By Solabomi Okonkwo
As a Brand communication and consumer marketing expert who has had the privilege of working with global brands and talents within our continent and beyond, one is inspired to share one’s knowledge and experience on the matter of managing brands and talents, especially during a crisis.
In this article, I have used talents loosely to refer to Musicians, Actors/Actresses, Social Media Influencers, Entertainers and Public figures or Celebrities.
As Brand Marketeers, we have clearly seen from research and data that consumers want brands to connect with them emotionally. In reality, consumers are more likely to purchase and stay loyal to brand that they feel more emotionally connected with.
We come up with different consumer experiential ideas from time to time which may involve sponsorships of existing assets, creating brand specific initiatives such as the GT Food & Drink Fair or partnering with celebrities/highly influential individuals to deepen brand affinity and awareness
A recent study by the University of Arkansas in collaboration with the Manchester Business School in London found that consumers (ages 18-24) take on an active role in developing their identities and appearance based on influence of celebrities as they are more susceptible to celebrity brand endorsements than other age groups.
Research by Nielsen conducted in 2015 broke down the level of trust in advertising formats by different generations. It found that celebrity endorsements resonate more strongly with Generation Z (ages 15-20) and Millennial (ages 21-34) audiences.
Celebrity endorsement is generally seen as a viable option for brands to increase awareness, build credibility and promote products. Earlier this year, Selena Gomez has been named the new face of the luxurious brand Louis Vuitton. The ads were rolled out via Instagram, which sure was a clever move since Gomez is the most-followed person on Instagram with a huge, global fan following. The post scored more than one million likes in the first two hours it was posted.
Based on data above, how does a brand select the talent to use and what should the talent consider before consenting to work with the brand.
With recent events in Nigeria revolving around brands and their ambassadors, it’s time we shed more light on global best practices for selection to avoid mismatches for the brand, selection of high to medium risk talents and non-value adding talents.
A proper vetting process must be established within organizations with a process which has a set of criteria that must be met. If none exists, experts in this field who have the requisite knowledge and experience either through local or International trainings/conferences, can develop a process/procedure and train team members.
Brands can no longer afford to make avoidable mistakes or errors of judgment going forward as it becomes more apparent our consumers will ask the following questions from brand custodians:
- Do you know what your brand stands for – Brand Identity?
- Did you analyze the risk?
- Are you aware of who your target audience or consumer is? – Fit or Misfit,
- Can the celebrity connect to your consumers and will they be totally committed to your brand – was any research done
- Was a proper background check done?
- Does the talent have a proper structure with experts who manage their brands?
After all these have been done and talent selected, what is the onboarding process? Is it just the press conference announcing the partnership, press release and contract signing?
Brands should have proper onboarding process and brand immersion process for talents as well as refresher sessions as done in line with what is done in the financial sector for Bank CEOs and other key stakeholders quarterly.
During this process, a proper role sorts, responsibility of the talent to the brand and its consumers are highlighted as well as proper corporate governance rules.
Based on the recent happenings, can you really blame the brand ambassador who has not been properly on-boarded, enlightened about his/her role as an ambassador, apparently oblivious of the implication of being a role model and has no emotionally connection to the brands or organizations.
Brand custodians need to go back to the basics and acquire more knowledge. Organizations need to ensure staff attend relevant trainings, have proper skill-set and exposure on the job or outsource these specialized skills to marketing agencies who have the competence.
Brands need to evolve and fully support talents it has relationships with beyond the need, providing access to experts within its pool and support them during crisis such as Nike for Tiger Woods and Colin Kaepernick whom they have developed a long term relationship with spanning over ten years.
For talents in West Africa, it is no longer business as usual as we need to grow and every growth requires more than the ordinary and a mindset change from the way we have conducted business in the past. We must be ready for change to compete on the continent and globally.
Hence, we must have structures which will support and enhance our growth. A few tips are stated below:
- Celebrity Team – the celebrity maintains the status and fame, but the team surrounding them makes the decisions and actually gets things done. Have team of experts managing your brand –, Brand Manager, Business Manager (Accountant), Publicist, Lawyer, Agent, Personal Manager, Stylist.
- Acquire more knowledge – Be Erudite
- Discipline & Positive Attitude
- Expand Sphere of Influence
- De-cluster – have only the necessary people around you to ensure you are more effective.
- Have causes you genuinely believe in – consumers or your fans will be more loyal as it has been proven via research and emotional connection is stronger.
Many wonder about the success and longevity of Innocent Idibia aka 2Baba’s career – it’s simple- he has had, over the years, a team of professionals in various fields who have worked on his brand and also the discipline of the artiste himself.
Talents need to look beyond only monetary rewards and accolades from brand endorsement deals. They must also ask the following questions:
- How will they help your brand grow?
- What are the projects or campaigns already set out during the period?
- What type of association is it? Product Endorsement, Advocate, Appearance on communication material or Brand Ambassador.
- More importantly will they invest in your brand as well?
- Do they support talents during crisis or drop at the hint of trouble?
In subsequent articles, more light will be shed on different sub topics within the field of Sponsorship and creating Brand Intimacy with consumers using Talents.
Solabomi Okonkwo, a brand management expert and CEO of Core EXM, wrote from Lagos