You're probably familiar with artists working outside their genre. You see it most often when it comes to singers acting (Madonna, Kid'n'Play, Britney, Beyonce, etc.), or actors singing (Scarlett Johanssen, Keanu Reeves, Russell Crowe, William Shatner), or Paris Hilton speaking. Occasionally, however, you'll see celebrities getting into other areas. In many cases, it's a self-promotion and marketing strategy, like you see with the dozens of celebrity endorsed fragrances.
Until recently, I was under the impression that when this type of thing happened it was a publicity exchange kind of thing, like when designers make dresses for actresses to wear to the Oscars: You wear this dress for free, but you tell people where you got it. A "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" kind of thing.
Then I started doing a little research for a post on my blog about Kid Rock's soon-to-be-released "Bad Ass Beer." He was interviewed in Rolling Stone about it recently, and it really sounded like he was having a hand in it - talking about the way it tasted and what the commercials were going to be like. This sounded to me to be more than just a "Yeah, Mr. Rock! You put your name on our beer, we'll give you a free 30-pack and a hooker every Friday night!" kind of deal.
In fact, what I found is that Kid Rock's "Bad Ass Beer Company" is a joint venture between Mr. Rock and a company called Drinks Americas Holdings, Ltd.. They are also responsible for or tied up in Donald Trump's Trump Super Premium Vodka, Willie Nelson's Old Whiskey River Bourbon, Dr. Dre's Aftermath Cognac, among other minor- and non-celebrity brands. They've recently (2007) penned a deal with Universal Interscope Geffen A&M Records (how much longer can that company name get?), so expect more musician related beverages on your shelves sometime in the future.
It's a brilliant business model:
1) Find a famous person with money to burn.
2) Find out what kind of luxury consumable item they might be interested in.
3) Find a partner company that will make said luxury item.
4) Market the piss out of said luxury item using the built-in brand recognition of famous person's name.
5) Jump into your swimming pool filled with money.
I can't fault the company. It's smart. I can fault the people who buy this stuff.
Some of these are apparently quality products. One cannot imagine Donald Trump lending his name to knock-off vodka. It is apparently rated by some fancy-pants vodka rating organization as stars above Grey Goose which is probably the most expensive vodka I've ever put in my mouth.
But come on, people. You're out at the store buying a luxury consumable: Beer, liquor, salad dressing, lightly carbonated flavored water, whatever. You've decided that today you're picking up something new, and not just your regular mass market brand. You're really going to pick up the one branded with Sheryl Crow? Yeah, sure. All you wanna do is have some fun. I understand you like the song. So buy the CD.
Here's the thing: For every business that a celebrity gets into merely because they have money to burn to make more money, a local business dies*. It's a level of fan-dom that I just can not understand. "I love that song, I'll buy his beer!" Really?
Hey, it's really possible that a celebrity with a side interest in a crafted product can and will start a company and grow it organically like any other small business, but when you go from zero to available-everywhere my guess is that it's not interest in the product but interest in more money that's really driving them.
Maybe it's asking too much for people to think about where their money is going when they buy products - it's easier to just throw your money at the grocery store to whatever is on sale that week. But when you're buying luxury products, it's a different story. The people with all the cash from the lucrative record deals don't really need more of your cash. The struggling artisan might.
* - From the Institute of Totally Made-up Bullshit Statistics
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
5.22.09 @ 11:36a
Exception: Paul Newman.
5.22.09 @ 11:44a
Same company, actually.
Drinks Americas Holdings, Ltd. is the exclusive distributor of Paul Newman Lightly Carbonated Flavored Water. Or whatever it is.
I don't think they do the salad dressing, though.
5.22.09 @ 11:45a
That said! From what I remember, all the profit from the salad dressings go to some charity or other, no?
5.22.09 @ 12:43p
From their website, emboldening is mine: "Newman's Own Foundation continues Paul Newman’s commitment to donate all profits to charity. Over $265 million has been given to thousands of charities since 1982. The Newman's Own Foundation makes grants to charities within the United States and abroad."
