, John.

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