Oprah to Grumpy Cat: How Social Media Amplifies the Power of Celebrity Brands

Celebrity branding is a marketing strategy that has been utilized for centuries and has become standard practice as brands look to broaden their audiences. The tactic was first documented in the 18th century when pottery maker Josiah Wedgwood created a tea set for the Queen of England and dubbed himself “potter to Her Majesty.” Celebrity endorsements by athletes followed, then movies stars and musicians – think Michael Jordan for Nike and Beyonce for Pepsi. Today, social media has changed the endorsement game by increasing the reach of these traditional celebrities and spurring the rise of a new generation of famous people – and animals – with built in audiences that marketers are primed to target through endorsements.

As big names use their recognition to promote social movements, lifestyles and brands, their fans have a platform to respond in mass. Shortly after Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech – that inspired tweets calling for her to put in a bid for the 2020 presidential election – the New York Times responded with anarticle

Recently, Grumpy Cat’s owner, Tabatha Bundesen was awarded over $700,000 in a copyright infringement lawsuit over the use of the Grumpy Cat name – solidifying the legitimacy of memes as copyrightable celebrities.

Less traditional celebrities are making a big impact on today’s marketing industry. Grumpy Cat, a meme that was copied and spread across social media until she became a household name, is now a licensed brand with endorsement deals rumored to reach into the millions. Recently, Grumpy Cat’s owner, Tabatha Bundesen wasawarded over $700,000 in a copyright infringement lawsuit over the use of the Grumpy Cat name – solidifying the legitimacy of memes as copyrightable celebrities. After controversial YouTube celebrity Logan Paul received a flood of criticism for a video that shows what appears to be a body hanging from a tree in Japan’s Aokigahara forest, YouTube dropped him from premium advertising. Controversial content has long been Mr. Paul’s appeal and what keeps his audience coming back for more. As YouTube responds it reveals that social media platforms have ultimate control over the audiences of these new celebrities.

Martinez’s popularity propelled the campaign to a level that a traditional branding campaign would have been unlikely to achieve.

A few years back Sands Costner featured local celebrity, Vicki Martinez in a brand awareness campaign for Tacoma Community College. We created a scholarship for women in her name and ran a targeted Pandora radio spot to get the word out. Martinez’s popularity propelled the campaign to a level that a traditional branding campaign would have been unlikely to achieve. Because she promoted the scholarship to her followers on Facebook and local news organizations picked up the story, the campaign saw over 750,000 earned media impressions – winning marketing awards for both the college and our agency.

We experienced firsthand the success that a celebrity endorsement can bring to a campaign. If you’re considering ways to boost your next promotion, let’s talk. We are ready to learn about your marketing goals and uncover the ways to best leverage your brand and reach your target audience.