5.22.09 @ 1:17p
Here's the thing: For every business that a celebrity gets into merely because they have money to burn to make more money, a local business dies*.
As you know [ http://intrepidmedia.com/column.asp?id=3325 ], mass produced beer is far from a "local business."
Still, I think this celebrity sponsorship / endorsement-ship could be a way to electrify a smaller / local business. Instead of pairing with a mere re-named "regular mass market brand", a celebrity could rock the market by pairing with a lessor known company. Or, perhaps "Drinks Americas Holdings, Ltd." seeks out small scale well known companies to link their celebrity client's to.
I'm not saying this is how it happens, but it's a distinct possibility.
5.22.09 @ 1:59p
Thus opening the door for Rocko Dorsey to be the official rock band of Erikbrau?
5.22.09 @ 5:02p
I'm not going to give up my Paul Newman O's. But just as I'm purposely ignoring Jessica Simpson shoes, Kim Kardashian clothing, and whatever Miley Cyrus has her face slapped on, I'm ignoring the booze. I know what's perfectly fine to pour, and a celebrity's face doesn't make a difference. (I would, however, gladly sample some Erikbrau and make all my customers willing minions in that quest).
And, on the topic of booze, a friend told me a story of a child christened Alize. Let's hope the branding doesn't result in the second child being named Aftermath.
5.22.09 @ 10:14p
If I become a celebrity you can look forward to the scent of Melos. I want the voice over to say, "I love the scent of Melos in the morning." I'd even lend my name to vodka.
The concept of branding doesn't seem to hold with the general public beyond Air Jordans or the Paul Newman brands. I don't see woman flocking to the perfume counters to smell like Britney Spears or Whitney Houston. I don't see people flocking to the liquor store for a six pack of Kid Rock. From what I can tell Bud and Miller are still the big sellers. I think the general public is more savvy now. Maybe in the 70s and 80s when things like Gloria Vanderbilt jeans sold on name recognition, but today's consumer wants real bang for the buck.
I think the job of marketing executives is much harder thanks to the economy and educated consumers.
5.23.09 @ 8:24a
Back in the days when I drank beer, I drank Miller HighLife. Back in the days when I still drank wine, I used to enjoy Passover Seders at my Jewish friends' homes because the Manischevitz tastes so damned good. Thus, you can see the level of my taste for potent potables. My step-son, who is a beer aficionado, and even brews his own from time to time, tells me that it's a scandal that Bud and Miller are "still the big sellers." It's his contention that if people would just try some "good beer" Bud and Miller would go the way of the dodo. I went on a beer tasting trek with him once, and after sampling all the wonderful stuff, I still preferred Miller HighLife. There's just no accounting fior taste, to coin a phrase.
Besides, I still prefer Chanel # 5 for things to smell like. I'm hopeless, I reckon.
joe redden tigan
5.24.09 @ 10:44a
some of the most normal emotions in life are also some of the most excruciatingly cringeworthy. it's normal to avoid eye contact in the Wal-Mart. that's just self defense. it's normal to need a cell phone at your ear when you're alone in public so it doesn't look like you're alone. ever. even if it means calling your mom. it's normal to ostracize the socially oblivious weirdo and to be afraid of her. it's normal to ostracize the beautiful confident overachiever who speaks her mind and to be afraid of her. it's normal to want others to fail. Morrisey sang it: we hate it when our frineds become successful. (btw, my first thread on this site might just have to be about how did morrisey/the smiths ever get the reputation for woe-is-me depression when he/they are so obviously the funniest band in rock history. but stop me if you've heard that one before.) it's normal to be seduced by celebrity endorsement.
the good news is, as robert points out, it doesn't really seem to take hold in any major way with the public. something deep inside a lot of us that gets honed over our time tells us that kid rock has nothing to do with quality beer, nor does britney spears have anything to do with quality. But we can't deny there isn't that moment of "this person achieved wealth and fame. they must be on to something..." luckily, most of us backtrack and say "yeah, but chanel has been doing perfume and only perfume for like 100 years..."