Last year, rapper Snoop Dogg added fintech payments company Klarna to his list of corporate partnerships, alongside brands like Tanqueray Gin, Just Eat and Corona (the beer, not the virus).
The resulting “Get Smoooth” campaign (see video below) was by all accounts highly successful. Klarna became the top trending shopping app on Google Play, added 16 million new consumers and increased new merchant sign ups by 140 per cent globally compared to the previous year. Snoop even became a shareholder.
Klarna and Snoop are hardly the only example of an effective business-celebrity pairing. Nike’s famous “Dream Crazy” spot caused a 31 per cent surge in sales days after its release and boosted brand value by $6bn, but it wouldn’t have fired people up without NFL star turned social activist, Colin Kaepernick.
Clearly recruiting an A-lister can be a powerful marketing tool for businesses - when they get it right.
Unfortunately, there’s only a thin line between attracting engagement from a star’s fans and being on the receiving end of cancel culture. Customers are quick to call out inauthentic partnerships - especially ones which jump on a purpose in order to boost profits.
Nothing reeks of using a celebrity just for the sake of it more than Pepsi’s "Live For Now" campaign featuring Kendall Jenner. The tone-deaf spot - in which the reality TV star approaches armed police, in reference to the iconic moment Ieshia Evans stood defiant in the face of riot police during a Black Lives Matter protest in 2016 - was called out on social media for trivialising police brutality.
Critics questioned the brand’s decision to add a white celebrity who had never previously engaged in social activism into the mix. Jenner’s army of 77.8 million Instagram followers (at the time) wasn’t enough to counterbalance the backlash - Pepsi apologised the following day and pulled the spot.
The lesson: brands must tread with caution when choosing who will front their business.
So, back to Snoop Doggy Dogg...
In Klarna’s case, celebrity branding was a way to distance itself from traditional banks, which it says “look and act the same”.
‘Smooth Payments’ was Klarna’s communications vision well before Snoop Dogg came along, says senior analytics director Alex Marsh. So to bring to life its smooth payments system, which offers online shoppers a pay-after-delivery service, Klarna tried to find “the smooothest person alive” (Snoop, clearly).
When approaching a celebrity influencer to bolster your marketing, it’s vital to find someone who understands your vision, Marsh says. It’s not about slapping a famous face on a campaign and hoping it’ll generate buzz.
Indeed, when you do have shared goals, it not only minimises the need for any difficult compromises, he says, but also means they can build on what you’re doing and “challenge you with their unique perspectives”.
While it’s important to share a vision, sharing a target audience is not essential.
Marsh says it’s more important to consider how a new partner will resonate with your customers, adding that going out of the box could even help you tap into a new demographic.
Despite not being the first celebrity you’d think of when you hear the words “financial services”, Klarna’s partnership with Snoop Dogg resonated - the fact that the rapper put his money where his mouth is and became a shareholder speaks to its authenticity.
“Look at what defines your brand and the brand of your partner and if they align, chances are it will be a successful collaboration if executed correctly”, Marsh advises.
Image credit: Steve Jennings / Stringer via Getty Images