Endorsements and authenticity

Slightly technical, but compelling research from Nielsen’s ratings regarding celebrity endorsements and advertisements.

Rethinking Celebrity Endorsements: Authenticity And Fit Are Key

While consumers are influenced by celebrities, they are also savvy enough to know when things are out of sync and an endorsement isn’t authentic.  Our research has shown that authenticity is most important among the very desirable youth market (ages 12-29).  Being able to tell whether the individual is a good fit for the proposed endorsement is an important piece of the puzzle to consider, before talking details of a deal, not after.  Fit can be measured in many ways – does the individual resonate with the target audience?  Do they reflect the attributes that brand is trying to present? Do consumers think they are a good fit for the category or brand?  Do consumers think the celebrity even uses the product they are endorsing?


Although Liam Neeson tops the N-Score rankings, if a deeper layer of research is applied, one that includes data on his purchase influence and social media footprint, the results are likely to be quite different.  According to Fanatomy 1, despite his high recognition (89%) and familiarity (73%) Neeson exerts only average purchase influence (30%) among those aware of him but has lower category fit – Automotive 51%, Alcohol Brands 41% and Financial Brands 34%.

In other words, consumers, particularly in the younger generation, aren’t very compelled by a celebrity endorsing a product because they can see through it. Unfortunately, MediaPost Communications (and likely other marketing/advertising companies) misses the forest for the trees (likely because they’re pushing such services to their clients),

Choosing the right person to endorse or promote your brand is vitally important.  There are numerous examples of brand / celebrity partnerships that are incompatible from the outset.  Take Brad Pitt and Chanel No.5 – although his fan base is likely to include females who use perfume, he himself is unlikely to be a frequent user.  Consequently, the partnership could be perceived as inauthentic.

Sometimes a celebrity may make sense. But if you’re thinking about celebrity endorsements before thinking about what it is you’re selling and why, you’re doing it wrong. The youth aren’t the only ones sensitive to inauthenticity, everyone is. It’s likely that younger demographics are less forgiving of it, as they’ve never lived in a world where consumerism wasn’t the modus operandi.

This is exactly the reason why marketing and advertising gets such a bad rap. The industry is more concerned with pushing product than with creating a lasting, meaningful relationship with their customers, built upon trust. There are good companies in this world selling quality products and services that make people’s lives better. You only need someone famous to convince us to use your product if your product doesn’t speak for itself. Let’s hope media types will accept that truth at some point.

  1. Fanatomy is PMK•BNC’s proprietary research study focused on consumer perceptions of celebrities and their potential fit and impact on brands and various product categories.

The Silent Reach of Design

Photo by LittleDaan

As many of you may be aware, I spend much of my free time in the kitchen, attempting to expand my culinary knowledge and prowess. I take a great interest in gastronomic developments around the world, and as a result, became a fan of a a good many chefs. Dominique Ansel gained fame with his development of the Cronut, but his bakery has produced a plethora of brilliant pastries and baked goods that I believe are much more technically impressive than his claim to fame.

I found this interview with Ansel over at the MOO blog thoughtful and worth a read.

You’ve also said that instead of just building a simple hierarchy of a kitchen, you’re building a team culture. What do you mean by that? How do you go about creating a culture?

It’s something that’s very important to me. I’ve learned that it’s pretty tough in some kitchens with people screaming and yelling and changing recipes. I don’t believe in this old school way of doing this, I believe in creating a nice environment and building a future for both my staff and myself. My staff are excited and passionate about what they do. Our staff want to exchange and share ideas, teach each other new things – they’re a core part of the business. They’re not only employees, they care for the business and I involve them in everything that we do, it’s important for me. I want them to be part of the kitchen, to understand why we do the things that we do, how we do them, and then I push them to become part of it. That’s the culture, where people believe that we can do something different every day. They come to work and they know that they’re part of it and that they can help us change the world of pastry.

How has design affected your businesses?

When I started the Bakery, I wanted to make sure it was fresh and modern; we use a clean and clever aesthetic. Design is a silent way to reach out to your guests. If you imagine your products as silent film stars, the design is what communicates their message.

I didn’t want it to feel like your grandmother’s house or that traditional classic, gold-gilded bakery. Our inspiration was to represent a new generation.

What a great analogy.

The value of packaging

tiffanyWith the holiday season here, I’ve been doing my fair share of gift shopping for friends and family members. One theme I’ve been noticing, particularly this year, is just how few retailers care about the entire retail experience. I can get why a discount retailer, or some sale site may not believe it’s worthwhile to spend a couple extra bucks on ensuring the little details are attended to, but I cannot understand just how many companies—many of them not value brands by any means—completely overlook the experience after purchase.

Nearly every store I visited this year were “out of boxes” (which I believe more accurately translates to “we don’t actually order any boxes for customers because we don’t want to be bothered with the extra expense, especially when we give them out for free”). And because none of them stand out in this regard, each misses out on a major opportunity to create a better experience for their customer. Consumers spend money for a lot of reasons. But customer loyalty serves to differentiate and adds value to a purchase. This value translates into increased revenues.

Tiffany’s diamonds are the same diamonds sold at Costco. But Tiffany’s is selling an experience: a memory. They wrap this memory into a package that people will pay 2 or 3 times the amount of a diamond sold elsewhere. But what if you have a better product but a customer’s interaction with it is inferior? Despite the product’s superiority, most customers will devalue it. You don’t want your product devalued. It has a direct correlation to your brand.

