There used to be a tried and true formula to releasing Hollywood films and predicting the outcome to a certain degree. Hire a celebrity, have a decent script, spend a lot on publicity and advertisement (P&A), watch the theatre fill up, rinse and repeat. Consumer brands also replicated this tentpole strategy when it came to endorsements and advertising their products. Spend a lot of money, hire a celebrity with a strong following and recognition, like a Michael Jordan, sell a ton of Gatorade, rinse and repeat. This strategy was great for the time it was in but unfortunately it’s much less effective today.
There are basic assumptions that have to be made to enable success for this strategy. The first is that there is a celebrity that is big enough and influential enough to capture the imagination and sway the majority. The second is that there is enough collective attention and effective channels for awareness around the respective campaign. In the 80’s and 90’s this meant: TV, radio, print, billboards and that was basically it. There were few enough options where creating an impression for the majority was possible and probable with enough money and a recognizable enough celebrity. The ability to broadcast your message en masse and make an impact on your potential consumers was completely viable. Today, this method has proven less successful. In addition to the traditional awareness channels we now also have: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Youtube and hordes of other social and digital media channels that now consume, divert and fragment our attention. The assumptions I mentioned earlier no longer hold true and a new strategy needs to be employed. I use film as a macro example but this fragmented attention is something that any company selling a product must contend with when advertising, promoting and trying to create awareness around their goods and services. And while not all businesses have or had the budget to deploy a tentpole strategy with a notable (i.e. expensive) celebrity, all businesses need to navigate the new awareness channels and when done right it can actually be much more powerful and cost effective in achieving a return on investment.
The fact that social and digital media has given everyone a soapbox to broadcast from has helped to make the marketplace more noisy BUT it’s also an opportunity for smart marketers to capitalize off of deeper insights and understanding in consumer behavior on a micro level. Celebrity influence on a large scale matters less when consumers can easily hear and receive feedback from those they actually know and trust in a frictionless digital environment, especially when the ‘traditional channels’ celebrity endorsement usually is broadcast from has less of an audience and impact in this new world order of digital and social media. What this means, is that understanding the microcosms of social influencers that can and do endorse your product or website is crucial in deploying an effective digital and social strategy. Social commerce tools and analytics allow you to have a long tail vantage into who these social influencers are and what value they are truly bringing to your company and brand. Furthermore, incenting them to keep engaging with their social communities and broadcasting on a micro-level allows you to increase reach and revenue at a much lower cost than a larger scale splashy campaign.
While I, like many in the 90’s, wanted to be like and loved Mike, the brand ambassadors in today’s economy will probably be someone you actually know and trust. These are your evangelists, these are your celebrities and these are those that need to be catered to and nurtured but luckily at a much smaller cost, less demands and with no need for a fancy trailer.