Celebrity Endorsements in Politics: Election 2016 Edition

There's been a lot of talk about whether celebrity endorsements are an effective marketing tactic based on the results of the most recent election. Clinton had an A-List cast supporting her, each with their own platform and social media following "behind them". So why didn't she win?

Obviously this is one of many variables, but what we learned this week from a marketing perspective - 

Do not underestimate the consumer.

Over and over again in my business, when a brand is looking for a celebrity partner, the ask is for an "organic and authentic" relationship. The reason is not just so the brand can say that in a press release, but because the celebrity's audience and the target consumer will welcome and positively engage with the campaign, which if executed correctly will result in increased brand awareness and sales. For the campaign to be successful, the celebrity endorsement must be relatable and the celebrity chosen must be viewed as a knowledgeable influencer by the target consumer.

Ask yourself why you follow your favorite celebrities. Why are you a fan? What do you expect to see in their content? What are their specialties and what are they "experts" in?

Top Reasons:

  • Celebrities are funny/Celebrities are hot!
  • Get a glimpse into their everyday life, get to know them on a more personal level
  • Behind-the-scenes content/New project updates
  • Lifestyle (including fitness, diet/food, and travel)
  • Fashion/Beauty Trends

Taylor Swift is the reason I keep giving red lipstick a try, Marshawn Lynch re-introduced Skittles to my adult life, and if I could buy Anna Kendrick's "cool", I would. But when it comes to politics, there are few celebrities that make politics part of their regular dialogue and have established themselves as knowledgeable resources in that field. Did anyone Google their favorite athlete/actor/comedian/model/musician specifically for their political views? Not likely. Most celebrities are not experts well versed in policies, nor are they a "go-to" for those looking for political or financial insights. Therefore, celebrity endorsements in the political arena, while great for a headline and maybe sparking a conversation, only carry so much weight.

When it came to this election, voters analyzing their personal circumstances and making decisions that represent their needs did not look to celebrities as key influencers. But that does not mean celebrities don't influence other consumer purchase behavior and overall brand awareness. As all the best performing celebrity partnerships, this is just a reminder that celebrity-driven campaigns must be relatable and utilize a celebrity established as a true influencer and expert in order to be effective. So no, the celebrity endorsement isn't dead. It just has its place, which is currently not in politics.

Marketing Lesson of the Week: For any celebrity engagement, do not underestimate the consumer's ability to make their own decisions and recognize the appropriate influencers for a particular decision, whether they are selecting their next shade of lipstick or the next President Elect.

Lesson of the Week: Be kind. Love America and love one another.