Can a celebrity drive awareness for your brand? Consider the power of Kim Kardashian and SKIMs, Ryan Reynolds and Aviation Gin or Calvin Klein and Justin Bieber.

celebrity & brands

celebrity & brands


Brands have been working with talent for decades for a simple reason: it works. When done correctly, celebrities can drive deeper awareness for your product and boost your brand’s visibility to a wider audience. But done incorrectly, you’ll spend more money than you ever imagined and people will remember your talent, but not your product. 

For brand strategists and marketers, it’s a tricky formula to get right. Here’s how to avoid major pitfalls. 

Why use a celebrity?

Celebrity endorsement, aka celebrity branding or celebrity advertising, is the practice of using a celebrity and their image to promote a brand, product or cause. This can help drive sales in the short term and brand awareness in the long term. It can also set you apart from your competitors in a highly competitive market. It’s also an effective strategy if you’re marking a major change for your brand – like the introduction of a new product, market expansion, or brand repositioning. For instance, when Nike expanded from track and tennis into other sports like basketball, they partnered with NBA star Michael Jordan to create & market several new product lines, which resulted in explosive growth for the brand.

So it’s definitely an effective marketing lever to pull if your brand is ready for that kind of awareness and growth.
But there are a few watch-outs to take into account when it comes to dealing with talent.  


Can Talent Overshadow Your Brand?


Advertising legend David Ogilvy once famously said he would never work with celebrities and brands because “people remember the celebrity and not the product.” He’s not wrong. Brands routinely shell out millions for a celebrity endorsement, and the star gets the limelight while the brand becomes a side prop. As an example, Tiffany’s recent Lose Yourself in Love campaign stars Beyonce. The ads do a wonderful job of celebrating the singer and her role in modern culture, but the association to Tiffany and their product is vague.

How can you avoid this pitfall? It requires being intentional up front about the role of your brand in relation to the role of the talent. If you don’t define your brand as the Hero of the story, your talent will engulf any brand aspect, overshadowing the outcome. 

Several brands have successfully navigated celebrity overshadowing. Some recent examples:

  • This Apple spot heroes Apple’s music service with an utterly distracted Taylor Swift.
  • This Barilla pasta spot stars Roger Federer, but he’s getting put through the paces. The hero of this story? Italian cooking is masterful with Barilla pasta.
  • And Intimissimi features Heidi and Leni Klum but the product and the company’s Italian heritage is the hero of the spot (disclosure: Magnetic Brand Strategy worked on this campaign).

When navigating campaigns with talent, always remember that your brand is the star, and your celebrity is the spotlight. The best way to ensure this is to have a clear story line, where the talent’s role in the campaign is to support the brand – see the examples above – they don’t outshine the brand.

Important as well, you also want a well designed story line that brings out the authenticity of the brand in relation to the celebrity’s life. If the connection between the brand and talent feels authentic (like Taylor Swift organically using Apple Music, or Heidi Klum wearing elegant Italian lingerie), it will make your efforts more effective.  


Other Hiccups to Consider: Overexposure, Scandal


Big celebrities come with big followings but often also a smorgasbord of other endorsement deals. We recommend to avoid this type of celebrity. Consumers are crazy and they realize when they’re being sold to and when the celebrity is being bought. So it’s important to choose a celebrity carefully – choose one that is organically aligned with your brand. Would they use your product naturally? Would they pay for your brand’s product themselves? Also, the celebrity that endorses all brands endorses none. Don’t gravitate to someone just because of their (potentially inflated) Instagram following. Choose wisely. It’s better to go with a lesser-known celebrity who is passionate about your brand than an A-lister who is simply bankrolling endorsements. 

As well, people love a good celebrity scandal, but not when it comes to your brand. Inappropriate behavior can negatively influence your brand image, so again, find talent that best reflects your brand organically and choose your talent wisely. 


How to use Celebrity

There are a few ways your brand can use celebrity to endorse your product or service:

Celebrity ads and commercials – These are banners and videos for paid campaigns on social media (Instagram, TikTok, YouTube). You can also purchase commercial slots on television. In taking this step you’ll want to partner with a media agency to ensure your campaign gets maximum visibility.

Celebrity signature product lines – some brands put a celebrity name or face directly on their product (think Kaia Gerber and Zara; or Lizzo and FABletics), or increasingly, celebrities are launching their own lines (think Kourtney Kardashian with Poosh; George Clooney with 3 Amigos Tequila; and many others). This is quite popular amongst celebrities because they can negotiate t0 get a percentage of sales in addition to visibility.

Celebrity appearances in live events – brands often invite a celebrity to present a keynote or to host an event on their behalf – think Gary Vaynerchuk and Tony Robbins. This is a good approach if your event is large enough and the celebrity has a strong relevant connection to your brand, event and audience.

