The right celebrity can make for a very hot brand

It’s one of the many ironies of the fashion industry: the people who can most afford that Hermes Kelly bag or Louboutin boots often don’t have to pay for them.

Chances are they were gifted the latest lust-have piece in the hope they’ll be snapped toting or wearing it in an ambassadorship role, and inspire the rest of us to redraw on our mortgage and buy it.

A celebrity ambassador can invite a very specific group of people to join their ranks simply by buying the label they’re spruiking. Likewise, in the case of very high-end brands, they can discourage particular people climbing aboard an exclusive bandwagon.

Watch companies have understood the value of celebrity association for decades — Swiss company Longines has a stable of ambassadors, with different faces used to target different markets. Australian star of The Mentalist Simon Baker and British actress Kate Winslet feature prominently in its Australian advertising and are credited with helping boost the brand’s profile and desirability.

The Celebrity Davie-Brown Index ranks prominent people according to their potential value to advertisers — how trustworthy they are and how likely they are to inspire purchases. In its ranking of Australian celebrities last year, Hugh Jackman, who up until recently was the ambassador for Montblanc, came in at number one. The list also included Bondi Vet Dr Chris Brown (who represents Medibank and Optimum pet food), Adam Gilchrist (Puma), Cate Blanchett (Giorgio Armani and SK-II skincare), Pat Rafter (Bonds), Carrie Bickmore (Garnier) and Curtis Stone (Coles).

Jackman, was last month succeeded as global brand ambassador for Montblanc by equestrian champion and the seventh in line to the throne of Monaco, Charlotte Casiraghi. Montblanc said Casiraghi was a perfect fit for the brand because she was “independent, sophisticated, inspired, talented and pioneering, with an uncompromising commitment to perfection in everything she does”.

Givenchy is clearly making a pitch to the more sophisticated, mature woman, using a tuxedo-clad Julia Roberts in its spring 2015 campaign while Dior is appealing to aspirational younger women by re-signing Hunger Games actress Jennifer Lawrence for a reported $15 million over three years.

At the more affordable, accessible end of the industry, famous frock brand Karen Millen’s latest campaign features actress Sophie Turner, known for her role as Game of Throne’s Sansa Stark while Witchery has signed striking German-Brazilian supermodel Aline Weber. “A bohemian spirit with a true lust for life, she’s a Witchery woman after our own heart, ” the company said.

John Hardy, an “eco-conscious” luxury jewellery brand which uses primarily recycled silver uses “it” girl Cara Delevingne to convey its message.

“All John Hardy pieces are handmade by local Balinese artisans for a ‘one of a kind’ product and Cara’s ‘one of a kind’ beauty and bohemian spirit make her a perfect face for the brand, ” the company said.

Experts say a good brand ambassador will have credibility and global, long-term appeal, as well as personality. A well-chosen ambassador can take a brand to the next level. While Brad Pitt’s bizarre ads for Chanel No. 5 were lambasted, they also cut through where it counted because of his enormous likability. One report online said new Chanel customers were asking for “the Brad perfume”.

But because consumers demand some authenticity, even the most likable star can come a cropper. Somehow it seems not entirely ridiculous that Angelina Jolie would be sitting in an old canoe in messy marshland with her Louis Vuitton tote slung over her shoulder. Nobody has any trouble believing Nicole Kidman mists Chanel No. 5 over her body before hitting the red carpet.

There is a long history of celebrities being dumped from their contracts because of bad behaviour or bad press (Kate Moss, Tiger Woods). But both have reclaimed most of their sparkle — and pay cheque.

Brand ambassadors, such as designer Marc Jacobs (Diet Coke), have been given fancy “creative director” titles which imply much more than posing for photos.

Ultimately, the biggest benefit of a successful celebrity partnership is getting loads of free advertising. Of course we’d never fall for that. 


© The West Australian

More Fashion news at