‘Hate is a status symbol. If you’re not being hated you’re not in the game’ says celebrity branding guru Jeetendr Sehdev
New York Times bestselling author Jeetendr Sehdev believes that chief marketing officers need to start thinking differently about the younger generations they’re struggling to engage with.
Celebrity branding guru Jeetendr Sehdev
Ahead of his keynote, ‘Human 2.0: Sacrifice Everything If You Believe In Something’, at The Future of Marketing on November 22, Sehdev chats to The Drum about his book ‘The Kim Kardashian Principle’, how the Nike Colin Kaepernick campaign implemented his rules to create their success and why brands should embrace the hate from social media.
An era of unrest and unease – this is the new reality for brands and businesses. Does that mean businesses now need to learn new rules for branding?
You bet. Anyone who’s serious about competing in this new reality needs to recognise that there are new rules of the game. In fact, there are six of them that I sum up in a framework called S.E.L.F.I.E. in my book The Kim Kardashian Principle.
Are there any examples of who’s doing it well?
I would have to say the Nike and Colin Kaepernick campaign. The media reported on how Nike had applied the rules of The Kim Kardashian Principle to create the breakthrough campaign. And how their headline ‘Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything’ was inspired by one of my branding rules ‘sacrifice everything to believe in something’. Given it’s become one of the most talked about advertising campaigns in recent history, and generated $163.5 million worth of brand exposure, I would say Nike followed the new rules well.
Every single business is talking about being authentic and driving some sort of purpose. There is so much noise. What piece of advice would you would give to marketers, when trying to connect with consumers?
Yes, but every single business is talking about being authentic by striving to be perfect, and that’s a problem. Which brand, CEO, organization or individual today can claim the mantel of perfection anyways? What’s right for one consumer might not be right for another - as marketers we need to respect that.
My definition of authenticity has always been about focusing on what you believe and what you want to create regardless of the blowback. It’s not about living up to other people’s standards but living up to your own standards, and that requires tons of courage. It’s about breaking through by becoming your own champion.
In today’s world where consumers have finely-tuned authenticity detectors and value those who march to their own drum beat, The Kim Kardashian Principle is the only definition of authenticity that’s going to get you noticed.
What is that one thing that CMOs should change when doing business in this changing world?
CMOs have to start thinking differently about the younger generations they’re struggling to engage. It’s easy to demean and degrade others for being different. Narcissistic, lazy, entitled, stupid... How many times have we heard millennials and generation Z being labelled that way? You don’t like the fact that a YouTuber promoted himself to fame by playing video games, made $15 million on his latest endorsement deal, brought some followers to big himself up? It doesn't matter.
Instead of playing the moral police, look at ways to empathize with a new generation with a different value system. What drives them to do what they do? Understand it, empathize with it. It’s especially important for us because we’re in the business of building emotional connections. That’s the value of a brand, right?
You talk about breaking rules, what are the risks CMOs need to be aware of when considering “bold and dynamic” messaging? How should you balance risks and failures in this increasingly connected world?
It’s no secret that the largest most sophisticated brands are struggling to engage younger audiences today. The biggest risk CMOs will take today is not taking enough risks! Traditional marketing tactics are no longer working, the competition is too intense, audiences are too savvy. Hiding your true opinions as an organization - from social to political to financial to environmental - in an attempt to cater to the lowest common denominator is just not a viable option for brands anymore. Younger audiences are value-driven, and they want to engage with brands that have similar values... so, you’ve no longer have a choice but to show your true values.
When it comes to brands or celebrities, in terms of influence, what can the two learn from each other?
So much. New world leaders like Kim Kardashian can teach brands how to cultivate develop and lead a new generation of consumers. Any brand that is serious about engaging their audiences needs to be paying close attention to Kim.
Talk us through the top two key themes that will ignite brands in the future?
First off, hate is a status symbol. If you’re not being hated you’re not in the game. There’s no avoiding hate with social media. Everybody has a platform to voice their opinions now, besides I’m a big believer that everybody has both a right to their opinion and to be heard. You’re not going to please everybody and any attempts to cater to the lowest common denominator will only be seen as inauthentic. So, embrace the hate and learn to love it.
Secondly, it’s not about creating fans but fanatics. Those who have blind faith and are willing to see through to the intention of your idea. That’s a much deeper level of emotional bonding that brands will need to achieve in order to compete and fend off future competition.
‘Business as usual’ doesn’t cut it anymore. Transformations are radically altering our lives, making it more daunting than ever to make a positive impact on our wellbeing, our productivity, and our world. How should we manage this challenge?
Don’t resist it. Embrace it. Run with it. Even if you don’t fully understand it. With greater innovation has also come greater levels of forgiveness from audiences if your idea, product or service doesn’t quite work out.
Sponsors of the event are: Identity, MMT Digital, WLT, Inition, Turtl, IAB UK, Toaster and Atrefact