Celebrity spokesperson – Celebrity spokesperson advertising is common in the not-for-profit sector and causes. The celebrity does the work of bringing attention to a cause while speaking on behalf of the organization at third-party events and to the media.


Is celebrity right for your brand, and is your business ready for that kind of exposure? We covered a lot of cursory information in this post. If you want to learn more, reach out to us for a chat. We’re happy to consult and give you our expert opinion on if it will make your brand magnetic to success.


If you’re in marketing and branding, you want your brand to stand out and capture your target’s attention. But so often, brands will look, sound and act like the rest of their competition. In order to stand out, you’ve got to break from your category’s convention and look, sound and act utterly distinctive so that you become memorable from the rest. How do you do that?

First – What is category convention? 

Here’s a great example. If you’re a heavy metal fan and were in San Francisco in 2015 you probably would’ve seen this poster plastered all over town:


Von Restorff Effect and Category Convention

The Von Restorff Effect and Category Convention

And if you’re like 99.8% of the people out there, your eyes would have automatically gravitated to one particular band. 

No slight to the other talented bands on this poster, but this is an excellent example of Category Convention. To understand its power, we need to first understand the Von Restorff Effect, also known as ‘the isolation effect,’ which was codified in 1934 by German psychologist Hedwig von Restorff (1906–1962), who found that when participants were presented with a list of categorically similar items with one distinctive, isolated item on the list, they recalled the one distinctive item the most.

For example, if a person sees a shopping list with one item highlighted in bright green, s/he will be more likely to remember the highlighted item than any of the others. Or, given a list of words – desk, chair, bed, table, chipmunk, dresser, stool, couch – “chipmunk” will be remembered the most, as it stands out against the other words in its meaning.

In other words: if you want to be memorable you’ve got to stand out.

But let’s get back to heavy metal and Category Convention. As I mentioned, if you’re like most people out there, you would’ve noticed one particular band: Party Cannon. That’s because its logo is bright and colorful and a direct contrast to the spidery gothic script that the other heavy metal bands used. In fact, I’d be willing to assume that you noticed no other band except for Party Cannon. Wouldn’t you want that kind of impact for your business?

That’s why it’s super important to make sure your business stands out in every possible way, to capture people’s attention and stay in their memory.

So how do you do that?

Discover Your Category’s Convention

The first thing you need to do is discover your category convention. You’ll want to spend some time looking at your category critically. Who are all the players? What language do your competitors use? What about dominant colors? How do they talk about themselves – what tone do they use? Are they light and personable, or formal? Let’s bring this to light with an example.

One of our clients is in the tax & accounting sector. When we looked at the category convention for the accounting sector, here’s what we found:

Tax and accounting category convention

Tax and accounting logo category convention


We saw a lot of spreadsheets, boxes, checkmarks and arrows in their logos.

In terms of names, the vast majority of them had surnames as their business names, like “Thompson & Greenspon” or “The Goldin Group.” PWC and KPMG all stand for the original partners’ surnames.






Category convention colors

Category convention colors


In terms of colors, we saw a lot of blue, reds and oranges. Arrows, boxes, check marks. Good to know.

We made a note of all the category convention cues and listed them as everything we wanted to avoid.







When it came time to design the brand, we knew exactly how to create differentiation. We recommended a name that created a warm association (our client stayed with her original name, Monarch CPA, which we loved because it was distinctive), and recommended dark green and coral colors (to cue financial prosperity and vitality, while also avoiding the category convention) and a logo – an elephant, emblematic of a monarch, one that is intelligent and majestic. Visually these cues were wildly different from the competition.


Breaking the accounting category convention

Breaking the accounting category convention

warm, differentiated, approachable

warm, differentiated, approachable



Category Convention in Communications

We also looked at language. For most of the competition, they spoke in 3rd person and had a formality to their communications. We opted to go more direct and casual, speaking to her audience in the 2nd person, and in an approachable, friendly manner. We avoided the dreadfully dry and verbose accounting speak. In doing so, we helped her business stand out from the competition and signal a very different look and feel. She was thrilled with her rebrand experience and the differentiation we created for her. You can explore the website more fully here.

Go Beyond Your Category Convention

DIYers: when turning to your own business, you’ll want to do this exercise thoroughly. Begin by exploring how your competition communicates visually and verbally. Make a note of tone of voice, brand personality and archetypes, color and even font selection. Dig deep and look at all facets of communications: from company name to logo, colors, font, copy, images, everything. Then draft up your notes. Work with a talented design team who can help you pivot off your category convention into a white space that feels distinctively different and right for your brand.

Need help? Give us a shout. We regularly help our clients stand out from the competition with great success.  We work to uncover the category convention for all our clients, a standard part of our process and we’d love to help your business stand out and make you magnetic to success, too.

