If you’re a Cubs fan like myself than you (hopefully) accepted the fact that all the Tommy John surgeries in the world (not a reference to how many he could have, but actually did have) would not bring Kerry Wood’s arm back to what we all hoped it would be. I don’t even say “what it was” because it wasn’t healthy long enough for us to see what it was. We collectively had this belief until about 2005 that just one more trip into the operating room would bring back the pitcher we saw in 1998 striking out 20 Astros. But now we’ve largely given that up. It’s just easier and, frankly, more realistic.
But the corporate advertising world still seems to be stuck in the “It’ll all work out” phase familiar to Cubs fans, survivors huddled in the basement after nuclear wars and people who think J.J. Abrams has a plan for “Lost.” Advertisers still see a situation wherein a company or retailer faces the challenge of gaining market share or stemming sales declines and think that celebrities are the answer. Macy’s picked Donald Trump and Martha Stewart, meaning they can cash in both their “place” and “show” tickets “The Apprentice” window. Ben McConnell dissects this effort nicely. HP has tapped rocker Gwen Stefani for a new campaign, since she had that big hit “Color Cartridge #22” and so is known as a printing industry guru. And don’t get me started on The Gap, which launches celebrity-driven campaigns with the same regularity Sisyphus pushes the boulder of the hill, and with about the same effect.
Wouldn’t it be better for companies to spend a fraction of what they are on lining up celebrities – celebrities that will endorse their competitors at the drop of a larger check – on seeing how they can build up their existing customers and empower them to spread their own word-of-mouth? They could create online communities where people talk about the brand, share their own stories and meet other like-minded people. And all this could probably done for a fraction of what Trump asked to utter a couple lines and pose for a handful of pictures.
People want to connect with each other – it’s a natural human instinct. The myth of the celebrity has been almost shattered by tabloids – both print and online – and that has taken much of their endorsement credibility with it.