Saturday, January 7, 2012

Wegmans Demonstrates Real Impact of Celebrity Endorsers

Recently, actor Alec Baldwin was kicked off an American Airlines flight for refusing to turn off this phone when asked. The minor controversy from this event generated some temporary negative publicity for Baldwin, who also happens to endorse numerous brands as their spokesperson.

One of those brands is the beloved regional-chain of grocery stores named Wegmans. However, this week Wegmans briefly stopped running all advertising featuring the suddenly controversial Baldwin because "a couple dozen" customers complained. When hundreds more rushed to his defense after their initial decision, Wegmans reneged and decided to continue running the ads.

Some may view this as good business because, as one publicity flack said, "Wegmans listens to their customers." I disagree. First, it's fallacy that simply because people express their opinions through social medias (or any medium for that matter), that doesn't actually make them customers. Secondly, discontinuing the ads was a drastic step to appease "a couple dozen customers" who are temporarily unhappy. However, Wegmans' flip-flop on Baldwin demonstrates the true utility- or lack thereof, of the celebrity endorsement.

It may help to understand how Baldwin became the pitchman for Wegmans. Although, he doesn't actually shop at grocer himself, the deal was a bi-product of Baldwin sharing a story on late night television that his mother refused to leave her home in central New York because she would miss shopping at Wegmans too much. Naturally, Wegmans felt compelled to reach out to Baldwin.

It's understood that a celebrity endorser is a famous face that embodies the perceived values of a brand or the benefits it delivers. However, if Baldwin can be fired then rehired without much thought, it proves just how little he encompasses the heart and soul of the brand.

All brands make real promises to their customers everyday. Celebrity endorsers pretend to to get paid. They are lazy marketing shortcuts ultimately do brands a disservice because they could be making real, genuine promises to their customers.

No comments: