From Taylor Swift to that great YouTube makeup artist, celebrity influencers seem to be everywhere today. But are celebrities an automatic win for brands? To find out, Women’s Marketing CEO Andrea Van Dam sat down with Blended Strategy Group (BSG) founders Sherry Jhawar and Allison Statter.
BSG is a marketing and branding company that advises celebrities and brands on how to partner with maximum impact. The two founders have extensive experience in both brand and talent management—Sherry as Global Head of Marketing for eos, helping build the brand into the cultural phenomenon it is today, and Allison as head of the commercial division at Azoff Music Management, where she handled all of the company’s endorsements, tour sponsorships and strategic marketing campaigns.
Together, this powerhouse team creates influencer strategies that move the needle and increase brand value on both sides.
Andrea Van Dam: As long as there have been ads, there have been celebrity endorsers. How are today’s celebrity influencers different than paid endorsers of the past?
Jhawar/Statter: The definition of celebrity has changed dramatically over the last few years. Celebrities used to consist primarily of athletes, musicians, and actors. Today, celebrities might be personalities rising from YouTube and other digital platforms, known for beauty, fashion, lifestyle, comedy or a variety of other things. The glam teams that work with celebrities are now also celebrities themselves. The range is very wide and diversity of celebrities is vast, allowing brands to activate with celebrities in ways that were never before possible.
Andrea Van Dam: Consumers say they trust influencers because they consider them more “authentic.” How do you ensure that highly paid celebrity endorsers convey that same sense of authenticity when working with a brand?
Jhawar/Statter: We believe that it is critically important that the celebrity and brand partnership is one that is truly authentic where both sides appreciate each other, bring value to the relationship and gain value from the relationship. At Blended Strategy Group, we have a very strong philosophy that we never want to force a square peg into a round hole. The celebrity has to genuinely like the brand, its products and connect to the creative campaign. The brand needs to ensure that they are partnering with a celebrity who has fans the brand wants to communicate with, and that the brand’s current fans will also resonate with.
We really kick the tires around when it comes to helping brands choose a celebrity partner—often reminding brands not to let their personal feelings towards a celebrity, good or bad, cloud the decision on who to partner with. And we often tell celebrities to not get so fixated and focused on their fees around the brand partnership, but to remember that a brand can bring other marketing value and exposure. We have sometimes told brands to not go with certain celebrities because it will look forced and not authentic—we believe it is our job to both recommend the right celebrity partners for our brand clients, as well as advise them when we see red flags with the celebrity partners they would like to pursue. The best partnerships are those where both the celebrity and the brand feel genuinely excited to be working with each other.
Andrea Van Dam: In your opinion, how has social media shaped branding and forced marketers to think more strategically about their brand’s image?
Jhawar/Statter: Social media both allows and requires brands to have a daily conversation with their consumers. That conversation needs to be a balance of engaging and informative. It is a way for brands to not only keep their products top of mind for consumers, but also educate consumers about new product launches and other innovations. Maintaining interesting content for daily use is a lot of work for brands! Brands that put in the effort will reap a lot of benefits. Social media cannot be ignored anymore!
Andrea Van Dam: Across all categories, beauty, fashion, even food and beverages, there’s so much competition on social media and at retail. How can a brand really stand out among its peers?
Jhawar/Statter: Brands’ social media imagery needs to captivate attention and be appealing enough to engage their audience. Products need to be visually interesting in the first place to help tell the story and illustrate their worth on social media. Additionally, products need to be visually appealing enough that consumers want to share pictures on their own personal social media platforms. Being featured and tagged in consumers’ social media images is the ultimate form of praise for a brand. It means that their brand and products have connected so effectively with their target audience that they want to share it with all their friends and followers.
Additionally, brands need to understand that content distributed on their own social media platforms is equally important to content that others distribute. Using influencers on social media allows brands to use someone else’s megaphone to get their message out. When this is done with the right mix of influencers and “flighted” media, like any other communications plan, brands can really stand out among their peers.
Andrea Van Dam: What has been your favorite influencer campaign and why?
Sherry Jhawar: One of my favorite celebrity campaigns happens to be one that Allison worked on prior to my even meeting her! It is the Jennifer Hudson and Weight Watchers partnership. This was one of the best-executed campaigns in history. The partnership was extremely authentic and Jennifer genuinely lived and breathed the Weight Watchers program and she saw great results! This partnership resulted in a monumental shift in the brand perception of Weight Watchers. Previously, people would never want to disclose they were on Weight Watchers as they felt it was embarrassing. The partnership with Jennifer transformed this feeling and made it social acceptable and almost “cool” for someone to say they are doing Weight Watchers. Now that is great marketing!
