CPG and celebrities are imperfect couples

Articles
November 13, 2009

CPG and celebrities are imperfect couples

The risk brand marketers take when hitching their image to a celebrity occurs when the pop star, athlete or entertainer misbehaves.

The risk brand marketers take when hitching their image to a celebrity occurs when the pop star, athlete or entertainer misbehaves. The media is filled with tales of celebrities gone wrong, and the instantaneous plummet of their endorsement value. Legal protections may recompense a brand, but they’ll rarely recover the missed sales opportunities.

A celebrity misstep doesn’t have to be criminal, or sleazy or mean. It could just be business-dumb or greedy to the point that it devalues the brand-celebrity connection. 

Did General Mills get as fair a shake from its association with Tiger Woods as did Nike or General Motors, primarily Buick? Similarly, Coca-Cola, Ball Park Franks and Wheaties shared the endorsement power of Michael Jordan with McDonald’s, Nike and the Chevrolet division of GM through the years.

Woods and Jordan are nearly incomparable stars; yet we wonder if they diluted their ability to sell when they paired up with a multitude of brands.

Now comes Martha Stewart, herself an icon in media, domestics and the kitchen with new associations in 2009. Brand partners are overlooking her jail time in 2004 because they want her instant recognition to move product volume. But what is she giving them in return? Confusion, in our view.

Why do we think this at SupermarketGuru.com? Because, in quick succession, she announced deals with Hain Celestial Foods and Dove Chocolate—one known for health and wellness, and the other known for sweetness and indulgence. Hain supplies organic and natural lines that parallel one of Stewart’s principal strengths. “Martha Stewart has credibility in the natural food space,” brand consultant Laura Ries of Ries & Ries told Brandweek. So the deal to launch Martha Stewart-branded lines of baking mixes, vegetarian-fed, antibiotic-free turkey products, baking mixes and more—supported by her recipes—seems well conceived to us.

Our concern arises with the news that Stewart has also signed with Dove Chocolate to create a special holiday edition line, with holiday tips such as “Cut marshmallows into shapes to serve in hot cocoa,” according to Brandweek. How antithetic to health and wellness is this? What are consumers supposed to take away from Stewart’s name on lines that represent different ways of eating?

We think that Stewart’s failure to recognize appropriate boundaries within the supermarket shorts brands and consumers.