May Editorial – When brand meets celebrity

There are many, many good reasons for building a personal brand in business – people buy from people after all. The more you are known the more likely people are to do business with you; or else why would we all spend so much time networking in both real and virtual worlds?

But brand has to be built on substance,

Look at last years contestants at The Apprentice. There was one young man who insisted that he was a brand. Lord Sugar’s associates in the interview process quickly showed him that he wasn’t a brand, just a very silly boy. Where he went wrong was to confuse brand with personality. He certainly had a big opinion of himself and an inflated view of his own abilities but he was not a brand. To repeat, in my opinion brand has to be built on substance and he had none – I can’t even remember his name now.

But can brand be built on air; the hot air of publicity perhaps?

Look at Jordan. Though she now prefers to be known as Katy Price her brand was built as Jordan. If you talk about Jordan everyone knows who you mean and what the Jordan brand is. She built the brand solely on her looks and her abilty to make the front pages of magazines and tabloids.

It is here at the boundary between brand and celebrity that we start to encounter problems. I meet lots of women who tell me that they are building a brand – they are not. They are networking for dear life, starting their own networks in order to be the centre of attention, writing books about themselves and desperately trying to get onto what they see as the lucrative speaking circuit. They are not building a brand with substance; they are courting celebrity. Their name may well be known, but for what? For being “that woman off of the telly”?

And from the other side of the fence; what happens when a celebrity feels that they are a brand and that they need to protect that brand?

Think Tiger Woods here. Not just a golfer but a range of equipment and clothing and the face of lots of other products with a brand built on his sporting prowess and his promotion of family values. His brand collapsed when news of his repeated adultery hit the press. His actions had undermined his message and his brand.

Here in the UK we have heard lots about the injunctions and superinjunctions taken out by TV and sports personalities to protect their privacy.

Consider Andrew Marr. His brand was built around his credentials as an investigative journalist. His brand was damaged more by the revelation that he had taken out a gagging order to prevent other journalists from reporting on his affair than it ever would have been by revelation of the affair itself.

So by all means build a brand but make sure that it is a brand that stands for something – that you are not just courting celebrity. And make sure that your brand is aligned to your values so that your actions can never betray your brand.

2 Comments on May Editorial – When brand meets celebrity

  1. So true. Celebrity has unfortunately become a by-word for brand. Brand is substance; tangible, deliverable, backed by action (preferably authentic!) and represents the whole entity. Celebrity is somebody recognising you. Oh for the days when people remembered the difference!

  2. I agree Karen.

    Katy Price is an interesting case study as she has successfully built 2 distinct brands. Jordan which you describe above and then Katy Price – mother, equestrian, author and regrettably role model. It is completely disheartening to hear that along with Cheryl Cole this is the woman our young girls and women most wish to emulate. Whether you love her or loathe her she is a brand – check out the sales of her Katy Price branded products for verification. It will be interesting to see how she reinvents herself next. I also find it interesting to see how her ex-management team (who left her in favour of Peter Andre) replicate their success in building her brand with other tarnished celebrities such as Kerry Katona. It seems they have a formula that works – at least for a while.

    Moving away from celebrities, brands should transcend individuals and ought to survive changes in key personnel – think any household name product as an example.

    For me both you and Phil hit the nail on the hand – authenticity and values are integral to brand consistency. Do your customers ‘feel’ your brand experience? Do you and your people consistently deliver your brand experience? Only those brands where decisions are made based on values are likely to be able to say ‘yes’ with certainty.

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