What is it about endorsements – celebrity, athlete, organization - that make them such a tempting magical elixir for marketers and agencies?
Well, for starters, they often work, because shoppers are influenced and persuaded by aspirational and positive association. Marketing endorsements run the gamut from the clothes and footwear of our favorite performers and athletes; to the golf clubs we see being used on tv each week; and even to what we eat and drink. Crest toothpaste’s 1960s endorsement from the American Dental Association is one of the most famous examples.
However, there are perils, especially now in our totally connected, instant-on world. Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius, just to name a recent few, were perhaps “no brainer” endorsement decisions at one time. Not now. (To be fair, Mr. Pistorius deserves his day in court. Still, Nike pulled his “bullet in the chamber” ad and this isn’t the kind of attention they wanted.)
Given the challenges and difficulties these days with endorser marketing, I was pleased to come across an excellent pairing: 3M filter and safety brands with contractor Mike Holmes, who because of his HGTV shows, has become a superman brand champion for home building/home improvement problem-solving.
Give Holmes credit for building quite the personal brand empire and becoming a perceived expert when it comes to issues of the house. If you’ve never seen one of his HGTV shows, he clearly comes across as the savior for the taken-advantage-of homeowner who has suffered through various calamities pertaining to shoddy home construction or renovation.
3M has tapped-into Holmes, whom they dub “America’s most trusted contractor” (not bad for a Canadian!) to boost business strategically and promotionally. Holmes supports the Filtrete line of furnace filters via a full range of marketing communications including TV advertising, a consumer contest, use of the Holmes Approved Products seal, FSI couponing, and cross-promotion on Holmes’ website.
3m and Holmes have also teamed-up for product development and co-branding to launch the new line of TEKK Protection safety eyewear.
Keep these five points in mind during your endorsement analysis and decision-making process:
1. Be on strategy. The endorsement decision flows from your business and marketing strategy, not the other way around.
2. Match your positioning and customer targeting. The endorser must fit with your brand positioning and existing and/or desired customer base. Holmes, the respected contractor and TV personality, clearly fits with the 3M brands and their customer base. While it seems he’s respected by men, I suspect he is also popular with women (the HGTV shows), and this could have been a plus consideration for 3M.
3. Gain access to a marketing platform. Similar to sponsorship marketing, there’s the acquisition of the endorser and then the activation. Make sure you can utilize and leverage the endorsement across the marketing mix. As the above examples demonstrate, 3M has done this with Holmes.
4. Vet, Vet, Vet! Research and audit the potential endorsement so you know what you’re getting, or walk away.
5. Be prepared for the worst. You’ll obviously plan and execute for the best, but just in case your endorsement makes headlines for all the wrong reasons, make sure you’ve got other marketing plans and assets in place to protect your short-term operating plan and P&L.
Marketers have to have some luck with endorsement decisions, and must conduct a thorough audit and background check. Beyond that, make a solid strategic marketing decision. You’ll be on safe ground if you truly understand your brand positioning and customer targeting, and then match your endorser selection accordingly.
Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success. Contact him at hchimoff at gmail dot com.