Celebrity Leverage by Jordan McAuley“With less cluttered mailboxes and less full wallets, it may be time for mailers to consider a marketing strategy that gets instant notice, wins trust and raises response: celebrity endorsement marketing…

Valerie Bertinelli promises slimmer hips and thighs with Jenny Craig. Suzanne Somers used to make the same promise with the Thighmaster, recall? Morgan Fairchild offers love advice for Old Navy website visitors in a live chat. New England Patriot’s star Tedy Bruschi touts the benefits of life insurance for Boston area consumers. Genevieve Gorder of Trading Spaces gives home improvement advice and endorses 3M Corp’s building products.  Teen idol Vanessa Hudgens shares her back-to-school wardrobe preferences in a Sears magazine aimed at teenage girls.

Still, other celebrities promise younger-looking skin, better banking, and stock trading services, improved cable TV programming, health products and services, while politicians have long known the power of lending their names to affinity groups to raise funds for nonprofit causes. In each of these cases, the celebrity endorsement is accomplished through a variety of sales letter packages, postcards, and magalogs.

The truth of the matter is when prospects see a recognizable face, they tend to pay closer attention to your appeal. If they feel a connection to the celebrity, then they tend to trust the word of the celebrity and, ultimately, are more likely to make purchases. The list of celebrity endorsement examples is endless across all marketing channels, and it seems to be growing in the direct mail category. With mailboxes becoming less cluttered these days, and newspapers going the way of the buggy whip, celebrity direct marketing deserves a closer look from you.

Celebrities lend their names to marketing campaigns for all sorts of reasons. As Ed Asner, Meryl Streep, Walter Cronkite, and Bill Clinton do for Heifer International, many celebrities support nonprofit causes near and dear to their hearts. Most celebrities, however, simply want to leverage their best income opportunities through product endorsements.

The reasons why celebrity endorsements are so powerful are fairly straightforward. Our culture is obsessed with the celebrity scene – the prominent figures in Hollywood, the sports world, and even lower forms of entertainment (such as daytime talk show hosts like Kelly Ripa, Regis Philbin or, perhaps the most famous of all, Oprah Winfrey) are constantly in the limelight. People have an urge to identify with the rich and famous, and they also want to trust their buying recommendations.

For this article, we’ll assume you agree that celebrities help move goods and services. The point worth noting is that in an economy where you have to fight harder to make the sale, celebrity marketing may be the leverage you need to differentiate your products and services. Suffice it to say that this marketing “secret weapon’ can become the cornerstone of your campaign if you do it right!

Direct Marketing Ways to Leverage Celebrity Endorsements

Gifting is an efficient way to get started. Estee Lauder started her makeup dynasty by gifting samples to celebrities. Why not you? Testimonials from celebrities who say nice things about your product can be used in sales letters, on your website, in e-mail campaigns and other media. Simply sending the product to celebrities or their publicists is one way, or you can pursue a photo opportunity of you and/or your product with the celebrity for use in your marketing. in fact, celebrity gifting is a very powerful and underutilized strategy in securing testimonials for your product.

Gift suites are arranged whereby you are about to showcase your product directly to the celebrity, have a photo taken and the celebrity gives you a testimonial in exchange for the product sample. This paid forum is an effective way to secure numerous testimonials. Research celebrity gifting; and celebrity gift suites, and you’ll find those offers that best fit your product. GBK Productions is one company that offers sponsored gift suites that create such an opportunity. For example, Starbucks and Secret Room sponsored a luxury gifting event at the Golden Globe Awards. Maybe your product will be featured at next year’s event!

Understanding what goes into a successful celebrity direct marketing campaign is key, of course. Your choice of celebrity depends in large part on whether the celebrity will play a pivotal, long-standing role in promoting your products or this is a short-lived campaign. The celebrity’s role as the “spokesperson” in print, the degree of endorsement and the copy you ask the celebrity to stand behind are all factors to be considered.

