A GOOD PRODUCT IS A STAR

Celebrities: Their fees, pluses and minuses of using them

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Sporting greats. Movie stars. Intellectual achievers. Beauty queens. Entertainers, and other famous personalities—when they’re hot, they’re hot and who else could be chasing them?

Brands that want to have a measure of the celebrities’ glow to help them get into people’s homes and consciousness, and hopefully their wallets.

Celebrities are like honeycombs, “pinuputakte” (swarmed by bees), in Pinoy street language, when they step into a mall.

Fans and curious onlookers gravitate toward them, creating a commotion, and in some cases, pandemonium.

Smart advertisers strike while the iron is hot, knocking on their doors, cashing in on their popularity.

As these demi-gods turn into big crowd magnets and everyone is going gaga over them, companies are scrambling to catch a proverbial star.

Based on AC Nielsen’s latest study covering from January to June 11 last year, the Top 5 celebrity endorsers in the Philippines are:

1. Kris Aquino (10 endorsements)

2. John Lloyd Cruz (8 endorsements)

3. Carmina Villaroel, Zoren Legaspi, Ryan Agoncillo, Sarah Geronimo and Vic Sotto (7 endorsements)

4. Anne Curtis, Marie Lozano, Michael V and Sharon Cuneta (6 endorsements)

5. Judy Ann Santos and Kim Chiu (5 endorsements)

Last April, Rappler (an online news portal) published BIR’s top celebrity taxpayers for the year 2010 as follows:

1. Kris Aquino: P32.3 million income tax based on P101.08 million income

2. Sarah Geronimo: P14.8 million tax based on P46.5 million income

3. Piolo Pascual: P13.05 million income tax based on P40.9 million income

4. Marian Rivera: P11.89 million income tax based on P37.27 million income

5. John Lloyd Cruz: P10.93 million income tax based on P34.25 million income

Filipino and global boxing icon Manny Pacquiao is in a league of his own.

For the first time last year, Pacman barged into Forbes’ yearly list of the 20 highest-paid celebrities, ranking 16th with $67 million in earnings in spite of his controversial loss to Timothy Bradley.

Manny Pacquiao’s global endorsements include Nike, Technomarine, Hewlett-Packard and Hennessy, making him ahead of Dr. Phil McGraw ($64 million), business mogul Donald Trump ($63 million), Ryan Seacrest ($59 million), and Britney Spears and Tiger Woods (both with $58 million).

So you’ve signed a big celebrity as endorser because your brand isn’t moving up in the sales charts, and your bottom line is nearing rock bottom.

Is a celebrity the last resort?

Before spending your precious money down the drain, ask yourself if you did your homework.

Do you have a good strategy? Are you delivering the right message? How’s your advertising? Does it stand out from the media clutter? Or worst, are you selling a turkey?

There’s more to using glamour, prestige, and fame lent by celebrities to your advertising than meets the eye.

Your product, the celebrity

“The product, the product, the product.” Many advertising greats have repeatedly said this line.

Everything boils down to a good product, one that delivers what it says, one that makes the competition cringe with envy and, in the long run, has no option but to improve his.

A great product is a celebrity. It will sell on its own merits. Its performance is its own testimonial. Extremely satisfied consumers are its free endorsers.

Advertising a bad product, even if endorsed by Superman or the sexiest girl or man in the world, will not do the trick. It will only hasten its demise. People will eventually know that, by word of mouth, it is not good.

A good product with a celebrity endorser won’t do just as much either.

Remember what your marketing mentors taught you before? Learn from consumers, the very people who buy and use your product. Know what goes on their minds.

Probe, ask, talk, be one of them. What precious insights have you picked from being one of them?

Many marketers oftentimes fall into this trap: Using celebrity endorsers mouthing manufactured words blindly.

Letting endorsers memorize lines like robots without the heart and soul of a consumer is a waste of time and money. Today’s consumers are intelligent, they’ll know.

Ad campaigns that portray celebrities as consumers of the brand they are advertising tend to be more credible.

A commercial that uses a celebrity as part of the story to dramatize a brand’s unique selling proposition leaves a good impression. It elicits audience empathy.

An ad that makes a celebrity just pose and smile in front of camera is cold and invites sarcasm. People tend to say, “So?”

Advertising that makes celebrities as mere decorations or props make people turn to the next page of a newspaper or change TV channels.

