It is not from today that celebrities attract millions of people’s attention for fashion without doing much effort furthermore, more and more fashion and luxury brands are often relying on celebrity endorsement to promote their products; generating people’s interest and creating instant buzz around their names. But what happen if a celebrity endorsement fails and brands are forced to deal with its pitfalls?
Celebrity endorsement is an extremely expensive strategy for many brands, but still it is perceived as a way to increase profits rather than an over cost in their budget. Due to the fact that celebrities play a major role in influencing people’s opinion, more brands are aiming to boost their awareness and credibility by choosing the right celebrity to be their next ambassador. Doing so it isn’t an easy task. Brand managers spend months carefully studying which celebrity will be the right one to add more value to the brand’s image, reflecting exactly what the brand represents. However, celebrity endorsement it is also risky and if the partnership between the brand and the celebrity is not consistent or if the celebrity acts immoral, the endorsement can be hazardous and deteriorate the overall brand’s image and all the marketing efforts.
Here are some true examples of why a celebrity endorsement goes wrong and how brands that have experienced a bad endorsement before dealt with the negative side effects of it.
The first reason why a celebrity endorsement fails is when the ambassador has an immoral behavior, creating a negative image thus, affecting negatively the brand endorsed.
Kate Moss’s career suffered several blows in 2005 when a picture of her doing cocaine was publicized in a newspaper tabloid. After the scandal Moss, who by that time was the “face” for brands such as Burberry, Chanel Mademoiselle perfume and H&M, saw her multimillionaire pounds contracts vanished away. All of the brands dropped or refused to renew their advertising campaigns’ contract because none of them wanted to risk their image and being commercially damaged by association. Lily Allen, who was the face for Chanel Coco Cocoon handbag line in 2010, also faced the music because of her party-girl attitude. It is said that Karl Lagerfeld decided to drop her contract and replace her with French model Vanessa Paradis after a party at his place in Paris where she embarrassed herself partying and drinking hard. Another example of celebrity endorsement that didn’t end up well was when Nike, the world’s leading brand using athletes as a brand ambassador, hired in 2007 the superstar quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles Michael Vick to launch his Zoom Vick V sneakers collection. Vick, who was charged with dog fighting and animal cruelty, was sent to prison for almost 2 years and had his sneakers release suspended and also lost his multimillionaire 2 million dollars endorsement deal. But in 2011, after recovering from his downfalls and becoming a popular player again, Nike gave Vick a second chance and welcomed him back signing a new endorsement deal. This strategy wasn’t perceived for many as an intelligent strategy and it also caused headaches to Nike since a lot of people pledged to boycott it.
The second reason why a celebrity endorsement can be risky is due to the fact that sometimes if the ambassador is overexposed by constant appearance in the media there isn’t a separation between the celebrity’s fame and the brand endorsed thus, there is a possibility that this celebrity will overshadow the brand’s sparkles.
One good example of this was when St. John hired from 2005 to 2008 Angelina Jolie to be the brand’s ambassador. At the beginning Jolie was perceived as the perfect match for the luxury apparel brand. However, throughout the years with her romance with Brad Pitt, their six children and her charity work in Africa and other countries, she became overexposed in the media and had her contract dropped for overshadowing the brand. St. John chief executive Glenn McMahon said “She overshadowed the brand. We wanted to make a clean break from actresses and steer away from blondes and cleanse the palette.”
The third reason why a celebrity endorsement goes wrong is the lack of coherency between the celebrity’s personality and the brand’s values and image.
An example of poor personality’s consistency between brand and its ambassadors is Sarah Jessica Parker for Gap campaigns from 2004 until 2005. The celebrity, who became highly associated with high-fashion because of her character Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the city, ended up to be the wrong alternative to be Gap’s spokenperson. The endorsement failure result was sales decline for the brand and Parker was replaced with singer Joss Stone. In October 2012, when the new Chanel No. 5 perfume campaign featuring Brad Pitt was released, it was unanimous criticized and it was condemned to fail. The high-end and world’s top famous fragrance formerly advertized by Marilyn Monroe, Catherine Deneuve and Nicole Kidman lost its feminine, sophisticated and elegant appeal and besides that, it was totally disconnected from its female audience by selecting Pitt as the first male face of the brand. Even though the maison claimed "There is no actor alive that compares with Brad Pitt, whose talent, popularity and looks are legendary, in the same way that no other perfume compares with Chanel No. 5, which was created by Ernest Beaux", the campaign and the actor’s choice wasn’t really appreciated and it has inspired a massive array of parodies online.
Celebrity endorsement failures aren’t the only problem brands must deal with. With the fast growth of Reality Shows, celebrities-to-be massively wear many brands in the media without being paid for it. The result is, more and more brands are getting associated with people that are not really appealing for them thus, damaging its brand’s image. That was exactly what happened to Abercrombie & Fitch in 2011 when Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino from reality show Jersey Shore was constantly spotted wearing the brand’s outfits. Abercrombie & Fitch was concerned that Sorrentino’s association with the brand could damage its image and as a result, A&F offered him a “substantial payment of 10 thousand dollars” to stop wearing the its clothing. According to the released statement from Abercrombie & Fitch said “We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans.” A&F, which was previously selling shirts with the logo GTL “the gym, tanning, laundry” slogan from Jersey Shore, received a $4 million lawsuit from Sorrentino who claimed trademark violations, false advertising, since he claimed has never being offered not to wear the brand’s outfit, and also misappropriation of his publicity rights. What a bad situation for A&F!
All in all, even though celebrity endorsement is perceived as a successful marketing strategy yet, if not well elaborated and managed, it can highly decrease and dilute a brand’s image.
There is no doubt that Lilly Allen, Sarah Jessica Parker and even Mike "The Situation" have an influence (good or bad) in the fashion industry. (Click on each name to discover more about the brands that they are exposing with good or bad image on Twitter).