Cannes 2012: Brand versus celebrity

By , Winners & Finalist, Cannes | In Advertising | June 19, 2012
The second day of the 59th International Festival of Creativity began with fireworks as speakers discussed the topic, 'Global brand versus global celebrities: Who's the smarter marketer?' The session witnessed one side of the speakers providing a perspective on how global brands do not require a popular face for promotion; while the other side maintained that celebrities are trend setters.

The second day of the 59th International Festival of Creativity began with fireworks as speakers debated on the topic, 'Global brand versus global celebrities: Who's the smarter marketer?' The speakers for the session included Omar Epps, actor, president, Brooklyn Works Films and vice-president, Entertainment BeeYoo; Darren McColl, vice-president, global brand strategy and marketing, SapientNitro. The session was moderated by Freddie Laker, vice-president, global marketing strategy, SapientNitro.

Laker said, "In today's marketing world, data is of utmost importance and the maximum amount of data related to consumer behaviour on consumption has been collected in the last years, thanks to the evolution of technology."

He started the discussion by asking the panellists, "Are global brands or celebrities connecting better with brands?"

To this, McColl replied, "Brands are smarter than celebrities and in today's world, there are ample examples where successful brands do not require a popular face. For example, Apple never used a celebrity. Rather, in this case, the inventor of the product, the late Steve Jobs, became the face of the Apple products. The leader here was an inspiration for people to follow. The purpose of a celebrity is to just attract eyeballs and nothing beyond that."

McColl further stated that brands are created with a purpose and become a part of everyday culture. He once again gave the example of Apple and its popularity.

He explained how global brands 'Glocalize'. "While global brands remain true to their positioning, they adopt to local condition and culture in order to become a part of the consumer's life. And, bands do this through art, design, packaging and local products," he added.

Countering McColl's point of view, Epps said, "Celebrities by nature are connected to the audience and hence are relevant. When celebrities communicate through social media, it translates to organic and authentic discussion. And this not only helps to sell brands but also creates them."

He next talked about how celebrities are further expanding to the global arena by moving beyond their comfort zone. He gave the example of singer Shakira, who learnt English and sings in English as well, apart from Spanish, and how Lady Gaga launched a Bollywood version of one of her music tracks.

Next, Laker threw the second question to the speakers, "Do global brands or celebrities use social brand the most?"

Epps answered, "Celebrities use social media more and when they do, it is more of an intermediate discussion and leads to the generation of a dialogue, as at the end of the day we all know that brands intend to sell products. For example, when a celebrity wishes her fan 'Happy birthday', it is more meaningful as compared to a brand. Therefore, brands can't match celebrity authenticity."

McColl argued that not all celebrities have sophisticated approaches when it comes to handling social media. He gave the example of reality TV star Snooki and how she once posted on her Twitter account, 'I don't know what the hell I am doing here?'.

"Brands have the power of listening and responding. For example, brands introduce programmes where they give gifts to people at the airport. Brands leverage social media for better customer service and social media helps to enhance e-commerce," he added.

Subsequently, Laker posed the last question to the panel, "Do brands or celebrities lead marketing innovation?"

To this, McColl responded, "Five top brands spend 20 times more in advertising and marketing as compared to what top 20 celebrities earn. Innovation has been the forte of brands from broadcast to banking. Also, brands are using their innovation budget to re-invent experience, and technology is fuelling all these innovations."

Epps countered his point by saying that celebrities are micro-innovators and trend setters. "Celebrities are early adopters. For example, Lady Gaga started and Beyonce filed for a patent for her daughter's name, so that in future her child can easily get into the family business. These celebrities are setting trends for the next generation celebrities."

He gave the example of video platform BeeYoo, where celebrities who share content are paid on the basis of performance model.

In conclusion, Laker summed up that both brands and celebrities have their own game plans and at times, have to join hands for a bigger cause.

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