Behind an A-list ‘creative’ is a really smart marketer

What makes a successful marketer? Some would point to a finely balanced individual equally happy with both the art and the science involved in marketing. Others would suggest someone with a keen sense of the customer experience, and then there are those with superb networking skills, who can liaise across all departments of a company to make sure their goals are realised.

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These are all key skills demonstrated by the most successful marketers – and I haven’t even referred to the rigorous studies, diplomas and qualifications that might go into a marketer’s CV.

But can a multimillionaire pop star, lauded fashion designer or an international footballer be a marketer? The evidence is beginning to mount that brands are willing to at least bestow a marketer-like title on such celebrities and listen to their ideas. That’s the notion we explore in our cover feature this week.

Recently, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys have all apparently taken a more involved role in brand marketing (and some kind of job title, usually containing the word ‘creative’) beyond mere endorsement and a sponsorship deal. As columnist Mark Ritson recently pointed out, rap star Diddy has acted as chief marketing officer of ailing Diageo vodka brand Ciroc and turned it into a success with an insightful strategy.

So, the argument for bringing celebrities on board, aside from name association, could be their knowledge of their audience, their creative flair and a driven, single-minded vision – it’s not easy being Lady Gaga 24/7, you know.

Marketers often seem insecure in their professional status; there does lurk a feeling that other professionals see the role as ‘fluffy’ and that it can be hijacked by other departments. But it’s worth stressing again that successful marketers have a deep connection and knowledge of a brand and its audience that can’t be replicated by outsiders (no matter how much former Diet Coke partner and designer Karl Lagerfeld claims to drink). And the best marketers are willing to take input from elsewhere.

I agree with one of our interviewees in the feature that, with few exceptions, the celebrity recruits are being positioned by “really smart marketers”. So take heart when you read about the next A-lister who is handed a creative job title at a listed company. Behind the scenes it’s the work of a clever marketer who knows how to harness ideas and enthusiasm to the benefit of the brand.

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