You’ve done the work and landed on a shiny new brand strategy. Congratulations! But let’s not shove all that great thinking in some folder, never to be looked at again. You need to activate your brand so you can start growing your business with intention. Which means: you need a marketing strategy. You need to attract the right customers. You need to know what to say to attract them. And you need to know what marketing tactics will work. In other words: you need a marketing strategy. 

Marketing Strategy: How to Tell Your Brand Story

What’s a Marketing Strategy? It’s the blueprint for what to convey and the tactics you’ll use to engage your audience and fulfill your brand strategy. Consider that you’ve suddenly got all these brand elements to talk about: attributes, benefits, values, and more. If you randomly shout these out to the Universe, your message will be muddy, your audience confused, and as I like to say: a confused shopper never buys. 

Importantly, there’s a sequence to bringing up various parts of your brand at the right time — just like telling a joke, where timing & the punchline is everything. If you do your marketing right, your prospect will quickly go from skeptical to persuaded. So what’s the right sequence? And what approaches are the right ones for your audience? 

A Review: the Customer Journey

Before we begin, it’s helpful to review the journey that your customer takes as s/he becomes familiar with your brand. This article details the Customer Journey and the various stages your customers travel as they come to love your brand (unaware > aware > consideration > purchase > loyal). It also highlights what to convey at those particular journey points. It’s a great primer to get your customers to fall in like with you, and I would re-include it here, but since this post can’t be 15 pages long, I *highly* recommend you read it. 

Build Your Marketing Strategy

There are steps to take in building out a Marketing Strategy, or communications strategy. They are as follows: 

  1. Identify your business problem. Depending on your business – and the problem(s) that you want your marketing to solve – your communications strategy will vary. If you have great repeat business but want to grow and need more customers, focus on customer acquisition. If you have brand awareness but aren’t closing customers, you’ll need a stronger consideration-to-purchase strategy. Or for those of you who need help with re-engagement: you’ll need to strengthen your retention game. You get the idea. Your plan depends on what you’re trying to solve, so make sure you problem-find correctly the first time. 
  2. Understand your key audience. Whether you want to farm existing customers for additional business or bring in new customers, you need to understand their needs and mindset. This article can help you define your customer profile and get clear about who you are targeting.  Missing some information? This article on customer insights can help as well. 
  3. Determine your media channels and marketing tactics. There are numerous marketing tools you can use to reach your audience, as you’ll read about in a minute. Determine what’s right for your customers and your team and choose tactics that work for you both.
  4. Create a communications schedule. This is super-effective in keeping you on track and making sure you’re consistent with your brand messaging. Your brand is what you do and say consistently, so have a system in place to deliver your brand consistently to your audience.
  5. Monitor, evaluate and tweak. Constantly monitor your results to understand what’s landing and if you’re moving closer to achieving your goals. If something didn’t work, make a note and better it or swap it out for another tactic.

Once you’ve determined your business problem and your audience, explore media channels and marketing tactics to help reach those customers. As an example, let’s take a look at how you might deploy a marketing strategy to mine existing customers for additional business.

A Marketing Strategy to Mine Existing Customers

If your business problem is new revenue growth, the easiest route to growth is through your existing customer base. Moving a prospect from unaware to purchase is waaaaaaaaaayyyyyy more time and resource-intensive than reaching out to an existing customer who already knows you, has done business with you, appreciates the value you provide, and might not know about another service you provide that could benefit them greatly. 

There are many different tactics to use in engaging existing customers. Some effective ones I can recommend include: 

  • Blog / video posts – Create content that informs, educates or inspires your customers about the other services you additionally provide (“XYZ Services”) that they might not know about. Once you have this content, you can repurpose it effortlessly across other channels, like newsletters, social and the like;
  • Newsletters & e-blasts – Your chance to tell your customers about YXZ services in a format that comes directly to their inbox;
  • Customer case studies – If you’re known for ABC services, share a customer case study about XYZ services that you also offer so you can show (not tell) how XYZ services can help them succeed (this read can help you do that);
  • Testimonials – In their words, how your customers benefit from XYZ services, and what they deeply and disproportionately value about XYZ services;
  • SEO / keyword analysis – Get your business ranked on Google and appear in search results for ABC services and XYZ services that you provide;
  • Customer feedback – learn directly from the source what your customers need / want and how you can help them;
  • Speaking opportunities (including podcasts) – Great opportunities to showcase your expertise and discuss XYZ services while reaching new and existing audiences;
  • Social (e.g., LinkedIn or Instagram) – Meet your customers where they are, and share information about XYZ services that you offer in a way that informs, educates and inspires;
  • Networking – Meet your customers where they are and build rapport;
  • Promotions – Creative ways to help them over the finish line and re-engage you with XYZ services. 

