Using Personalities to Promote Your Business

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I like to keep these articles as relevant to small and medium business where possible, so, to some extent, this article deviates from that.

However, the area of celebrity endorsements and promotion of companies, products and services is so interesting and has been rocked by so many scandals over the years that I felt it would provide a cautionary note to anyone thinking of using it as a marketing approach.

We all know that using personalities to promote your products/services can make a big difference to sales, which is why huge corporations have done it for years. It is an indication of how powerful a sales tool it can be that they continue to do it despite the many major falls from grace that have occurred.

You might remember Pepsi had a massive global campaign with Michael Jackson, which had to be dropped when the allegations of child abuse first came to light.

Similarly, we all remember Saipan in Japan as being linked to the now infamous walk-out of one Roy Keane from the Irish squad.

What you may not remember was the nationwide endorsement deal he had with 7Up. TV ads were stopped and bus-stop posters and billboards had to be replaced. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of bottles with wrappers that had to be changed.

Most recently we all know about Tiger Woods’s fall from grace and his many, many endorsement deals all dropped by the wayside.

OK, so I know what you might be thinking; “I’m just a small/medium business owner – I can’t afford Tiger Woods in the first place”. Of course, that’s true, but I have seen many print ads for small and medium-sized businesses in Ireland that have the local ‘Ros’ or a local celebrity (in many cases GAA) and in some cases an ex-Irish International footballer. But whatever the size of your business, the fall-out from a scandal involving a ‘personality’ can have a big impact on your business.

 

So what can you do to protect yourself if you are thinking about using any kind of personality?

  • Firstly, get a contract that protects you. If there are any penalties that the celebrity/personality is going to have to pay should they cause any damage to your brand through their actions (past or future), then they are going to think twice about signing up. The bottom line is that if they don’t sign, then it may be because of skeletons in the cupboard that you never want to know about!
  • Secondly, if they decide to proceed, be very clear with them regarding your expectations of them and make sure you understand their expectations of you. If they want a pink Rolls-Royce to drop them off at every event and photo-shoot they attend for you, then again, knock it on the head and move on.
  • Thirdly, you’ll need to train them. Remember they are not just a face, they become the face of your business and so they need to have a level of understanding about the business and the market place. If you sell insurance and you decided to ask Tommy Tiernan to represent your company in some ads, then you definitely want to make sure he understands why he is representing you, your key selling points and any things that are going on in the market.
  • Lastly, a word of warning. Don’t ever, ever be tempted to use a personality’s image in any advertising that has not been sanctioned by the celebrity or his/her representatives. Don’t even think about using a look-a-like. If the intention is to make people think that celebrity X is endorsing your product, then you can get yourself in very hot water without approval.

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