I’d like to focus on something I do a lot… often with resistance from clients… using celebrities in advertising and marketing. This is a look at my favorite strategies for using celebrities in your marketing.
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EVERYBODY is “in love” with celebrities! Bringing ‘star power’ to your marketing is the ultimate application of one of the most important copywriting principles of all time, Robert Collier’s “enter the conversation already going on in their minds” – re-stated as: connect with the fascination they already have.
As an exercise, go to a Barnes & Noble newsstand and count the number of magazines with a celebrity on the cover vs. those without. Unfortunately, many marketers are intimidated by using celebrities, over-estimate the difficulty, or lack of creative imagination. Hopefully, I can get you past whatever’s stopping you and push you forward in this direction.
Example #1: The NON-Testimonial Testimonial / Using Celebrities
A big misunderstanding about testimonials – especially celebrity testimonials – is that they need to be from actual customers. This stops many marketers from getting and using celebrity testimonials, and it is a mistake. The most expensive thing is getting a celebrity to marry himself or herself to your product, use it, and talk about using it personally. While this is highly effective – from Suzanne Somers and Thighmaster to Dan Marino and Nutri-System – there are less difficult and costly ways of using celebrities.
I secured Art Linkletter for Miracle-Ear for example – but Art does not wear or need hearing aids and never says or implies he uses the product himself. These are benign statements, a relatively easy thing to get a celebrity endorser to okay. The next time you see the Ameriprise commercials with Dennis Hopper or the TD Waterhouse commercials with Sam Waterston on TV, listen to what they say carefully. They are making benign statements, not giving personal endorsements.
Of course, you need ‘real people’ testimonials, your own customers, talking about their experiences and results. But you can benefit enormously from non-customer testimonials from celebrities, experts, authors, etc. These people service one or two purposes: one, “grabbers”… attention-getters. Everybody in martial arts knows Chuck Norris the Arnold “The Governator” Schwarzenegger, so their photos grab attention and arouse curiosity… what does he have to say? Second, they elevate the status of the advertiser/marketer.
ANY association with celebrity makes people view you more as a celebrity yourself, makes your product or business more interesting. Even well-established luxury brands know this: there’s a full-page ad for Louis Vuitton bags showing Mikhael Gorbachev with one, in the back seat of a limo. Gorbachev says nothing. There is no ad copy at all. The Range Rover ad in the most recent issue of my Renegade Millionaire Magazine features golfer Greg Norman. This ‘celebrity association’ is beneficial to every target demographic, for every marketer.
Example #2: Doin’ It On The Cheap
Okay, you’re cheap. My sympathies. There are still three strategies you can use:
1. Buy a celebrity connection cheap
2. Use celebrities free – legally
3. Create your own celebrities
1. Buy a celebrity connection cheap
You should all have seen the ads for my most recent group of No B.S. books, for which I used Kristi Frank, a competitor from the first year of The Apprentice television show. Why did I use Kristi? Well, she’s a lovely woman, an entrepreneur, easy to work with. But on her own, not an immediately recognizable celebrity. So, no disrespect to her, but I used her to “rent Donald Trump cheap.”
In my ads, we had – and will have again, for the new books – a photo of Kristi with Trump, and Kristi’s quote, “Even Donald Trump could learn a thing or two from Dan’s books.” And so the smart question is: who can you get, who gets you the opportunity to use a bigger celebrity you could never afford?
When I did ads for ‘The Hollywood Emergency Eye Miracle’ glop, I got a professional makeup artist who had worked on TV and movie sets with a long list of big-name actresses, who I named. For Rory Fatt’s upcoming Restaurant Marketing Systems boot camp, Howard Schultz, Founder and CEO of Starbucks was unavailable at any sane price – but Joseph Michiaelli, who has written a definitive book about Starbucks is available. Either way, I get to use Starbucks.
Platinum Member Bill and Steve Harrison have, among the luminaries at the National Publicity Summit, and on teleseminars, a former Oprah producer. The word ‘former’ goes unnoticed; the word ‘Oprah’ stands up, screams, hollers, and waves its arms.
2. Use celebrities for free – legally
I’ll bet you can’t go a week without an article appearing somewhere, newspapers or magazine, about some celebrity using your kind of product or service. I first started being irritated by marketers’ laziness and stupidity about this when I was doing a great deal of work directly with chiropractors, in the late 1970’s through the mid ’80’s. A huge article appeared in which Joe Montana, then nationally famous superstar quarterback of the then-far-from-pitiful San Francisco 49’ers talked about how he couldn’t play were it not for his chiropractor. And I couldn’t find a single chiropractor – even in San Fran – using this story. Still happens today. Constantly.
