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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

Expert Advice: Harnessing Celebrity Power


Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez are just a few examples of celebrities who have tremendous sway over consumer trends and dollars. Just one twirl on the red carpet can take merchandise from the being unknown to coveted. Celebrities have become an advertising vehicle — and sometimes at no cost.

If the right celebrity is seen wearing or using your product and the press picks up on it, the result is hundreds, thousands or even millions of dollars in publicity. In essence, this is “free” advertising. Here are four easy steps to red-hot red carpet placement for your product:

Match your brand with a list of celebrities.
-- This is called building your “target list,” and it can and will change as you leap into celebrity marketing . This step is a great exercise for anyone interested in pairing up merchandise with Hollywood because as you think through this process, you'll make sure your target list matches your product’s demographic. For example, if you make a sassy hair ornament that might attract Willow Smith for her new video “Whip My Hair 2," you certainly wouldn’t want Betty White on your target list. We all love Betty White, but you need to find celebrities with a similar age range, fan base and appreciation for your product.

Understand the different categories of celebrities. -- Who wouldn’t like to see George Clooney or Julia Roberts using your products?  These elite A-list stars are tough to tackle right out of the gate and usually hit the red carpet only when they have something to promote. The term "A-list" refers to major celebs whose fame resonates throughout the world. The B-lister is someone who is “up and coming” and on the radar for success.  Next in line is the C-lister, who could be young and unproven, mature or even a familiar face who hosts an entertainment show. The D-list celebrity may sound pretty bad, but comedian Kathy Griffin struck gold (and won an Emmy) for assigning herself D-list status. Confused? Just stay open-minded to all opportunities that may be connected with any category of celebrity. Reality star Kim Kardashian might not be accepting an Academy Award any time soon, but she is a red carpet regular and offers great opportunities for your product to be seen and photographed. Whether you like Kim or not, you need to consider the best celebrities for getting your merchandise noticed.

Not all events are right for your brand. -- Since there is a red carpet event just about every weekend, there is no need to get discouraged if you haven’t connected with a star or singer yet. Rest assured, there is always another carpet coming up. The holy grail of red carpets may be the Academy Awards, but consider celebrities attending movie premieres , film festivals and charity events as stepping stones to marketing your product in Hollywood.

Build a relationship with a star. -- Connections will provide you with priceless long-term benefits, especially when it comes to celebrity marketing. All relationships take time, so don’t wait until a few days or a week before an event to try and make those connections. Start by sending out new images each season to your target list. Confirm the celebrity likes what they see from your photo before making the investment to send out your product. If a star makes a request to try something, a “relationship” can begin to flourish. Beware, the road to relationships with celebrities who like and appreciate your merchandise can run smoothly or take a few detours, so make sure you are paving the road all the time.

If you have a product you wish to promote, there is no reason you should not take advantage of product placement, no matter what the size of your organization or the nature of your product. However, don’t get sucked into working with the wrong celebrity and be sure to stay focused for the best results. Pretty soon, your product(s) might be strutting its stuff on the red carpet and you’ll be reaping the rewards.

Susan J. Ashbrook has been involved in “product placement” for 20 years, matchmaking top celebrities with a roster of clients including: Lanvin, Swarovski, Catherine Malandrino, Escada, Isaac Mizrahi, Kenneth Cole, Herve L Leroux, Tadashi, A Pea In The Pod and Harry Winston Jewelry.  She has consulted for non-fashion brands including Nikon, Hasbro Games, MasterCard, Bellini baby furniture and Hooked On Phonics. For more information, please visit her web site.

She is the author of the upcoming book "Will Work for Shoes," (Greenleaf Book Group Press, Sept. 2011) which can be pre-ordered from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.