Celebrity endorsement in child marketing

What is it that makes us choose one brand over another? Is it the quality of the product? Its price? Or are we simply influenced by who else we see making a purchase? The breakdown of global information boundaries, attributed to the influence of the World Wide Web, has meant celebrity culture in this generation has progressed to an entirely new level. The power of the internet has given us so much control, so many new tools to work with, that the possibility of celebrity endorsement is infinite. Whether it’s Jennifer Anniston’s haircut or Angelina Jolie’s lipstick shade – the options are endless. And now, with the rise of child stardom, as well as the increase in children’s accessibility to the internet, celebrity endorsement also plays a significant role in marketing strategies for kids.

Celebrities in this day and age are role models, whether financially, professionally or with respect to image. The power of their voice acts as an incredibly influential brand curation tool in the marketing industry, particularly for the younger demographic. Children don’t seek complex explanations to convince them why to choose the brand they do - they simply wish to be just like their idols. From Hannah Montana to JLo, both child and adult stars have branded not only themselves but have given a new identity to products tied to their name. So what makes celebrity endorsement so effective when marketing to children?

Firstly, a face is a voice. The simple connection children make between a product and a familiar face is what renders the marketing so successful – Jlo has it, so I must like it too. Familiarities bring about associations with comfort and reassurance. Secondly, it is not direct marketing that takes place. Instead, the audience is targeted through entertainment outlets such as movie releases, music performances and so on, making the strategy more subtle as opposed to head-on sales. Omnicom Media Group’s digital regional director, Dimitri Metaxas, tells us more about the role that celebrity endorsement plays in online marketing, with a particular focus on its effects on social media and marketing campaigns in the region.

IAA: With Facebook being such an important outlet used for the promotion of brands, how effective would you say the association of celebrities is with brands for the child marketing industry?

DM: Celebrity endorsements and ambassadors have a long-proven track record of marketing effectiveness and it is widely acknowledged that they are particularly influential on the younger segments who seek aspirational role models to whom they listen and with which they aspire to associate. In today’s social media-fueled landscape, celebrity association for brands often plays an even bigger role. These technologies bring people ever closer to their favorite stars and provide them with unprecedented access to interact with public figures who were traditionally inaccessible in the past, be they sports, music or cinema stars.

IAA: Which industries are the most effective with respect to celebrity links, such as sporting, music, and so on, particularly for the younger demographic?

Industries where brand affinity and/or equity largely dominate purchase decisions and where products tend to be commoditized have traditionally focused on celebrity endorsements to differentiate themselves from the competition. FMCG and lower interest categories are obvious examples and well recognized for this. At the other end of the scale, industries whose products tend to have strong heritage or where craftsmanship and quality are important tend to lend well to sportsmen or other public figures who best personify such values. For the younger segment, fashion and clothing brands often use celebrities to promote their wares and values to drive preference and purchase.

IAA: When choosing a famous individual to link a brand to, what sorts of things might you take into consideration?

The first consideration is to determine how a given celebrity is perceived by the brand’s target audience. How would they be described and what traits would they be associated with? It should be a given that the celebrity is admired and has credibility but are their values relevant to the target audience and do they match the brand values? Interestingly, social media can play a major role in defining this as monitoring and collating consumer conversations via social networks will give you a pretty honest measure of opinion. It is now standard practice to analyze online sentiment about public figures before endorsement decisions are made.

Secondly the product they are endorsing must make sense for them to be affiliated with it. If this isn’t immediately obvious then the endorsement may look contrived and actually damage the brand. As an extension to this, a star shouldn’t endorse a product that he/she actually does not believe in or value. There have been several cases of stars endorsing a product only to be seen wearing or consuming its head-on competitor. This particular point has caused untold damage and subsequent acrimonious splits in the past. It is often overlooked because the focus is on the money.

Finally and perhaps ultimately, it comes down to the commercial aspects of the deal. Some celebrities will be unattainable and these harsh realities will direct your efforts from the outset. But worry not; some of the best endorsements have been with those of high reputation rather than fame. Finding the right fit can save you millions of dollars.

IAA: Are there any child-focused social media campaigns, involving a celebrity, that have really stood out to you, and why?

Adidas NEO recently partnered with Selena Gomez to design and develop new footwear ranges that infuse her “girl-power” style, with the aims of appealing to her teenage base. There are heavy social media components to this endorsement and the NEO Facebook page just passed one million likes as a result. Incidentally her on/off ‘boyfriend’ Justin Bieber is also endorsing the brand and recently released a special pair of gold sneakers through a contest. Fans had to search for a hidden code on the Internet for the chance to win a pair and meet the star himself. Considering both stars’ influence on this demographic, Adidas is putting a lot of marketing efforts behind both partnerships.