The first step before choosing a celebrity for your direct marketing campaign is to ensure that he or she matches up well with your prospect’s values. Choosing the right celebrity is critical. The success of your campaign is too important to risk on the wrong celebrity. Be careful not to select a celebrity who your employees are simply big fans of. “Instead, focus on a celebrity that will be in alignment with your products and has the trust of your audience,” says Jordan McAuley, Founder, and president of Contact Any Celebrity, who also advises the celebrity ought to have a long-standing track record of stability and credibility with the consumer.

There are many ways to go about choosing a celebrity for your campaign. I recommend starting with the Internet and simply researching the celebrity directly. Read the news, celebrity tabloids and celebrity magazines to catch up on prospective celebrities that may be a fit for your product. Use Google Alerts to keep up, and if you are really in a quandary, go to Google Fight and compare the popularity of one celebrity versus another by typing in their names.

There are other online resources available in your quest for choosing the right celebrity. McAuley offers a subscription-based celebrity database service that may be useful. The Internet will point you to other resources. A database such as ContactAnyCelebrity.com allows you to quickly research celebrities according to the type of products or causes they endorse. For example, if you have a green product, you’ll find hundreds of celebrities that support the environment.

Celebrities are certainly viable in the visual and auditory media. Seeing their images and hearing their voices endorse your product creates marketing magic that is harder to achieve in direct mail or print advertising. According to Lloyd Kolmer of New York, who pioneered the field of celebrity endorsements with Edward G. Robinson’s endorsement of Remington shavers, “The use of celebrities in direct mail should be an extension of a larger multimedia campaign, to maximize the endorsement leverage.” He cautioned that not all celebrities have market value and while there are many that do, you have to choose your celebrity wisely. “It all depends on your budget and, more importantly, the audience you are trying to influence. Direct marketers have to work harder to leverage the celebrity’s value in print form.”

Finding the Right ‘Lead’

So, with a prospective celebrity in mind, how do you go about approaching and hiring the right personality/ The obvious first step for you, since you are a direct marketer, is to fire off an inquiry letter to the celebrity’s publicist or send an e-mail inquiry to the celebrity’s website. Better yet, contact a celebrity broker such as Kolmer, or visit Celeb Brokers to begin your celebrity hunt. The advantage of working with a celebrity broker is brokers represent you in negotiating the deal. As McAuley states, “If you contact a talent agency, they know you are new at this process, and you will spend a lot more than is necessary.” A celebrity broker has relationships with the celebrities as well as other brokers, and she can help you select the right celebrity for your campaign.

It may be hard to believe, but celebrities are lining up to promote your products. After all, the recession has hit many of them as well. Plus it’s easy work for them, especially if they genuinely believe in your product. These celebrities are lending their names to direct marketing campaigns for a wide array of products and services, and with our culture’s infatuation with the celebrity lifestyle, we can expect to see more and more celebrities stopping by to visit your mailbox.

Remember, all of the classic direct mail marketing rules apply and, as Denny Hatch says, should only be broken when done so consciously! The list becomes even more important as you have to choose a celebrity that matches well with the demographics and psychographics. The copy is more important, true personalization is worth achieving (imagine a handwritten note from the celebrity to your prospect) and the offer has to be as compelling as always. Cross-channel celebrity marketing belongs in your arsenal and is easier to accomplish than you may realize.

As a final note, a few words of caution are in order. Before you venture into the world of celebrity marketing, make sure you understand the risks and that you negotiate a solid business agreement. According to A.M. Best’s magazine, Best’s Review, you can insure your campaign in case the celebrity relationship goes up in smoke. Keep in mind that you can decide the terms of the agreement, with the help of a celebrity broker or on your own, and you should conduct a classic direct marketing test campaign where you can measure results before rolling out the full campaign. Get your hands on some celebrity direct marketing campaigns (such as through the Who’s Mailing What? Archive), and dissect the packages to determine what will be most effective for your own program. If your campaign is international, be aware that your celebrity choice may not have the same impact overseas.

Now, get to work and start making your mail famous!”

– Inside Direct Mail