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Co-branding, creativity and consumer connections: How celebrity endorsements can make the brand

The DJ David Guetta spoke at Cannes Lions

Celebrity endorsements for brands are nothing new. What has changed is that, like an old Sinbad movie, the strings are a lot more visible to consumers these days.

Digitally savvy consumers are much wiser to how deals are done and even more, are well aware when these deals and partnerships aren’t genuine. They are quick to notice, castigate and, most importantly, share bad examples.

In this environment, how should brands and marketers partner to leverage authenticity and influence through celebrity endorsements?

At last week’s Cannes Lions festival, Publicis Groupe chairman Maurice Lévy spent time finding out from DJ and music producer phenomenon David Guetta, who has sold over 30 million singles and is the first DJ to hit two billion streams on Spotify, just a few days ago. He has also collaborated with champagne brand GH Mumm and Tag Heuer, with impressive results.

But with Vine and Instagram stars on the rise, marketers need to rethink their approach to celebrity endorsements in the fast-moving digital age. Some key takeaways from their conversation:

Party with your people. Guetta’s background as a struggling underground producer, now gone mainstream, provides useful insight. To build and sustain his brand, he had to truly understand his audience and get amongst them – in his words, “party with his people”.

That close connection and deep understanding gives an authenticity that cannot be copied or bought. In other words, brands cannot use celebrity to borrow credibility – it’s two dimensional and arguably does more for the celebrity’s profile than the brand.

Collaboration is key. Guetta takes a co-branding approach to endorsements. The DJ partners with brands based on not only “what they can offer me,” but also on “what I can offer them back”.

He also advised brands to tap into a celebrity’s instincts to engage their audience. Collaboration which allows an artist to create high quality content can make the difference between success and failure.

There’s no shortage of celebrities or brands but put simply, in marketing, as in life, building a strong, smart and relevant partnership makes both thrive and grow. A natural connection between the celebrity and the brand is critical. The days of putting a face next to brand and expecting positive engagement and business outcomes are long gone.

Social media drives connection. In this environment, it’s essential to recalibrate the idea of what celebrity endorsements means. By way of example, celebrity endorsements simply cannot exist without social media today.

Guetta, who has over 60 million Facebook fans, said social media must be an integral part of any celebrity-brand relationship. It is increasingly the preferred way for celebrities to connect to fans.

Ultimately, there is still nothing more important than the connected, genuine story that sits at the heart of an endorsement. This is what will always resonate with an audience. As Guetta stated, the era of the megastars looking down at consumers is truly over. For him it’s about being close, connected and on the same level as his fans.

That’s exactly where brands should be, too.

Pippa Glucklich is co-CEO at Starcom MediaVest Group

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