There are other tactics, but for most B2B companies looking to drive retention, this is a strong, great start. Revisit what your target audience will be most receptive to and build your plan. Make sure to be realistic about what you and your team can accomplish, since this list is extensive. 

A Marketing Strategy to Build Brand Awareness

Let’s look at another comms plan: how to create brand awareness. What marketing tactics can you employ to generate brand awareness?  This approach is much harder (and more expensive), because you’re going after new customers who aren’t familiar with your brand. Some options for you to consider include: 

  • SEO / keyword analysis – Prospects will do a Google search to find out what companies offer services in your sector. You want to make sure your business ranks high on Google so appear prominently in search results for the services you provide;
  • Blog / video posts – Once prospects learn about your company, they’ll come to your site. You’ll want to offer them content that informs, educates or inspires them to take action. Particularly in B2B, folks are persuaded by content that showcases expertise and approach;
  • Paid Media – Advertising tactics such as Google ad words, ads on social and other means to build awareness of your brand with your target audience;
  • Newsletters and e-blasts – Create a separate newsletter for prospects, and then share content that informs & inspires them to learn more about your services in a format that comes directly to their inbox;
  • Customer case studies – These are fantastic prospect conversion tools. Case studies are your chance to show, not tell, how your services help solve a customer’s challenge (this read can help you write powerful case studies);
  • Testimonials – These are powerful in helping prospects see how satisfied other customers are with your services. They are particularly effective because it’s in a customer’s own words how they benefited from your offering;
  • Customer feedback – Reach out to learn from your best customers what they value, so you can communicate those benefits to prospects who value those aspects as well;
  • Social (e.g., LinkedIn or Instagram) – Meet your prospects where they are, and share content that informs, educates and inspires – here, you can repurpose many parts of your blog posts;
  • Networking – Meet your prospects where they are and build rapport;
  • Speaking opportunities (including podcasts) – Great opportunities to showcase your expertise and reach new audiences;
  • Conferences & events – Meet your prospects where they are and build rapport;
  • Promotions – Creative ways to help them over the finish line and sign up to purchase. 

You’ll realize that many of the tools used for retention can also work for acquisition. What’s different is what to convey. You’ll want to change your messaging to be relevant to a prospect. Help them understand your approach and services and the value you provide, and perhaps why you are different from the competition. This content is different from your existing customers who might already be familiar with the value you provide, but they’re not aware of other services you also offer.

Know Yourself… And Your Audience

This >>almost<< goes without saying, but… 

You need to be clear what you’re going to upsell your customers and if there’s a clear desire for your additional offering. Spend the time to ensure you can offer what they need and want without overtaxing your resources. Avoid setting your business up for catastrophic success. 

(Not sure what they need & want? Skip down to the “Customer Feedback” section of this post) 

And study what marketing tactics are right for your audience. Are your customers on LinkedIn? Are they regular attendees at networking events? Do they respond well to newsletters? Then you need to be meeting them where they’re at. If you don’t know what tactics are right for your customers: visit the “Customer Feedback” section. 

Finally, doing these marketing initiatives is a sizable task, so determine what’s right for your business and what you / your team can readily deploy. Then build a schedule so you generate content regularly. I’ve said this earlier, but it bears repeating: your brand is what you say and do consistently. Sending out a newsletter 1x / month is better than hitting three tactics in one month and then peace-ing out for the year. Don’t be that brand.

Customer Feedback

‘Well this all sounds easy,’ you say, ‘but I don’t know what my customers like or need, or if they read newsletters or if they’re on LinkedIn or not! How do I figure that out?’

Easy. Ask them. 

I ask my clients to schedule quarterly / semi-annually check-in chats to see how their customers are doing. This is to understand how they’re liking your services, and what you can do to make their lives better / easier / more fabulous. Not only does this garner goodwill for your business; it makes your customers feel seen, engendering loyalty. And in your quick 20-minute chat, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about other issues they might have (that you can possibly help them out with) while asking them how they prefer to learn about your other services. 

I’m channeling Yoda for all of you when I tell you: just do it. Don’t argue or half-attempt this. Just do the work.

Channeling Yoda.

I can’t count the number of clients I cajole into this who always come around and thank me later. Please reach out and talk to your customers. Trust me. If you’re not regularly talking to your customers, I promise you: you’re leaving the door open for your competitors, who will.

Customize Your Marketing Strategy

I hope this article has helped you realize there are lots of available tools to accomplish your marketing goals, but first and foremost, you need to have a plan to meet your objectives. You should have some good ideas for how to start drafting your plan. If you need help, we’re pleased to announce that Magnetic Brand Strategy is now also offering communications & marketing services in addition to brand strategy. Reach out and let us help make your brand magnetic to success. 

Magnetic Brand Strategy, located in Northern Virginia, serves a global market seeking a methodical approach to branding. Learn more about us.