Cannes 2015

Will Creativity Save the World?

Influencers Influenced: right or wrong

With Cannes Lions Creativity Festival approaching, I am curious to see how much, and in which ways, brands worked with celebrities and influencers.

Celebrity endorsement is not a last-minute story; brands used celebrities to endorse their products since ever.
But these days, celebrities have short-wired their exposure to owned channels, while in the past the story had to be told through major media outlet.

This makes a “social media footprint”, doesn’t it? Haha — er, sorry. Back to the point.

Someone may argue that social networks are the new “mass media outlets”, but there is a big difference: they don’t filter the content. In the past, to reach mass audience, PR agencies were asked to have major newspapers and TV channels speaking about the celebrity endorsement. Nowadays, the celebrity her/himself decides to publish something through his/her own channel.

This said, there is a big risk in “influencing the influencers”. If the endorsement sounds phony, forced or not authentic, the backlash may be heavier than the benefit.

Companies and brands are handling part of their reputation management to the product department instead of leaving it to the communications department. If the celebrity doesn’t really love the product, the whole process would be negatively affected. So, making good products is more important than ever.

This may sound obvious: whoever would need brand endorsement, if their products were perfect and universally liked? This is obvious also to me. The point is different.

What I am trying to say is that the change should generate two kind of behaviours from the brands.

  1. targeting as potential influencers celebrities who are already brand lovers;
  2. developing products according to the influencers’ tastes.

Targeting celebrities who are already brand lovers

Since real product endorsement is the basis of ever-transparent communication in the age of social media, paying for product endorsement is working less and less.
Luckily, social media listening tools are helping modern marketers to identify and target celebrities and influencers who are already using and loving the brand.

For example, Salma Hayek has been loving Morellato products long before she decided, recently, to act as testimonial for the brand.
http://www.vogue.com/11912969/salma-hayek-pinault-new-face-pomellato/
Oh… yes. Some of you may say that this was maybe due to the interest from Salma’s husband (François-Henri Pinault) to buy Pomellato. You may be right, but I always liked imagining Salma sincerely loving Pomellato jewels, and asking her husband, as every woman could do: “When are you going to buy me a Pomellato?” — and, yes, you can’t say it to an husband happening to be one of the biggest luxury brands owners, without having him buying the entire company!

But some brands are not loved by the celebrities they would like to be endorsed by.
So, do they have to give up?

Develop products according to the influencers’ tastes

It has never been a better moment for user-generated product development.

  1. hyper-personalization of product is a growing trend;
  2. with listening tools and loose social communities it’s possible to roll out product surveys and tests and verify how much room there is for product innovation
  3. trying to use a celebrity to launch a new product as a trend is easier if the celebrity feels like he has helped create and develop such product
The case of Dr. Dre, producer and artist, who joined and Jimmy Iovine, producer and chairman of Interscope Records, to create a blast in the headphones market with the “Beats”. Read on Tom’s Guide LAPTOP about this and other thoughts on product development from celebrities.

So what? Well, the circle of brand endorsement/product development can be imagined like this:

The “circle of brand endorsement”

Communications practice is only involved when the influencer has already an opinion about the product. In the opposite case, the brand should take some time to understand if involving the celebrity in a special edition or in a product evaluation could be a better way to obtain the celebrity’s attention.

Let’s see if it works… in Cannes!