Vamping the brand

Celebrities have long been used for fronting advertising campaigns for a range of products and services, but now Kate Moss is the latest star to join the likes of David and Victoria Beckham in transcending the face of a brand to being the brand itself. Louise Jack report

Kate%20There is a growing feeling that traditional marketing based on a brand’s inherent core values is being crushed under the relentless march of celebrities collaborating with, and now creating their own, brands.

Kate Moss has added the recently launched fragrance Kate by Kate Moss to her growing list of business projects. The second range in her collaboration with Top Shop hit stores two weeks ago and in October she will feature in the launch of a hair care range from celebrity stylist James Brown (MW last week). Moss is a stakeholder in the company and will appear in the advertising for the range.

Moss is one of a growing band of famous faces who are making the journey from featuring in advertising campaigns, to being the “face” of a brand, to becoming brands themselves. Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani and even Donald Trump have turned their talents to fashion ranges recently, while celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has a food range and a line of branded utensils. Former boxer George Foreman has become a household name for his Lean, Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine and is gearing up to break into the food market with a range of meat and fish (MW August 16).

Interbrand chairman Rita Clifton says: “The concept of branding has changed, people are now as capable of being a brand as a product or retailer. Celebrity endorsements are as old as branding itself but what is changing is the level of celebrities’ involvement.”

Branding used to be a way for consumers to identify a product with its manufacture, its qualities and its benefits. The link between a product and a celebrity may seem more tenuous but it is just as effective in today’s fame-obsessed culture. Celebrities now exist in the mind of the consumer in the same way that packaged goods brands do.

Indeed, they have to adhere to the same disciplines as retail or packaged goods brands. Moss will need to continually reinforce her credentials as a style-setter in order to grow into a sustainable brand, with a degree of longevity, as opposed to being a short-lived marketing phenomenon.

Moss’ development into a standalone brand is being managed by her modelling agency, Storm. Graphic artist Peter Saville created a logo that is used on the Top Shop range, the fragrance and is to feature on any future commercial projects.

Coherent message
A team of five devotes its life to the various aspects of Moss’ career, headed by Storm director Simon Chambers. “We don’t consider what we’re doing has any time frame on it,” he says. “We are trying to build a coherent brand message and only operate in areas where Kate brings something special to that business. It’s about creating something new that comes from her abilities and experience. Therefore, the brand has an integrity because people relate to it when they see what fields it is in.”

Brands that associate themselves with celebrities such as Moss have to find the balance between choosing the right star for a campaign and not allowing the message to be overshadowed by the celebrity with whom they are collaborating.

Clifton observes: “Moss has been in countless campaigns. In one recent fashion magazine she was on page after page of different ads. Cover up the logo of those brands and you would have no idea who the ads were for because Kate Moss has vampired the publicity.”

But Moss is not alone. In one famous incident during the football World Cup, David Beckham appeared in four separate ads during a single commercial break. These incidents highlight the fact that marketers can no longer think of their brands as a single entity but must also manage the brands with which their celebrity endorser may have other arrangements.

Rumours abound that the Top Shop deal between Philip Green and Moss was largely the reason for the sudden departure of Jane Sheperdson, who had been the driving force behind Top Shop’s transformation from retailer of tacky teen fashion to the high street’s coolest brand.

Sources say Sheperdson was annoyed that Green had not consulted her about the deal, said to be worth £3m. It has been claimed that she was concerned the tie-up with Moss might detract from the design credentials she had built for the store.

Top Shop will have to tread very carefully to ensure that it keeps a strong sense of what it stands for and that the Moss range remains an adjacent brand, adding to the retailer’s own assets, rather than overwhelming them.
Chambers says that Moss’ relationship with Top Shop is regarded as a long-term collaboration and is complementary for both parties.

The somewhat lacklustre response from the public to the recent arrival of her second collection did not quite match the fervour with which the first was greeted in May. Nevertheless, the collections are deemed to be a commercial success and Moss undoubtedly gave Green a calling card to announce Top Shop’s arrival in the US this year. Without her, it could easily have been seen as just another British brand trying to break into the US market.

Of course, not all celebrity deals are successful. Moss had her own very public fall from grace and was abruptly dropped by various brands including H&M, Chanel and, momentarily, Burberry. In the women’s fragrance market, Jade Goody’s surprise 2006 bestseller Shh… was dramatically delisted by The Perfume Shop after the Celebrity Big Brother racism row. And Britney Spears imploded earlier this year just as her latest fragrance, In Control, was about to launch.

FutureBrand deputy managing director Jasmine Montgomery warns: “Not only is there a limited shelf-life to celebrity collaborations, there is also a huge reputational risk. Traditional brands can only be subjected to a degree of business scrutiny.”

Montgomery does not believe that celebrity brands are sustainable and says: “People seem to have temporary amnesia about what brands are. Strong brands last not just for years or decades but, in some cases, centuries. Top names like Kellogg and Coca-Cola have been around for years. In 20 years a celebrity could be fat; in 50 years, old; and in 100 years, dead. There is an unavoidable shelf-life.”

Sustainable or not, the proliferation continues. The fragrance market is filled with a seemingly endless line of stars and minor celebrities touting their own perfume. Some are highly successful; in three years the fragrances launched by David and Victoria Beckham have grossed $85m (£42.5m), while according to research by Mintel, one in ten women own a celebrity fragrance and it is the biggest area of growth in a market that has grown from £519m in 2002 to £655m this year.

If the ultra-competitive fragrance market seems to be near saturation point, there are plenty other sectors that can be exploited. For example, chefs selling kitchen products and hairdressers producing hair care ranges are multiplying apace and it is predicted this trend will extend into many other sectors. Julian Henry, chairman of PR company Henry’s House, whose clients include the Beckhams, says: “Across different markets, as the media expands, we will see offshoots. It is ever-expanding.”

No one can predict where or when the march of celebrity brands will end. But for now, it continues apace.

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