Influencer Marketing, Sponsorship

Can ‘Brand Ambassadors’ actually make you buy anything?

I take strong exceptions to people fainting for petty reasons. Fainting is a very serious matter. You faint when a werewolf bears down on you. You faint when Sgt Rogers visits you. You don’t faint because Justin Bieber blew you a kiss. That’s preposterous. There’s a girl somewhere the dude kisses for good. Don’t waste your fainting. Keep it for the crucial. If everyone fainted for every flimsy reason, what’s left to do when you wake up to the company of Hannibal Lecter?

In most of Europe, North America and Asia, celebrities wield enormous star power. They are fawned on, have a cult following and idolised. A celebrity might bomb the wedding picture of some newly- weds and the couple would be over the moon. If WizKid bombs my picture, dude’s going to be paying!

Which leads me to brand endorsement by celebrities. Nigerians are not easily star-struck. We are a cynical and conceited bunch. While the rest of Africa idolize stars like P Square, in Nigeria they are just some ‘lucky’ guys, some Usher wanna-be. Several years ago, I ran into Jay Jay Okocha at a mall in Lagos. Everyone walked on by as if he was some ordinary guy. I mean, this was Jay-Jay – “so good they named him twice.”In Europe, people would ask for autographs and selfies.

Different celebrities get different responses though. About eleven years ago, we took 2 Face Idibia to a Guinness Extra Smooth event in Enugu. He was brand ambassador for Guinness Extra Smooth and arguably Nigeria’s biggest artiste at the time. I kid you not, people wanted to touch him. Feel his skin and touch his clothes. The convoy we had him in had a very tough time getting to the stage due to the mass of humanity seeking to catch a glimpse of Tu Face. Securing the stage against them proved quite a challenge. One guy managed to evade the security and got on stage. He managed to touch 2 Face before bodyguards got to him. As he was thrown off the stage, he kept shouting “I touch am! I touch 2 Baba!” It was unbelievable.

But very few Nigerian celebrities are loved like 2 Face. It therefore stands to reason that if we are not a people easily star-struck, then our celebrities have a hard job influencing our perception of brands or purchase decisions.

When brands use celebrities as endorsers or in advertising, it is hoped that the celebrity’s popularity will help the brand achieve higher message retention and recall. Celebrities – the right celebrities, that is – are particularly useful in helping a new product gain awareness.

For brands that also need to bolster their image, reputation, or thinking of expanding into other markets and broadening appeal, celebrity endorsement is also a useful tool. I’ll eat my shoes if Wayne Rooney actually drinks Chivita, but seeing him and other Manchester United players endorse the product the impression that Chivita is perhaps a top quality brand, much more than I have given it credit for. Otherwise why would Manchester United associate with it (pssst. Man United will endorse me if I can come up with the money!)

However, many brand ambassadorship in Nigeria fail because there’s usually no fit between the brand’s personality and the celebrity’s personality. Between the brand’s values and the celebrity’s values. No organic fit between the celebrity and the brand’s target audience. The reality of the situation though is that very few products in Nigeria are brands, or have a well-articulated brand identity.

By far the most important criterion for picking a brand ambassador is credibility of the celebrity with the target market. Credibility will usually encompass expertise, likeability and trustworthiness.

Take Tiwa Savage’s brand endorsement of Forte Oil’s Super Visco Static lubricant. Sweetheart probably couldn’t tell the difference between cooking oil and engine oil, or knew where or how to check oil levels in a car. She lacked the expertise and trust – even if she was well-liked – to pitch the product. On the other hand, she was a better fit for Pampers. She was a new and young mother, well-liked and a quality performer, a state of affair the good folks at P&G hope would help dial up the quality credentials of ‘Nigeria Pampers.’ “If Nigeria Pampers is good enough for Tiwa, then it is also good enough for me,” should be the expected inference by mothers.

Another good brand endorsement fit is Don Jazzy and Johnnie Walker. Johnnie Walker’s brand essence is “inspiring personal progress;” overcoming odds to achieve success. Don Jazzy had certainly overcome challenges. Most people thought he was done when D’banj waved him adios. He had to leave Mo’ Hit Records that he co-founded and grew. Had to start from scratch. Very trying times for him. But he picked himself up and kept on walking. He is now a bigger success than he was with Mo’ Hits. Joy has taken him further.

However, brands need to make sure that their brand identity matches their brand image. Brand identity is all the brand team does to make consumers see the brand in a certain light, while brand image is how consumers actually see the brand. No point using Olamide to sell a premium brand if consumers see him as ‘street.’

Amongst my sore points with celebrity endorsement is over-exposure. Celebrities endorsing multiple brands. So, Whiz Kid speaks for Pepsi as well as Glo as well as who else. While many brands are content to accept their ambassadors endorsing other brands – as long as it is in a different category – you hit rotten luck if the non-compete brand is a big spender. Probably drowns you out or dilute the impact of the ambassador for your brand. Over-exposed celebrities do nothing for your figure.

Plus, really, people, a lot of celebrity endorsements aren’t just believable. They are paid to say what they say and do what they do. It’s lame thinking, I know. But it is a primordial one. Human being are petty like that. I am more likely to buy a brand or consider it if it demonstrates its usefulness in meeting my need.

Right. Nuff said. I’m dying to know the brand ambassador strategy of Glo. The only celebrity they haven’t used is me! That’s discriminatory.

Which celebrity do you guys think might be a good fit for which brand? What might be the strategy? Love to hear your views.

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