The worst thing that could happen is, people remember the celebrities, not the brand.

Commercials using celebrities with a sense of purpose are best remembered and talked about.

When celebrities are depicted like normal human beings, people can always relate.

So the next time you are going to do an ad using a celebrity, review your idea.

Consumerizing a celebrity attracts throngs of consumers. Scrutinize if he/she is going to be relevant to the story. Want to connect meaningfully to your audience? Attach celebrities to the concept—not coldly detached from consumers’ hearts and minds.

Choosing a celebrity

Now that you have a product that will be swarmed by “bees” and in a situation that you have to use a celebrity, some tips to consider:

Do research on the celebrity’s likability.

Just because someone is popular, pretty or good-looking doesn’t mean she or he will fit the role.

You may find that there are skeletons rattling in the celebrity’s closet, things that could hurt your brand image later on.

Marketing guru Willy Arcilla, who has worked around the region and the greater China market handling a number of multinational brands, says:

“Choose someone who best personifies your brand’s imagery, character and values, someone who can dramatize your brand’s rational and emotional benefits, and most of all, someone who genuinely loves your brand, uses your product or patronizes your service because credibility is key.”

“It is like choosing a suit for your wedding day, says Raymund Sison, BBDO-Guerrero copywriter.

“It should fit perfectly or a disaster totally. The celebrity’s image should be right for the brand personality in the same manner as the role of the brand should be appropriate to the endorser’s lifestyle,” he says.

Sison also tells us that the brand ambassador should likewise appeal to the market and the market should be able to identify with the celebrity.

Veteran TV commercial director Sockie Fernandez, who has done many celebrity endorser ads, says that aside from popularity, one should “choose a celebrity that reflects the character and values of the brand you are selling.”

“Credibility is the most important thing. After all, your brand’s credibility is at stake. Does the product match the celebrity’s lifestyle? There should be truth in advertising,” says TV commercial producer Desiree Pe-Beasley.

Rolly Halagao, one of advertising’s most in-demand casting directors, says: “Choose your celebrity endorser not only on popularity but also on credibility, adaptability and willingness to endorse your brand.”

Halagao explains: “A celebrity must be a hot item to ignite buzz among your target. The willingness to do the project is a big factor because you may have an endorser who’ll just do it for the money.”

Upside of using celebrities

A brand looks real when a celebrity endorses it. It shows that it exists.

People are generally impressionable and would readily identify with the brands celebrities endorse.

“Many people believe that if they buy what celebrities are endorsing, they, too, can be just like them and have a piece of that ‘better’ life,” says Arcilla.

If your celebrity prospect can fill the Smart Araneta Coliseum or The Arena near the Mall of Asia without spending too much on promotional gimmicks, he or she could be a brand winner.

Sixteen-year-old Gabby Douglas was everyone’s darling after she became the first Afro-American to win an Olympic gymnastics gold. Procter & Gamble took advantage and offered her with multimillion-dollar endorsement deals. So did Kellogg’s.

Olympic champions Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farrah are now enjoying fat celebrity endorsement fees because of their vastly immense pulling power.

The bigger risk

What happens when endorsers figure in scandals and not so palatable situations?

When the endorser is ‘tainted’ the chain reaction follows.

After winning eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps earned numerous endorsement contracts. When photos of him surfaced on the net holding a marijuana pipe, AT&T cancelled his endorsement deals.

Tiger Woods had juicy contracts with Nike until he got into a smoldering domestic scandal. Relentless bad press rocked his otherwise wholesome persona affecting his image and Nike’s as well.

Woods lost major endorsement deals with Gillette, Gatorade and Tag Heuer after he was found to have been unfaithful to his wife.

Accenture also severed all ties with him, confirming he was “no longer the right representative.”

A British actress told the world she rarely wears make-up while at the same time endorsing a cosmetics brand.

In 1988, actor Alan Alda was IBM spokesman but was caught buying a Toshiba.

Anheuser-Busch, Oakley and Nike announced, however, that it was sticking with Lance Armstrong despite the doping allegations hurled on the cyclist.

In a statement, Oakley said: “It supports athletes who respect and honor the ethics of sports until proven otherwise.”

But even with these brands standing by Armstrong, Ad Age reported: “His popularity is going on a spiral downhill.”

So thinking of using an endorser? The payoffs are great, the risks even greater, but the greatest thing to do is invest on your product first and the rest, including celebrities, will follow.

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