Closely watch someone open a delicately wrapped gift you give them this year. There’s drama to it. There’s excitement. There is anticipation. That feeling is worth something. It’s worth getting it right.

Perhaps this is just me frustrated that I need to find about a dozen boxes for gifts this year. But if a store doesn’t care about ensuring my gifts elicit an emotional experience, however fleeting, why should I be loyal to them?

(Photo by atl10trader)

Jerry Seinfeld accepts his CLIO

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld accepted his CLIO, the highest award given in the advertising industry, last Thursday. To say his acceptance speech is worth watching is an understatement.

Yes We Can. But Should We?

Great essay from Allison Arieff positing that makers and designers have a heavy duty—even responsibility—when creating for the world.

In Why Things Bite Back, Edward Tenner writes of what he calls the “ironic unintended consequences’’ of human ingenuity, ranging from antibiotics that promise the cure of disease but end up breeding resistant microorganisms, to a new football helmet, designed to reduce injuries, that actually encourages a more violent style of playing, thus creating the risk of more serious injury. We’re experiencing some of these ironies now as we use technology to solve the wrong problems. We’re in a period where almost anyone has the tools to make almost anything – but are we making the right things? Or too many of the wrong ones?

What we leave for the world when we leave this world is all we have. No subordinate motive, whether it be money, power, or fame, matters in the rear view.

Developing an NHL team logo

Developing an NHL team logo

Great coverage over at NHL uniform blog, Icethetics, highlighting a recent segment on Hartford local television, on how one of the smartest sports logos, the now defunct Hartford Whalers, came to be.


So I said, what do we have to work with? I have the letterforms ‘W’ and ‘H’ and I have a whale. And whales are kind of amorphous creatures. They’re not like a tiger where you could characterize it very simply. But the whale’s tail is very, very formally interesting. It’s symmetrical. So you have three symmetrical elements to play with. This was a gift.

Professional sport teams are now often times billion dollar companies. It so often surprises me how little focus and effort is put into crafting a team’s identity. It’s refreshing to see truly brilliant design in the industry every so often. Incredible that a defunct sports team still sells so well.

Make sure you watch the video in the linked piece.

Universal sign design

But what would you put on the door?!” said a facility manager at an airport, his concern echoed by an administrator at a university: “When people are looking for a restroom, they look for the ‘man or woman’ icon. It’s what we know to look for that means restroom.

Taking a step back and uncomplicating what was already there is sometimes all you need.

Form over function? Fashion, design, and the crossroads

Incredibly thoughtful piece from Khoi Vinh pondering the various meanings of the word design, through the lens of a rumored wearable product from Apple, Inc.

Things that you wear are a wholly different proposition. There is almost literally no reason why we need collars on a shirt, frills on a blouse, pleats on a pair of pants (actually, there is no good reason for pleats on pants for men, at least until the winds of fashion decide the opposite), or any of the countless design details that make what we wear compelling to us as things that we want put on and walk out the door with. These things are designed from the outside in; they’re fashion first and goods second.

When technology companies look at goods that are built from the outside in, they generally see irrationality and inefficiency, a broken market just waiting to be corrected and “disrupted.” They believe that they can engineer so much value into these items that people will be swayed to buy goods built from the inside out, that the promise that drives hardware and software—“adopt this and benefit from its utility”—will convince people to upend their sartorial habits. This is how you get products like Google Glass, which assumes that consumers prize utility so much that they’re willing to look like they have no interest whatsoever in having intimate relations with another human being.

We often say at The Carmichael that making something pretty isn’t our goal. I think this piece gets more at the heart of what we mean by that. Of course designers approach projects from an ideal, hoping to beautify the world. But beauty without function often times is narcissistic and indulgent. But then again, the opposite risks feeling banal and dogmatic.

Good design transcends these two approaches.

RIP Mossimo Vignelli

Vignelli was a true giant in the design industry. Best known for the NYC subway redesign, his creations still shape the world today.

Going backwards isn’t a magic fix

Charles Rashall, President of BrandAdvisors, the firm behind the JCPenney brand transformation in 2012 opens up about JCPenney abandoning their design and returning to the pre-2011 logo.

Agency Behind J.C. Penney’s Axed Logo: Going Backwards Isn’t a Magic Fix

Going back to “the good old days” of sales and coupons puts J.C. Penney back in the sea of sameness, competing with brands like Walmart, Sears and Kmart, where price is the tool of choice to drive traffic and sales. At a time of financial crisis and a need for focus, changing the logo for the third time in as many years is a distraction.

The real challenge for the company: defining a strategy that allows J.C. Penney to stand for something meaningful and distinctive, and to that end, coming to grips with and staying focused on the ideal target customer.

We’ve been watching JCPenney with interest since Ron Johnson took reign (and his prompt overthrow the moment the board of directors became nervous that his transformation would lead to big changes, and some short-term financial woes). Ron Johnson held a vision for JCPenney that excited the brand for the first time in memory.

Rashall’s commentary strikes at the heart of why companies rebrand: communicating change and symbolizing a vision to the world. Unfortunately for JCPenney, their fear of thinking differently damns them to being no different than the tens of other retail stores that compete on price alone. JCPenney had an opportunity, but the fear of the short-term prevented them from obtaining the possible huge benefits of the long-term.