Celebrity marketing models change

31 August 2011

LONDON: Advertisers such as Unilever, L'Oréal and Heineken are adapting their approach to using celebrity brand ambassadors, reflecting changing preferences and strategic priorities.

Unilever, the FMCG giant, has partnered with chef Marco Pierre White to promote its Knorr jelly bouillon in the UK and Lin Yilun, a singer who also presents a cooking show, in China.

Marc Mathieu, Unilever's SVP, marketing, argued the use of famous faces must "be believable", and mirror the differing attitudes of the target audience in various markets across the globe.

"Consumers in developed markets are fascinated by celebrities; consumers in developing markets admire them," he told the Financial Times, meaning "surprise and attention" is key in areas like the US, and aspiration matters in fast-growth economies.

Among the well-known figures currently representing L'Oréal, the beauty group, are Fan Bing Bing, the Chinese singer and actress, Julia Roberts, the US actress, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, the Bollywood star.

Pierre-Yves Arzel, L'Oréal's managing director, UK and Ireland, said: "We are an international brand, but want to have local proximity to consumers, so we mix between international faces and local ones."

More broadly, he suggested L'Oréal is choosing less obvious spokespeople for its products, like Aimee Mullins, a US Paralympic athlete and model, and Hugh Laurie, from the medical TV series House, and "not the sexiest man on earth".

Nespresso, Nestlé's coffee range, has used the actor George Clooney in ads from Japan to Russia, helping boost sales by linking the brand with certain values. "He's a worldwide citizen, a democrat, a humanist," said Richard Girardot, Nespresso's chief executive.

However, Heineken, the brewer, featured Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt in different campaigns run in 2004 and 2005, and now only follows this course sparingly.

"He was too central. It was a promotion for Brad Pitt, not Heineken," Jean-François van Boxmeer, Heineken's CEO, said. "You do that from time to time, but it is absolutely not central to our strategy."

Ipsos Mori, the research firm, recently surveyed over 18,000 adults worldwide, and found 27% would stop buying a product if a celebrity associated with it had engaged in "personal misbehaviour".

Totals peaked at 58% in China, measured against 49% in South Korea, 45% in Saudi Arabia and 39% in India, falling to just 13% in Sweden and 14% in Canada.

Data sourced from Financial Times/Ipsos Mori; additional content by Warc staff