Blink and you’d have missed it, but last week Amazon launched – and then pulled – a new celebrity endorsement hub called ‘The Celebrity Store’, an apparent extension of its influencer marketing programme.
The hub itself has seemingly now disappeared without a trace, but individual pages – like Jessica Biel’s association with yoga and fitness brand Gaiam – are still live at the time of writing (pictured).
The hub saw a range of celebrities, from actors to golfers, hosting their own pages featuring affiliated products such as fragrances or sportswear. Consumers who’ve always wondered how Ryan Seacrest maintains his youthful glow can now buy and share his skincare regimen, delivered the next day on Amazon Prime.
Whatever form its reincarnation takes, Amazon clearly has an idea that can change its business. For the consumer, it provides the cachet and exclusivity of celebrity endorsement, a new way of shopping an ever increasingly confusing category, and the ease of use and delivery power of Amazon. Especially given that the brave new world of influencer marketing is staggering around like an inebriated toddler intoxicated by fake followers, while the star power of established, genuine celebrity has never really dimmed.
Celebrity endorsement is nothing new - in the 18th Century Josiah Wedgewood boasted of being ‘potter to Her Majesty’. The concept of using the power of celebrity to drive price premiums then really took off in the golden era of Hollywood and far from slowing, has been turbo-charged as the world digitized. Amazon isn’t reinventing the wheel to build relationships between celebrities and products, they are simply closing the gap between sales and marketing.
George Foreman ended up making more money from lean, mean grilling machines than he did from his illustrious boxing career. Jennifer Aniston allegedly made more money from her equity incentivised endorsement of Smartwater than she did from Friends. Ultimately anything’s possible in a world where Deadpool’s Ryan Reynolds and Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson can team up to create a gin brand. For Amazon the possibilities are near-limitless. Where once ‘celebrity’ was deployed to build brand equity and get cut-through, on an online marketplace like Amazon it can be used to actively drive transactions.
The emotional drivers of consumers’ consideration journey haven’t changed since Wedgewood was boasting royally, and the endorsement of a favoured or idolised celebrity is still about feeling gratified by a connection with someone famous, as it always was. To wear the sneakers of a musician you think is part of subculture makes you, by proxy, a little part of that subculture. And that’s where the evolution of marketplaces comes in. Make it easy for people to buy things and they will. If people can enrich their lives with the products they want or need, inspired by a famous face…they will.
The march of Amazon and, through Alexa, the growth of conversational commerce is doing just that, making it easier than ever for consumers to buy things they desire. Celebrities are a powerful tool to stimulate that desire, even for low-cost commoditised products, creating the unfair advantage for brands in their daily pursuit of growth. Whatever Amazon’s reasons for flirting with, and then ghosting, celebrity endorsements in the same week, they should reconsider. The convergence of celebrity marketing power and ecommerce is going to realize enormous value.
Fergus Hay is chief executive of Leagas Delaney.