What B2B marketers can learn from B2C – the art of celebrity partnerships

Paparazzi by Dave FlickrIf you think that celebrity endorsements are solely for the B2C market then think again. Today’s savvy B2B marketers are going beyond the endorsement route and identifying ways to work with talent management agencies to secure talent partnerships that propel brand success on a global scale.

Since radio became commercial in the late 20s and from the first flickering of TV screens in the late 40s, celebrities have done commercials and endorsed businesses. Fast-forward 90 years and the landscape is starting to change, the problem however is that many marketers, and most talent agencies, are still operating on an old model.
The historical approach – use a famous face as a shortcut to brand recognition – is not penetrative enough for today’s sophisticated brand savvy consumers. Whilst it may be a compelling and commercially rewarding strategy, (according to Anita Elberse, associate professor at Harvard Business School, some companies have seen their stock increase by 2.5% on the day the deal was announced) endorsements alone will not give companies a competitive advantage.

Furthermore, as companies are now competing on a global scale, celeb-branding strategies help B2B brands quickly and easily leapfrog cultural boundaries and elevate them in a crowded commodity offerings market. For example Hewlett Packard, through its campaign, ‘The computer is personal again’ featuring singer and fashion designer Gwen Stefani reached the graphic arts and small to medium-size business communities at a global level. Whilst celebrities may or may not do ‘referencing’ as effectively as experts and clients do in business markets; what they can do is act as catalysts to quickly scale B2B businesses across different cultures. By pure virtue of their global status and global following, their image transcends language, boundaries and cultural nuances.

With this knowledge, B2B marketers need to learn from their B2C counterparts and work with talent management agencies to create authentic talent partnerships that go beyond the over-saturation of celebrity endorsements and instead utilise them as a vehicle to penetrate international markets.

So what exactly can B2B marketers learn from B2C on the art of effective celebrity endorsements? The answer is simply; create talent partnerships rather than just endorsements. Since the B2B sector is driven by relationships, and true relationships are built on authenticity; the idea of talent partnerships is a much securer way of repositioning the brand in the market place. For example, DuPont was immensely successful in creating derived demand for its innovations Teflon and FE-36 (fire extinguishing gas) by running innovative Motorsports-themed promotional programs and sweepstakes with Jeff Gordon-NASCAR car racing.

To create the most effective partnerships, companies need to identify talent that can add value to their proposition, expand their brands reach and deliver creative solutions to commercial problems. The difference between celebrity endorsements and celebrity partnerships is the strategic buy-in from the talent. Sceptical consumers know that celebrities are paid to endorse the brand, so when a partnership is implemented it adds an additional layer of authenticity to the relationship, which enhances customer loyalty and ultimately drives sales.

Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne is managing director at Kruger Cowne