Allison Statter: I am going to take us back to 2001 when traditional celebrity endorsements were well thought out, the creative campaign was key, and talent was very strategic. Pepsi really set the bar high when it came to celebrity endorsements by partnering with the “IT” girl of the moment, Britney Spears. They stood out, their creative was AMAZING and everyone bought into it. It put them on the map and gave Coke a run for their money. I think Pepsi really accelerated this area and after they put out a handful of successful television commercials and print campaigns using A-level talent, every brand followed suit. The beauty of this partnership was that it aligned with Britney’s career as well. They were able to leverage each other to win all around.
It’s 2020…how has influencer marketing evolved and what does it look like?
Jhawar/Statter: Wow that is a tough one! Given Snapchat barely existed in 2013 and now is one of the fastest growing social platforms, anything could happen between now and 2020!
Not even two years ago, there was no such term as “influencer marketing” and now it is a line item on nearly all brands’ marketing plans. By 2020, influencer marketing will likely be the largest percentage of marketing and media mixes. Additionally, Gen Z will start to become a primary marketing target for many brands in 2020, which means a whole new crop of influencers will emerge! Additionally, as social platforms continue to evolve to more live formats, there will be a larger opportunity for real time interaction between fans and influencers. That real time interaction coupled with a brand partner, can allow for more personalized, “higher touch” approaches to influencer marketing tactics.
Women’s Marketing offers influencer marketing strategies for both emerging and high-growth brands. Contact us today to learn how we can help your brand find the most effective mix of marketing services for your brand.
About Blended Strategy Group
Blended Strategy Group (BSG) is a marketing and branding company that advises celebrity and brand clients on how to partner and build their respective brands with maximum impact. Blended is the first marketing and branding company bringing together partners from both brand management and talent management. This unique point of difference enables us to create influencer strategies that truly move the needle and increase brand value on both sides. On the brand side, BSG advises brands on strategy for using celebrity, influencers and other “pop culture” elements in marketing campaigns, and then executes and implements the strategy for the brand. On the talent side, BSG helps celebrities and influencers build their personal brands by pinpointing and executing authentic brand partnerships and endorsements. Blended’s co-founders, Allison Statter and Sherry Jhawar, bring vast experience and relationships on both the talent and brand side.
About Allison Statter
For Allison Statter, nothing is more important than finding just the right balance between having a career as a top entertainment industry executive while being a dedicated mother, wife, and daughter. Allison has been at Azoff Music Management for more than 12 years, following in the footsteps of her father, Irving Azoff. As a day-to-day manager of artists on their roster, Allison has worked with such superstars as Jennifer Hudson, Christina Aguilera, Nicole Scherzinger, Jewel, Jennifer Lopez and Seal, among others.
Most recently, Allison led the commercial division at Azoff Music Management, where she handled all of the company’s endorsements, tour sponsorships, and strategic marketing campaigns. Allison has spearheaded successful pairings between artists and brands, including Jennifer Hudson with Weight Watchers and QVC; Mariah Carey with OPI; Nicole Scherzinger with Proactiv and Herbal Essences; Chelsea Handler with T-Mobile; Gwen Stefani with MasterCard; and many more.
Allison also worked closely with the partnerships between Azoff MSG Entertainment and Digital Brand Architects and Burns Entertainment. Her role is to help pinpoint where the businesses need support and help in their growth. In addition to her role at Azoff Music, Allison has been servicing clients and brands in the commercial endorsement space. Her most current endeavors are securing eos Products with talent for their marketing campaign in China and pairing John Legend with the AXE White Label.
Allison’s experience in working with talent is unparalleled; she has is able to help guide talent to the best brand partnerships and brands to the best talent partnerships.
About Sherry Jhawar
In her most recent role, Sherry Jhawar was the Global Head of Marketing for eos Products, a beauty/skincare company with lip balm, hand lotion and shave cream products. Sherry joined eos in 2008, pre-revenue and pre-products, building eos to the pop culture phenomenon it is today.
While at eos, Sherry was responsible for all brand strategy, innovation, product development, advertising, and marketing. Sherry’s work at eos led to collaborations with Disney, fashion designer Rachel Roy, DreamWorks, iconic shoe brand Keds, as well as a variety of celebrity and entertainment-based partnerships. Prior to joining eos, Sherry was at L'Oreal in various marketing roles across all beauty and personal care categories including hair care, hair color, cosmetics and skin care. In her last role at L'Oreal, Sherry was the Director of Marketing for Shampoo & Conditioner.
Sherry is a graduate of UCLA and has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Sherry’s experience in working with both Fortune 500 brands and smaller growing brands enables her to help guide talent as they determine the best approach to building their personal brands, as well as guide brands on the best approach to becoming megabrands.