A-list stars give brand campaigns the x-factor

A study into the effect of Cheryl Cole’s endorsement of L’Oreal products appears to demonstrate that brands in need of a sales boostmust reach for the stars.

Ever wondered if a celebrity promotion really makes a difference to sales? While consumers claim they like to see famous faces advertise products, it can be hard for brands to quantify the star’s effect on the bottom line.

But now Nielsen has undertaken an in-depth analysis of a celebrity endorsement deal across multiple media. It has examined data about pop star and TV presenter Cheryl Cole to see how her activities in music and on television at the end of 2009 affected sales for the L’Oreal products she promotes.

Helena Kosinski, international business development manager at Nielsen Music Control, explains/ “In some ways, this was the perfect marketing campaign in terms of everything being timed so well together, so we wanted to track how the brands involved performed – from Cole as a brand herself to L’Oreal.”

Nielsen tracked Cole’s appearances in media, her record company’s marketing spend and L’Oreal’s own outlay to see how the promotions worked together for mutual benefit.

The results show that Cole’s appearance in multiple media had a quantifiable effect on L’Oreal sales. Value sales of L’Oreal Elvive Full Restore 5 hair care products, fronted by Cole, rose from about 10,000 at the start of September to a peak of more than 250,000 by the end of November. These value sales rose from the start of October, when the singer’s promotion of the brand began, and fell off at the end of November – about a month after the release of Cole’s album.

The different tactics used by Cole’s record label Polydor Records to promote her music and L’Oreal to sell the hair products are interesting. Nielsen claims that Polydor spent the majority of the promotional budget on TV ads, with around 65% of the money being diverted into this activity. About 20% was spent on outdoor, 10% on press and the remainder on radio marketing.

“In many ways, this was a very traditional campaign,” says Annabelle Scott-Curry, marketing manager at Polydor Records, who markets Cole. “We put the campaign together as if she was a new artist. We didn’t want to rest on our laurels. We wanted to make her music really visible, so in the run-up to Christmas, you have to spend a lot on TV ads.”

Even in an age where digital spend is on the rise, Kosinski says that Nielsen couldn’t pick up high enough figures for internet spending on Cole’s campaign. “There really wasn’t enough online spending to feature. This seems to show her record company spent most on traditional advertising methods.”

Cole did carry out some online promotions, however, signing CDs for etail giant Amazon and carrying out a live webcast via MySpace, but Kosinski points out that these activities do not involve traditional media spending. Other social media initiatives, such as Cole answering questions from Twitter on her website, also require negligible media support.

“I think all fans expect this type of activity these days,” says Scott-Curry. “If you don’t do it, you’ll get left behind. Fans expect that contact. It almost removes the record company from between people and the artist.”

Giles Fitzgerald, editor at FRUKT Music Intelligence, says Cole should focus even more on online promotions like the MySpace sessions. He notes: “To reconnect with her primarily female audience, she needs to actively engage in a conversational approach to marketing, which a platform like social media provides in abundance.”

Meanwhile, L’Oreal also focused on TV ads – the first showing of Cole’s ad was seen by 8 million people – but used other media to support this. The company ran a print ad to trailer the TV commercials in the Daily Mail and the front page of Metro in London, the North-east and Scotland, with a combined spend that Nielsen puts at more than £12,000.

“We’ve seen print ads promoting TV ads before,” says Kosinski. “But it’s still clever. And given the amount of editorial around Cheryl Cole at that time anyway, it was just another appearance for her on the front page.”

Even Polydor’s Scott-Curry admits the L’Oreal marketing initiative on TV and print was so effective, it dwarfed the campaign promoting Cole’s music. She says: “Almost overnight, every billboard had her Elvive advert on it. We thought we’d spent so much, but L’Oreal clearly had a much larger budget.”

The influence of the internet appears to be connected most strongly with Cole’s appearance on The X Factor. Cole’s own website receives relatively few hits (a unique audience in the tens of thousands). Kosinski notes: “There is so much news about Cheryl online that her own website wouldn’t necessarily be someone’s first port of call.”

As you might expect, The X Factor’s website receives over 1.5 million hits, making it substantially more popular than Cole’s. Both audiences, however, are female dominated, with the majority audience for Cole’s own site being 21 to 49 years old, while The X Factor brings in 25 to 34-year-olds.

When judging the impact of marketing Cole by word-of-mouth, it appears the online buzz about her music appears to be largely positive in the run-up to the release of her single release and afterwards too. Positive feedback is seen especially in early September, where around 80% of chat is positive and late September, where nearly 70% is positive. After the single’s release, positive comments online rise and fall more dramatically than before from about 60% positive chat to a low of around 10%.

Negative buzz seems to peak in late August (with just over 10%) and then again more strongly in mid-August with more than 20%. In the run-up to the release of Cole’s single, it is negligible, but after the release of the track, negative buzz is also more variable in its amounts than before.

The buzz about Cole’s Elvive endorsement peaks at the end of August shortly after she is announced as a L’Oreal brand ambassador. They drop off after this but conversations about Cole’s role for L’Oreal also rise just before the release of her single, showing the impact that her music career publicity has on her endorsements. Another peak is seen again at the end of November, after publicity about Cole wearing hair extensions in the shampoo ads.

2003 In a rare career misstep, Cole is charged with racially aggravated assault after a scuffle with a nightclub toilet attendant. This charge is later dropped and she is found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
2008 Cole’s footballer husband is exposed cheating on her with multiple women. Cole works with Black Eyed Peas singer Will.I.Am on his solo material.
2008 Cole joins the panel of TV talent show The X Factor. Girls Aloud release an “autobiography” of the band.
2009 In February, a Vogue magazine cover starring Cole becomes its highest-selling issue ever. In May, Girls Aloud are reported to have earned £25m in their careers. Cole launches her solo career in the autumn, with her first single reaching number one. She also signs a deal to become a representative for L’Oreal haircare.


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