Why do brands need media muses?

“In reality, women are more ‘real,’ and not as perfect as Adriana Karembeu. People need reality, they need truth.” These are the words of Nicolas Chomette, head of Black & Gold, a design and strategy company. He adds, “Sometimes we wonder whether the use of muses simply hides a brand’s lack of imagination, and perhaps even their laziness. Have they run out of ideas?” (1) Some brands, like Dove in 2012, have chosen to use consumers as muses. Is it due to a lack of imagination or a way to increase sales? Why do brands use muses?

The muse is a catchy way to promote brand reputation

Some surveys confirm that muses are an effective way to improve brand sales performances. For example, the year after Chanel N°5’s video with Nicole Kidman came out in 2004, sales increased by 17. (3) In a completely different industry, according to Franck Rapiro, head of Hemisphère Droit, “Optic 2000’s sales increased by 20% when the brand partnered with Johnny Halliday.” (3)

Muses represent an ideal to aim for

In industries such as luxury or fashion, muses are used all the time to give consumers an ideal to aim for. This idea was conceived by historian Georges Vigarello who worked in the beauty industry. He believed that people develop a “fascination with these models; accessible yet distant and perfect yet ‘human.’” (4) There are only a few exceptions, including Guerlain’s “Little Black Dress” campaign. Thanks to a strong concept and a mini film ad, which was both aesthetic and original in the luxury industry, the brand managed to make waves with an unknown cartoon muse. (5)

Combining similarity and alterity creates the perfect coherence between the brand and its muse

If the muse is to embody consumer dreams, they must have a connection with consumers. Therefore, two logics have to be combined: *alterity logic, meaning the muse is a distant ideal that people aspire to be, and *similarity logic, meaning the consumer feels close to the star (their reputation, their personality, the fact they use the same products etc.).

In the beauty industry for example, “the most out of reach celebrities would give hope to the most “voluntary” viewers (who want to use the same products as their idol). (…) This ideal could become a reality, inaccessible yet accessible at the same time,” writes Georges Vigarello.

When it comes to sport, consumers have to identify with an athlete (because of their personality, sport, values, or because they both do the same sport). Yet at the same time, that athlete must have an out of the ordinary reputation which consumers aspire to. By possessing this ‘double characteristic,’ and by transferring it to advertising, the athlete gives a convincing message in all industries.

Transfer beliefs rather than emotions

“The relationship between a brand and its muse is identical to a co-branding relationship; on the one hand the muse becomes a brand with a personality, and on the other it becomes a brand image. Brands need to transfer the right message, not just emotionally but also cognitively,” (6) says Philipe Jourdan, founding partner of Panel, an online market research institute.

In order to achieve this, the two personalities have to be a fitting partnership, but it’s not enough for a brand to base its strategy purely on a cause and effect relationship i.e. “I like the muse so I’m going to like the brand.” Even if this correlation can exist, it doesn’t have much value in the long term. For a celebrity brand campaign to last, the muse’s personality needs to have a lot of common traits to that of the brand. The partnership between George Clooney and Nestlé is an example of such success. As a celebrity with a seductive image, impeccable dress sense, and a close relationship with the public, George Clooney reflects these values of closeness, seduction and refinement with wholehearted self deprecation in the brand’s campaigns.

This is a cognitive transfer. The celebrity must reflect the brand’s DNA in all aspects of their social life, job and private life. Philipe Jourdan explains, “The brand has to do more than just sign a contract, it needs to reflect the muse’s personality on a daily basis. For example, it is easy to picture a successful partnership between Sophie Marceau and Lancel. However she couldn’t be the muse of Chanel. The social life that a muse leads needs to echo and resonate with the brand image.” (6)

Find a surprising yet relevant muse to stand out from the crowd

Advertisers make a point of surprising their consumers, by using an exciting muse. This is shown in Marketing lecturer Nathalie Fleck’s work. For her, there are three levels of congruence, or compatibility, between a brand and their muse; moderate, high or low congruence. To support this classification, two criteria were studied; the legitimacy and the element of surprise of an association between a brand and a muse.

– If a sponsorship is seen as both unique and relevant, this will have an even more positive impact on the image of that sponsorship. This is moderate congruence.

– Conversely, if the sponsorship is seen as predictable (or unremarkable) and legitimate, the effect will be positive, but not at the same level. This is strong congruence.

– Finally we come to weak congruence. This is when a sponsorship is seen as both surprising and not relevant. This will therefore have a very negative effect on the image of the sponsorship. (7)

The choice of Brad Pitt as the new muse for the women’s Chanel n°5 perfume in 2013 is the perfect example of moderate congruence;  a very surprising association but also completely relevant given his status as a famous actor and appeal to women.

Develop the brand/ muse relationship to ensure the association lasts

Another criterion that advertisers and marketers can use to maximize the success of their muse strategy is the strength of the relationship between the brand and the personality.

More than just image association, the relationship between the muse and the brand can go much further than the simple representative model. “Through collaborative endorsement, the artist is involved in a creative process launched by the brand,” outlines Emmanuel de Sola, director of special operations at Universal Music France. In the music industry a partnership like this really is win/win for potential muses, brands offer them a chance to build their reputation. The most illustrative example like this is Renault’s partnership with the Guettas when they launched their Twizy model. The car was shown in one of the artist’s clips and David and Cathy Guetta became real brand ambassadors. “Twizy suited David Guetta because he’s an international artist with a young, modern, techno, healthy, eco-friendly image, coherent with an electric vehicle,” explains Raphaël Aflalo, CEO of My Love Affair, an agency specialising in endorsement and musical marketing. (9) In the same vein, Coke recently embarked on various musical partnerships, also including the release of ‘collectable’ bottles branded by artists such as Mika, David Guetta, Justice.

Furthermore, in the beauty industry, the association between Mixa and Estelle Lefébure is more than just an advertising image.

“We have created a real relationship of exchange,” explains Charlotte Walhain, director of brand communication; “Mixa has grown up with her.” Associated to the company since 1996, Estelle Lefébure has an important role in brand development. “She tries all the products that we develop,” explains the brand’s communications director. « Her opinion counts as much as some consumer studies. In 2006 the muse advised Mixa to launch an organic range as it’s really important for her.” (8)

As sources of inspiration, notoriety and values, muses take various roles. However, they will only be effective if marketers choose to work with celebrities in order to enhance a certain aspect. “There needs to be a relationship between the values, personality and lifestyle of the celebrity and the brand. Rather than over-playing the brand, the celebrity should embody it realistically,” states Philipe Jourdan. (6)

(1) http://www.strategies.fr/actualites/marques/105739W/faut-il-mettre-les-egeries-au-vestiaire.html

(2) http://www.brandandcelebrities.com/blog/roi-celebrity-marketing-retour-sur-investissement/ Study by ACE Metrix, using a data base of 9000 TV advertising campaigns, comparing adverts from the same industries of given activities (3) http://www.aubert-storch.com/presse/les%20echos%2023_01_07.pdf

(4) Georges Vigarello, History of Beauty, Editions du Seuil, 2004, p.207

(5) http://www.strategies.fr/actualites/marques/105739W/faut-il-mettre-les-egeries-au-vestiaire.html

(6) The Brand Review – July 2012 – n°79

(7) Fleck Nathalie, DMSP Research Centre, Effect of sponsorship on brand image: the role of congruence edition n°325, October 2003

(8) http://www.lsa-conso.fr/le-casse-tete-des-egeries,130972

(9) Marketing Magazine, n°170, October 2013, p.46




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