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Celebrity brand endorsements have become embedded in advertising, promotion and branding. Brand collaborations with celebrities come with a lot of advantages such as, an increase in brand visibility and immense attention to a product/brand which invariably leads to increased sales. Having a celebrity co-sign your brand enhances the brand image, adds value and credibility because the public is influenced by celebrities and they trust products and brands that their favourite celebrities use and endorse. It is unequivocally an effective advertising and marketing method, but most small companies and brands don’t have the budgets for celebrity partnerships. Understandably so, because celebrity brand collaborations do not come cheap. Celebrities command hefty figures for brand endorsement and collaboration contracts. Whilst big brands like Nike, Pepsi and Samsung can afford to pay millions or billions to attract the suitable celebrity for their brands or products, small brands and emerging companies cannot afford to rope in big celebrities.

David Beckham for Samsung

As luck would have it, organic celebrity discovery endorsements have forged some highly profitable partnerships at minimal cost to small brands. Such is the case with LuMee Case and Flash Tattoos, who captured the attention of two most prolific superstars in the world with a slew of devoted followers and enormous influence.

Beyonce x Flash Tattoos Collection

When a jewelry store in Los Angeles, California gave out Lumee cases as gifts to the Kardashians, Allan Shoemake the founder of LuMee could not have not known that his selfie-light enhancing invention would get a stamp of approval from the selfie queen herself and become a beloved selfie tool for the megastar, but he was prepared nonetheless. From Kim Kardashian promoting the LED-light phone case in 2016 on her social media pages, LuMee case year sales increased dramatically and doubled in just one month. “She certainly moves the needle. It was great because she used LuMee organically before she partnered with us. We’re working on other collaborations with her now, developing new cases to bring out” Shoemake told Shoemake’s business model included sending 1,000 LuMee cases a year to influencers and celebrities for promotion and it paid off for the brand without hitting hard the business’ pocket.

Queen Of Selfies Kim Kardashian with her LuMee case.

In general people tend to buy whatever products that their favourite celebrities use, wear or eat. Even when the celebrity is not intentionally promoting the product per say. Beyoncé was enjoying her summer vacation when the uniquely fashionable silver and gold metallic temporary tattoos spotted on her skin drew the attention of many. Online store Flash Tattoos had hit the mother-lode and their jewelry pattern tattoo designs became an instant phenomenon. Thinking on their feet, the brand sent more samples to Beyoncé which luckily the superstar loved and wore even more. A custom designed #BeyonceXFlashTattoos collaboration line was born nine months later, creatively directed and co-designed by Beyoncé. The brand’s ability to strategically make the most out of Beyoncé’s fame and the attention they were receiving from the public was a master stroke.

Beyonce as seen on Instagram rocking flash tattoos

Our very own local fashion designer Laduma Ngxokolo of MaXhosa also gained more attention to his fashion brand after Beyonce gave him a shout out and was spotted wearing one of his designs.

Things can also go pear-shaped however. As demonstrated by the controversial case of Destiney Bleu of ‘dbleudazzed’ who accused Khloe Kardashian of copying her work after the reality star bought several items on the brands website and had some items custom made. The result was a social media fury which garnered a lot of negative attention from fan camps of both parties. Bleu’s gripe was that Khloe never posted or wore the outfits she had bought from her online store, but instead a “knock-off” of the allegedly “copied” bedazzled bodysuit design which was spotted on a campaign video for Khloe’s denim line – Good American. The tiresome politics about the originality of a bejewelled bodysuits are futile and endless. The takeaway here is that Destiney was fully aware of the power and impact of a celebrity as big as Khloe Kardashian wearing her clothes and posting on her huge social media following would have on her brand – an outcome that she initially had desired and hoped for. A few days of social media outrage and attention obviously brought a lot of attention to her brand, for a short while, but eventually she caught a costly defamation of character lawsuit from Kardashian’s legal team which she could potentially lose and ultimately have it knock her business financially.

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Khloe wearing the design she was accused of stealing for Good American

What small brands need to understand is that sending celebrities their products for free is not a guaranteed investment. Celebrities receive plenty of free goods, most of which they don’t even like nor ever use. A target-based distribution of products to the right celebrity can help brands position themselves for that authentic celebrity promotion. Sending free products to just any celebrity and hoping for the best does not cut it. A brand that makes goofy and funky rompers is most likely to find for itself meaningful support and promotion from John Legend and wife Chrissy Teigen but you cannot send a custom-made aqua blue digitally printed bodysuit with ruffle details for Kim Kardashian and North West like Draya Michelle of Mint Swim did. It is not the Kardashian-West aesthetic and Kim will never wear or post it, no matter how sweet the gesture.

John Legend and wife Chrissy Tiger wearing the KFC rompers as spotted on Instagram

Sending a perfectly suited product to the right celebrity will maximise the chances of that product being loved, used, worn and posted on social media by the celebrity.

Celebrities set trends and their influence transcends almost every industry. Its an added advantage that the most powerful stars like Beyonce and Kim Kardashian are big fans of indie labels and emerging brands. A small brand/company will never know when a celebrity will spot their brands, but it is best to be prepared for the surge of orders and publicity that will emanate when a celebrity gives their products or brand a shout out on Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat – or are photographed using the product. A strategy to cope with the publicity and manage the growing demand must to be in place but above all, brands must apply the philosophy of Shoemake – by providing good customer service and authenticity that will help their brands to make the most out their free celebrity promotion and maintain sustainable growth.

Kim Kardashian-West taking selfies with her LuMee case at the Grammy’s
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