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u o r Capitalize on the Power of Celebrity Endorsements for a Winning Sales Strategy Carol Gustafson E C ach week, more than 43 million Americans pick up a copy of People magazine for the latest celebrity news. Millions more tune into Extra or Entertainment Tonight for a celebrity fix, while countless others eavesdrop on a steady stream of celebrity tweets. We feverishly follow the latest "it" stars and shamelessly ogle the biggest Lindsay Lohan-style celebrity train wrecks. Without a doubt, we are a celebrity- obsessed society. elebrities on the Brain Scientists tell us that the same evolutionary brain wiring that enabled our ancestor, the caveman, to distinguish friendly, familiar faces from strangers (who were also likely his enemies) is responsible for the appeal of today's celebrities. Our recogni- tion of those beautiful faces made familiar by the popular media, appeals to our most basic human desires including the need to love and admire others, to belong to a group and to emulate the behaviors of others. More recently, scientists working in the field of neuroeconom- ics have discovered why celebrities are such a strong motivator in the consumer's purchasing decision. A 2009 research study led by Mirre Stallen of Erasmus Research Institute of Management in The Netherlands used MRI technology to scan the brains of study participants as they viewed a series of mock advertisements. Respondents were exposed to images of shoes paired with faces of celebrities (versus equally attractive nonfamous women). The part of the brain that processes emotional stimuli was particularly acti- vated when the individual depicted in the footwear ad was a celeb- rity. Stallen concluded that the positive emotions people felt for the celebrities were transferred to positive emotions for the shoes. S tars Sell Some of the earliest celebrity endorsements can be traced to the late 1800s, when English actress Lillie Langtry's flawless complexion made her the face of Pears soap. Companies quickly realized that linking a celebrity to its product could positively impact the sales. By leveraging celebrity appeal effectively, brands can rise above the clutter and break through. Famous faces greatly aid in brand recall and create instant awareness for a new or previously unrecognized product. Celebrities add fresh, new LATE SPRING 2012 dimension to existing brands and give credibility. The right star can easily connect brands to particular demographic or psycho- graphic groups. In short, stars sell! When the persona of the celebrity is entirely compatible in terms of appearance, values, personality and lifestyle with the brand personality, it's a match made in heaven. A great example of such a relationship is the one between Cowgirl Tuff jeans and its endorsee, celebrity barrel racer Angie Meadors. "Angie is a true fit for us at Cowgirl Tuff," says Krystal Delaney, marketing manager. "She not only truly loves the product but represents us loud and proud." The company looked for a celebrity who best matched its values and "Never Give Up" slogan. "People meet Angie and think, 'Wow, not only is she beautiful, she is a down- to-earth, caring person who is driven to reach her goal.'" A Perhaps the most persuasive form of celebrity endorsement is that of the associative (as scientists call it) or the rub-off effect. For the past 20 years, both Wrangler Jeans and Justin Boots have been endorsed by the ultimate Western institution, George Strait. For consumers, the unspoken message is that if George Strait chooses these brands, the average Joe should, too. "We take the idea of associating our brand with a public I personality very seriously and have only worked with those who truly fit what the Wrangler brand stands for and who share its core values," says Craig Errington, Wrangler's vice president of marketing communications. Errington is quick to point out that Strait wore Wrangler jeans long before he ever endorsed them. Now, after all these years, Strait is a winning example of how consistency and long-term celebrity commitment can pay big dividends. Lisa Lankes, vice president of communications, licensing and social media for Justin, says Strait's name continues to carry a lot of weight with the consumer and drives sales at retail. "The fans love George. When we post about him on Facebook, we see lots of engagement, and when he posts on his fan page on our behalf, we'll see huge spikes. He continues to be relevant in the world of country music, and we will continue to look for ways to tap into Western & English Today 21 f It's Good Enough for George Strait … Match Made in Heaven m S a t e a T sr o sel n Y S a PHOTOGRAPHY: (TREVOR BRAZILE) COURTESY B RELENTLESS, (LARRY MAHAN) COURTESY MILANO HATS, (ANGIE MEADORS) COURTESY COWGIRL TUFF CO./J. ROGERS PHOTOGRAPHY, (GEORGE STRAIT) COURTESY FRONT PAGE PUBLICITY/VANESSA GAVALYA