These news stories are yours to use, reprint, refer to, talk about. their pictures can be gotten or purchased from the Internet, fan clubs, etc., framed and put up in your office, in a ‘Wall of Fame Of _____’ (Chiropractic Patients). These articles even provide excuses for fresh communication with customers or prospects – “Did You Hear What Joe Montana Said?”.
There is also the opportunity to use a celebrity in trouble, although it’s touchy. For example, as I’m writing this, actor Wesley Snipes is in the news, having narrowly escaped conviction on criminal tax fraud charges but being convicted on three counts of failure/refusal to file, maximum prison sentence, three years. (Wesley is a delusional tax protester). If I’m a C.P.A. or advisor, I’m all over this. “Wesley Snipes needed better tax advice. If only he’d known about Bill Beancounter C.P.A.’s Zero-Worries Taxpayer Protection Plan.” It is STILL an irritant to me that more marketers don’t take advantage of all the opportunities to use celebrities for free so generously handed to them by the media, day in, day out.
And don’t forget there are corporate/institutional celebrities just as there are individuals. Harvard Medical School is a celebrity. The Green Bay Packers is a celebrity. In one of the pieces of literature I recently created for Dentistry for Diabetics, I placed our own Dentistry for Diabetics in the company of Mayo Clinic and the American Diabetes Association and a number of other leading, recognized health organizations and institutions.
In the piece, I quoted those as sources and wove their information in with ours. If it is not obvious why I did this and what I accomplished, please report to Remedial Marketing in Room 101 immediately and pick up your dunce cap. But to be clear: you can put yourself in the company of other experts and authorities, institutions and organizations by referencing them as sources, thereby putting you and them on equal footing in the consumers’ perception. Costs nothing.
3. Create your own celebrity
Betty Crocker, the GEICO gecko and caveman. The famous s. mouse and all the brethren he’s inspired, including my own J. Squirrel Esq. and Oscar the Obnoxious Elephant. These are characters in which you can develop a distinctive voice, use in running storylines, use any way you wish. You might also borrow other ‘characters’ known to the public. In this year’s multi-step campaign for Rory Fatt’s boot camp, I sent out a letter from – Satan. (The front of the letter shows his assistant Kathleen strapped to a spit over fiery flames; the back, ‘from the desk of Stan.’)
Is there a more universally recognized and interesting celebrity than Satan? I’m quite sure he’s appeared in more movies than any other celebrity. I highly recommend his portrayal by Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate, although for eye candy, try Elizabeth Hurley’s portrayal of Satan, in a perfectly awful movie whose title I’ve forgotten. Just turn off the sound. Anyway, Satan’s a big, big, big name celebrity I got him without parting with a penny.
I’m particularly proud of this piece. It’s fun, it has plenty of puns true to its theme, it packs a lot of info in… and my letter from Satan’s copy is 90% a re-tread of a story used by just about every personal development speaker from the stage at one time or another. That’s a copywriting tactic I use a lot that you should too (*for speed) – lifting stories from speeches, books, even novels.
Anyway, I think this version of the story fits and delivers a powerful punch here. In taking a celebrity I don’t have to pay for and having him tell a story, I’ve done something pretty simple anybody can do. There’s an endless supply of iconic historical figures, mythical figures: Shakespeare, Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan of the Apes, Marie Antoinette. Gotta be somebody just right for you! I’m sure you used Cupid in February. Didn’t you?
Incidentally, over 4 or 65 years, in Rory’s business with his customers, we’ve also turned his assistant Kathleen into a celebrity too – constantly making her a ‘damsel in distress’, to be rescued by responding before it’s too late. She has been, as I recall, in danger of being eaten by a lion, forced to be a circus acrobat and shot out of a cannon, pursued by a crazed Rory with a giant meat cleaver, here tied to a spit over a fire… an idea borrowed from The Perils of Pauline old movie serials and comic strip that ran in newspapers for many years.
My Platinum Member Scott Tucker turned his dog into a celebrity with his mortgage clients – and used a paid celebrity, “Refrigerator” Perry of the Chicago Bears. Dr. Greg Nielsen has turned his employees into stars of his ongoing stories and made them celebrities in his community. He also is a ‘mad genius’ at turning his patients (customers) into celebrities for full page ads.
* Neither author nor publisher is engaged in the rendering of legal advice and accept no responsibility for decisions and actions taken by readers allegedly as result of ideas, information or opinions in this publication.