What’s a famous face to you?

February 29th, 2008

Would you buy a toothpaste you’ve never heard of if it had Ryan Seacrest’s gleaming smile on the box?  If you knew 50 Cent (real name Curtis Jackson) had stake in VitaminWater, would Focus (kiwi-strawberry flavored, by the way) become your new go-to drink?  Would you go so far as to purchase a Buick car because Tiger Woods is your rolemodel?

Okay, maybe not. But reports are showing that celebrity faces now have more of an impact than ever on the likelihood of a consumer choosing one brand over another.  An article in today’s Wall Street Journal introduces Ellen Degeneres as the newest face of Halo, a high-end food and pet product line for both cats and dogs.  Degeneres, who is also the spokesperson for American Express, recently bought roughly 15 percent stake in Halo.

 While Halo and Degeneres both hope her new face will grow sales, there’s been a recent slew of celebrity endorsements gone awry.  Remember when Oprah endorsed author James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces by placing it a must-read on her book club?  The book skyrocketed to a #1 bestseller, only to be blasted later by critics and readers alike as being a fake account of the author’s life.  Or what about the Olsen twins’ “Got Milk” endorsement promoting the dairy industry?  Ads had to be taken down after rumors (and a later confirmation) of MK’s eating disorder surfaced – not so health conscious there.   And how can we forget the notorious OJ/Hertz partnership?  For 20 years, OJ stood as the face of Hertz.  With the arrest of his murder in ’94, the #1 rental car company had to reconsider and revamp its campaign altogether.

Whether good or bad, celebrity and brand partnerships are a tricky area for advertisers and marketers alike.  It begs the question: what does the company stand for?  A famous face – or a strong brand?  Regardless of the face on the billboard, box or bag, what’s most important is that a company stand by their mission and messages.  The face needs to match the product.

For Halo, it seems like Ellen is a good match.  She’s not only an avid dog-lover, but she’s equally invested in organic, locally sourced foods;  Halo has zero byproducts or rendered meats.  Degeneres claims that her being “famous” is going to boost sales.  While only time will tell, one recommendation, Ellen: try not to lose it on national television next time a pup loses its home.

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