Expert's Opinion

The Good Brand Spokesperson

By Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys | October 11, 2010

Robert Passikoff on connecting emotionally with consumers.

L'Oréal recently announced a new addition to its roster of celebrity spokespeople, signing actress Julianna Margulies as a new ambassador and celebrity face for the brand. Ms. Margulies currently stars in the critically acclaimed TV series "The Good Wife,” for which she won a Golden Globe and SAG award for her portrayal of a loyal yet betrayed wife of a politician.

Does it surprise you that L’Oréal (and most other beauty brands, both luxury and mass merchandiser) went the expected route and found a high-profile beauty to front for their brand? We weren’t. But just because it’s predictable doesn’t mean it isn’t practicable, and there are two basic ways a celebrity can positively affect a brand.

The first is by creating what might be called “borrowed equity,” when the celebrity causes more attention to the brand than otherwise might be the case, an approach usually used when a brand is seeking high levels of awareness. The second is when the spokesperson association actually increases the brand’s equity—that is, when the values inherent in the spokesperson significantly reinforce brand values. If successful, the brand is then seen to better meet, and can even exceed, expectations consumers dream about for the ideal in the category.
That measure—the brand versus the real, unconstrained-by-the-marketplace Ideal—is the very best measure of brand engagement and loyalty because it takes into account real emotional values, something that imagery and good-looking celebrities can’t bring about on their own.

Ms. Margulies won’t appear in advertising for L'Oréal Paris until 2011, but until then, we turned to the Brand Keys’ 2010 Loyalty Leaders List to see which brands were currently engaging loyal customers. Here’s the top 10 ranking:

1. Mary Kay
2. Maybelline
3. Estée Lauder
4. Clinique
5. Avon
6. Lancôme
7. L’Oréal
8. Covergirl
9. Chanel
10. Max Factor

Coco Chanel is said to have offered thisbon mot:Women have two weapons – cosmetics and tears. Happily, these days beauty brands can arm themselves with something more than outdated clichés: the loyalty driven by real emotional connection.

About the Author
Robert Passikoff is founder and president of Brand Keys, Inc., has 35 years of agency and client experience in all phases of strategic brand planning for B2B and B2C product and service categories. He pioneered work in loyalty and engagement, creating the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, theBrandweekLoyalty Leaders List, the Sports Fan Loyalty Index, and theWomen's Wear DailyFashion Brand Engagement Index.

His first best-selling book,Predicting Market Success, provides marketers a 21st century perspective on predictive loyalty metrics. His newest book (co-authored with Brand Keys' EVP of Global Brand Development, Amy Shea)The Certainty Principle: How to Guarantee Brand Profits in the Consumer Engagement Marketplaceprovides companies with a predictive approach to brand differentiation.

His company has developed research and brand positioning programs for such diverse clients as ABC Television, Ann Taylor, Sears, Best Buy, KeySpan Energy, Citibank,Press-Enterprise, Samsung, Burger King, Cablevision, First USA, Toyota, American Express, AVIS, The NFL, L'Oréal, Apple, Shell Oil, Discover Financial, Neutrogena, OfficeMax, Points of Light Foundation,The New York Times, Eventive Marketing, Hakuhodo, Sunoco, The Body Shop, Liz Caliborne, Kellogg's, Wrigley, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, XM Satellite Radio, MTV, and The Wall Street Journaloffice Network.