What do you think of hiring celebrities to tweet or blog a new product or marketing campaign? Are there rules of engagement? How do you strike the balance? – Mara of Cebu City.
Using a celebrity to blog or tweet is no different from using a celebrity for a TV commercial or print campaign. You are leveraging the celebrity’s status and following to increase awareness and interest, borrowing from the equity the celebrity has with his or her followers. There are no special rules when you execute a marketing campaign using celebrities in digital versus that of above-the-line, except for the fact that you have to remember the digital is a more transparent and authentic platform -- transparent and authentic in the sense that when they endorse a particular product or brand, people believe that they are really endorsing based on their personal experience, and not because it is a marketing play.
Take the case of the recently launched Selecta Magnum Ice Cream, which hit the internet by storm, trending on twitter, and much talked about in Facebook. That was definitely a good week of people posting their pictures eating Magnum, buying Magnum, and asking what the fuzz isabout Magnum.  Basically, the brand employed celebrities and appointed them as brand ambassadors, to simply tweet and post on their social pages how much they liked Magnum after tasting it. They launched it in a major event with celebrities, and then capped it with an augmented reality front page cover of celebrity/model Solenn Heusaff in Rogue Magazine. While I was told that the marketing budget allocated for the brand launch was quite substantial, in terms of just generating awareness of the product's availability in the market, it definitely paid off, and more.
Another interesting marketing case was that of not involving a real celebrity, but a well-known personality. I am talking about Christopher Lao, and the viral sensation he caused when he innocently drove his car through flood waters. He was caught on national television for blaming everyone for not informing him that the road was not passable. Coming off arrogant on camera, he got the ire of people. Netizens attacked him online, creating hate pages. Two months later, BPI took the opportunity of his (un)popularity and created a viral video about him going through the flood again, telling people that nature does not inform, so we should all be prepared with an auto insurance, a free offer that comes with every car loan. While the budget spent for this campaign was very low, the mileage and the business after-effects were tremendously successful. What’s more, Christopher Lao’s reputation was reversed, as people now admired him as he looked at those who ridiculed him in the eye, and turned it around to something positive. Just recently, Christopher Lao passed the bar exams and is now a lawyer.
On the other end, we have seen celebrities who attacked each other online through tweets and Facebook posts, not considering the consequences, which eventually sets the stage for legal cases.  Brands should reconsider getting twitter trigger-happy celebrities because while they are controversial and have a huge following, there are also negative implications. Given that they may give a brand a huge boost, the association of the endorsers with the brand may stick for some time. If a tweet or social post from the celebrity becomes unpleasantly controversial, then the brand risks also its brand name and equity with the endorser.
What is more important to remember is that brands should not use celebrities for the sake of using celebrities. Celebrities have their time and place in the marketing arsenal, and if used correctly, can provide enormous marketing and business performance. The power of the internet, as we have seen, can amplify the power of celebrities and personalities to no bounds, benefiting the brand in the process. However, it is important to remember that celebrities are people, and their followers expect them to be truthful. If the fans were to find out that their idols have been paid to tweet or say something about the brand, then it lessens the credibility of the celebrity, and may affect the brand as well. Celebrities endorsing, especially on the digital sphere, should be handled with caution and care, because while the boost can be one time, the association and effects can be long lasting.
Donald Lim is the Chief e-Marketing Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. (www.mansmith.net), the leading marketing and sales training company in the Philippines. Please email info@mansmith.net, call (+63-2) 584-5858 / 412-0034 or text 0918-81-168-88.  Please also send your marketing, sales and strategy questions to mentors@mansmith.net.