Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Unsolicited Celebrity Endorsements

At 5WPR, we know that celebrity endorsements can be great for business. Viewers associate product with an admired celebrity and sales rocket. That’s how it works in theory and it often does work just that well.
But sometimes, celebrity endorsements work the other way around: the product becomes associated with the celebrity who endorsed it and the celebrity has, for whatever reason, at some point gained notoriety. The product loses its appeal for the consumer by association with the celebrity. When Tiger Woods’ reputation crashed, for example, Gillette failed to renew his endorsement contract. Woods was deemed bad for business.

In other words, the celebrity endorsement is a double-edged sword. Especially unsolicited celebrity endorsements. That’s why Hillary Clinton, for instance, was none too pleased when O.J. Simpson, accused of murdering his wife and his wife’s lover, offered his unsolicited endorsement of her presidential campaign. To use a Yiddish saying, she needed him like “a lokh in kop,” (a noodle in the head).

It Depends
A book selected for designation as an Oprah Book Club choice is guaranteed to become an instant best seller. But Starbuck’s kept really quiet when an obviously messed-up Britney Spears was photographed drinking a large latte to go. So on one level, you want celebrity endorsements, on the other hand, it depends from whom.

Recently, the car donation charity Kars4Kids received an unsolicited celebrity endorsement from famed comedian and Academy Award winning actor Robin Williams. Williams had a cameo spot in one of Eddie Pepitone’s Puddin’ clips. Kars4Kids was thrilled and played up the free advertising for all it was worth on its blog. Williams is not only a fine actor, but by all accounts, a good guy. Receiving an unsolicited endorsement from him is a nonprofit’s dream come true.

That’s not always the case. Sometimes, an unsolicited celebrity endorsement turns into a nightmare and then there is nothing one can do about it. The company representing the product or service being endorsed may not have any say in the matter. The endorsement may be a fait accompli and serve as a kind of stain on the company’s reputation.

Stained By Association
Olive Garden, for instance, likes to be billed as a family restaurant. The chain was none too happy when Playboy bunny Kendra Wilkinson talked in an interview about how much she loved the food there. There wasn’t much the chain could do about this unsolicited endorsement after the fact.

The lesson in all this? If you receive an unsolicited celebrity endorsement from the likes of Robin Williams, play it up for all it’s worth. But if Kendra Wilkinson loves your family-style restaurant, just be quiet. There’s nothing you can do about it - speak out and you’ll only make it worse.

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