It is no secret that celebrities and influencers impact consumer behaviour and are, more than ever, a dominant feature in the digital marketing sphere. But how best should brands navigate these relationships? How can they make the best impact with celebrities and influencers when it comes to the increasingly crowded area of purpose-led marketing?
An important consideration for brands when investing in talent endorsement is authenticity. Social media is a saturated environment where consumers can find it difficult to navigate platforms and distinguish between personal content and promotional activity. Ever evolving regulatory changes within the industry mean that there is an increase in transparency for consumers regarding online promotions. Just last month, Instagram announced new algorithms and tools which identify potential ‘ad’ content and reminds users (and brands) of the rules if they appear not to be following them. The credibility of talent, therefore, is imperative to campaign success. Celebrities and influencers can no longer disguise their opinion as [completely] impartial as the modern consumer is savvy enough to know that payment or other incentives can impact objectivity. This is where selection of the talent and curation of the content become paramount to successful consumer engagement. The genuine connection between the talent, the brand and the cause must be apparent for a seamless partnership.
Celebrities have proven to and continue to be valuable tools in purpose marketing, however, these need to be selected and handled with care and expertise.
Purpose marketing has accelerated over recent years as brands and celebrities alike are expected to stand for something, using their influence (and money) to make a positive impact on social, political, and environmental issues.
Social media gives these initiatives an amplification like no other, with the ability for individuals to reinforce their message in their own words directly to thousands, if not millions, of loyal followers. Social platforms provide an opportunity for celebrities and influencers to encourage followers to galvanise toward a common goal, making them a hugely valuable resource for brands looking to support their own purpose campaigns. It is always important to note, however, that there are often careful considerations to be made. This is a creative partnership, not an ad buy.
Celebrities have not always shown up well in purpose campaigns, particularly where brands are involved, and are often seen as ‘cashing in’ or ‘jumping on a bandwagon’ to profit their own profile. Often, it is as simple as supporting a campaign that genuinely makes a difference. Billie Eilish is vocal about her sustainable lifestyle choices, even announcing that her new tour would be eco-friendly, but her partnership with H&M launched earlier this year was considered greenwashing by critics. This is because H&M could not back up the sustainability claims they were making about 14 out of the 16 items in the collection. The agency, and Billie's team, should have protected her personal values better and guided the brand by insisting on transparency about how the clothes were made, instead of launching the range with the vague claim of it being ‘sustainable’.
In contrast, when cricketer Kevin Pietersen signed up with Swiss watch company Hublot for a campaign to raise money and awareness for Save the Rhino, he had already spent many years promoting and speaking passionately about the cause. The same can be said for celebrities that head up healthcare campaigns having suffered from that very health issue themselves. In this case, your partners (whether they be the talent or a charity) are the experts and you should ensure full transparency and alignment between their values and the values of the brand.
Celebrities and influencers must exert an element of trust in what they promote, and it is important to understand that the number of followers is not the most important factor during selection. Celebrity involvement will usually be impactful, but for success (and a positive impact!), they must practise what they preach and have demonstrable knowledge of the subject matter. Likewise, brands must have depth to their purpose initiatives for the total campaign to be authentic and trusted.
History has shown that celebrities and purpose can work, just ask Bob Geldof, Elton John, Jameela Jamil and most recently Marcus Rashford who have all used their celebrity status to not only raise millions but have also lobbied government for financial aid and policy change.