YAB Member Reports: Selling Millennials on Celebrity Endorsement

Millennials have grown up as paparazzi culture has reached a fevered pitch. They are well used to tabloids and blogs touting celebrities as being "just like us!" while simultaneously looking for scandals and failings to broadcast to fans. For this generation, there is no mystery to their "idols," and as a result actually idolizing celebrities is a dying sentiment. Their unique experience with celebrity culture brings into question the effectiveness of traditional celebrity endorsement. How believable is a seal of approval from a celebrity when Millennials know more about their personalities and preferences than ever before? Add to this the fact that Millennials might just be the most media savvy generation to date, with full awareness of the machinery at work behind brands and their efforts to lure in consumers. They are a more critical audience, and to reach them, finding the right pairing of brand and celebrity is imperative. Today Youth Advisory Board member Maddie Flager is giving her first-hand Millennial perspective on when celebrity endorsement works and when it falls flat.


Selling Millennials on Celebrity Endorsement

There is a fine line between a well-placed celebrity endorsement and one that simply fails to connect. Here are two of the biggest factors Millennials use to judge celebrity-endorsement marketing.

1) Do the Celeb and Brand Personalities Match?

Perhaps the biggest factor in producing a successful celebrity ad campaign is choosing the right person: how well do the icon and the product fit together? Personally, I often find that the less an ad is outright about buying the product and instead features an idea, feeling or attitude that the product evokes the more I will pay attention to it.

Feels Right: Pepsi has matched celebrity with brand perfectly in their campaign featuring Beyoncé. Because their energies are such a good match, the believability of the spokesperson using the product becomes somewhat less important. Does Beyoncé really rehydrate with Pepsi during rehearsal breaks? Probably not, but that’s not to say she doesn’t during other times of the day. Also, because the can is shown for merely 8 seconds during the commercial, the focus is taken off the actual drink and put onto the superstar. In this case, utilizing relatability over star power is a non-factor – Beyoncé is superhuman. If Beyoncé likes something, we do too. The pop-art print campaign and limited-edition can sporting Beyoncé’s face enhance Pepsi’s appeal even more. The vibrant, colorful designs reflect the fun and refreshing attitude that both Pepsi and Beyoncé embody.  Regardless of how seldom I drink Pepsi, I want a can with Beyoncé’s face on it, and the fun visual of the diva pushing a grocery cart full of Pepsi packs might just cause me to think twice next time I’m ordering a drink at a restaurant.

Falls Flat: This month’s Lipton tea ads featuring Kat Dennings did not live up to this standard. While Dennings was funny,  the pairing didn’t add up. Her quirky,  energetic personality was a mis-match with this product. The ad didn’t make me want to go out and buy tea, and didn’t make Lipton stand out either. While I am a fan of both as separate entities, the ad just didn’t do it for me. I wasn’t quite sure if the advertisers were going for a parody of the stereotypical, face-the-camera-and-smile, please-buy-our-product ad or if they were being serious, and that uncertainty resulted in a less than impressionable commercial. I liked the humor and energy they attempted to interject with Dennings' eccentricity, but the execution stripped the ad of authenticity.


2) Does It Feel Real?

As a consumer, I need to believe that the person advertised would actually use whatever product they are endorsing, or I will be instantly turned off. 

Feels Right: On the other hand, a superior example of this is the perfectly matched endorsement between Taylor Swift and Keds. The brand falls in line with Swift’s wholesome style, and I would not be at all surprised to see her wearing the shoes on the street. As a fan of Swift’s music and style, I was instantly inclined to check out Keds' website upon hearing of the collaboration and endorsement. Similarly, the ever-flawless Emma Stone’s Revlon ads made me want to run to CVS and buy makeup from a brand I had previously overlooked. The key here is to utilize an artist’s relatability, not just their star power.

Falls Flat: A prime example of this effort falling flat is McDonald’s.The multi-billion dollar company has become an American staple. Despite their huge success, their spokespeople feel ironic. Celebrity athletes from Michael Jordan to Lebron James have all endorsed the fast-food chain over the years. Even more ironically, McDonald’s became an official sponsor of the Olympic Games in 1976 and was featured prominently in the 2012 summer games, adding athletes like Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte to their roster of endorsers. Despite the company’s “favorites under 400 calories” menu additions, no part of me believes that these athletes are regularly eating McDonald’s, or that this food has in any way attributed to their outstanding success and health, as the endorsements seem to encourage viewers to believe. McDonald’s may be making minor attempts to improve the healthiness of their products, but they are still part of an industry that is hugely responsible for the obesity epidemic this country faces, and for that reason I find such pairings an awful fit.




Maddie Flager

Madison is currently a freshman at Loyola Marymount University, majoring in Communication Studies. She writes and copy edits for the LA Loyolan and is active in community service on campus. She plans to pursue a career in journalism and hopes to write for Time Magazine and Entertainment Weekly one day. In high school, Madison was editor-in-chief of The Prowl, vice-president of Key Club, and active in both marching and concert band. In her spare time she enjoys reading fashion magazines, watching The Office and exploring the city of Los Angeles.

Got something to say?

NEW YORK, NY 10001