Supply chain: Product placement

A hot celebrity can get press coverage for a brand, product or fashion designer’s name. Here are four easy steps to red hot, red carpet product placement from Susan J. Ashbrook.


Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez are just a few examples of celebrities with tremendous sway over trends in the market, as well as, influence over consumer dollars. Just one twirl on the red carpet can take merchandise from the unknown to a big retail business. Celebrities have become an advertising vehicle—and sometimes at no cost. The designer/company gets press because of the celebrity—and both benefit for a “win win”.

One example of star power was Madonna’s last-minute Christmas shopping at Steve Madden’s Beverly Hills store. The stylish celebrity set her sights on a pair of pink suede boots with pom-pom laces called the “Iglou”. The store was out of the star’s size, but Steve Madden’s corporate office heard about her obsession and over-nighted her a pair. The story didn’t end there. Steve Madden immediately notified several news and entertainment outlets and the self-proclaimed style guru, Steven Cojocaru, wound up mentioning Madonna and her passion for Steve Madden’s pink boots on the “Today” show. In the 13 minutes following the segment’s airing, the company registered 240 orders for the $125 “Iglou” on its Website. The tally? $30,000.

The celebrity media business has boomed as glossy weeklies devoted to covering their lives have taken over every newsstand. In fact, celebrity glossy circulation is valued at $1.3 billion a year, and celebrity media TV has 100+million viewers a week. If the right celebrity is seen wearing or using your product and the press picks up on it, the result is hundreds, thousands or even millions of dollars in publicity. In essence, this is “free” advertising. So if Madonna’s Christmas shopping story and the $30,000 in sales that followed caught your interest, then you will want to figure out how your item can land with a celebrity. Here are four easy steps to red hot, red carpet placement for your product:

1. Match your brand with a list of celebrities. This is called building your “target list” and it can and will change as you leap into celebrity marketing. This step is a great exercise for anyone interested in pairing up merchandise with Hollywood because you will think through this process and, hopefully, make sure your target list matches your product’s demographic. For example, if you make a sassy hair ornament that would attract Willow Smith for her new video “Whip My Hair 2”, you certainly wouldn’t want Betty White on your target list. We all love Betty White, but you need to find celebrities with a similar age range, fan base and appreciation for your product.

2. Understand the different categories of celebrities. Who wouldn’t like to see George Clooney or Julia Roberts using your products? These elite A-list stars are tough to tackle right out of the gate and usually hit the red carpet only when they have something to promote. A-list actors or singers refer to major celebs whose fame resonates throughout the world. The B-Lister is someone who is “up and coming” and on the radar for success. Next in line is the C-lister who will be young and unproven, mature or even the familiar faces who host entertainment shows or other popular variety shows. The D-list celebrity may sound pretty bad, but comedian Kathy Griffin struck gold (and won an Emmy) for being on the D-list. Confused? Just stay open minded to all opportunities with any category of celebrity. Reality VIP, Kim Kardashian, might not be accepting an Academy Award anytime soon but she is a red carpet regular and offers great opportunities for your product to be seen and photographed. Whether you like Kim or not, you need to consider the best celebrities for getting your merchandise noticed.

3. There is a red carpet event every week in Hollywood. Not all events are right for your brand; garner media attention or host your target list of celebrities. Since there is a red carpet event just about every weekend, there is no need to get discouraged if you haven’t connected to a star or singer yet. Rest assured, there is always another carpet coming up. The holy grail of red carpets may be the Academy Awards but consider movie premieres, film festivals and charity events as stepping-stones to marketing your product in Hollywood.

4. Build a relationship with a star. Connections will provide you with priceless long-term benefits, especially when it comes to celebrity marketing. All relationships take time, so don’t wait until a few days or weeks before an event to try and make those connections. Start by sending out new images each season to your target list. Confirm the celebrity likes what they see from your photo before making the investment to send out product. If a star makes a request to try something, a “relationship” can begin to flourish. Beware, the road to relationships with celebrities who like and appreciate your merchandise can run smoothly or take a few detours, so make sure you are paving the road all the time.

If you have a product you wish to promote, there is no reason you should not take advantage of product placement, no matter what the size of your organization or the nature of your product. However, don’t get sucked into working with the wrong celebrity, and be sure to stay focused for the best results. Pretty soon, your product(s) will be strutting their stuff on the red carpet and you’ll be reaping the rewards.

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Susan J. Ashbrook has been involved in “product placement” for 20 years, matchmaking top celebrities with a roster of clients such as: Lanvin, Swarovski, Catherine Malandrino, Herve L Leroux, Tadashi, A Pea In The Pod and Harry Winston Jewelry. She has consulted for non-fashion brands like Nikon, Hasbro Games, MasterCard, Bellini baby furniture and Hooked On Phonics. Ashbrook is the author of the book Will Work for Shoes, which will be published September 2011.