Over the past several years, various fashion, beauty and wellness brands have looked to celebrities to fill their executive ranks. But recently, the move to appoint such people of influence has been attention grabbing.
Earlier this month, celebrity, CEO and founder of PATTERN Beauty, Tracee Ellis Ross, was appointed to diversity and inclusion advisor at Ulta Beauty, while Dakota Johnson took on the role as the creative director for sexual wellness brand Maude and Kerry Washington joined jewelry brand Aurate as an investor and collaborator in November 2020.
In 2010, Voss water appointed Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to a strategic advisor role, while in 2019, Polaroid named Lady Gaga its creative director.
From my point of view (POV), brands are and have been looking to actively kick it up a notch, going beyond a sponsored advertisement or an ambassador role and naming celebrities to permanent roles and going as far as providing equity. For example, recently, reality star Khloé Kardashian became a global spokeswoman and took equity in New Zealand collagen brand Dose & Co.
But are these appointments impactful? Are they advantageous to the brand? Better yet, what’s the return on investment (ROI)?
The on-going trend to fill c-suite positions with celebrities comes as an effort to increase sales, ultimately putting them in high demand. And if celebrities didn’t notice this before, they do now.
“Actors have realized that there’s been a lot of people who’ve relied on them to get a quick paycheck,” said Kate Hudson, who founded the leggings brand Fabletics in 2013 along with JustFab and recently launched her second venture, a wellness brand dubbed InBloom, with Syllable, an incubator.
“I’m trusting that they’re going to take my face and this product and actually put the best stuff out there, why aren’t I a part of that?”
So, for brands looking to go down this route, a great starting point might be looking to celebrities who are already well acquainted with the brand or product. The odds of striking a deal with a celebrity at this point are seemingly better. The odds are even better if the celebrity actually uses it. Take it from Vital Proteins. Jennifer Aniston had been a Vital Proteins customer for years before joining the company. Aniston is now the chief creative officer of the wellness supplement brand.
“Collagen is the glue that holds everything together. I’ve always been an advocate for nourishing your wellness from within, which is why I started using Vital Proteins so many years ago. Now, to have the opportunity to be a part of the brand in a bigger way, as chief creative officer, is very exciting to me,” said Aniston.
Another element to these appointments is that it screams authenticity, at least to the consumer. “When you make a career choice to join a brand, that’s really the most authentic brand endorsement,” said Amber Venz Box, co-founder and president of influencer monetization platform rewardStyle.
But do celebrities invest in brands solely because they use and believe in the brand? Or do they invest because they believe the brand can perform well from an ROI perspective? There’s definitely a combination of both, but unfortunately, that’s another conversation for another day.
The question arises here because when Khloé Kardashian looked to invest in Dose & Co., Retail Bum questioned the venture altogether as the business move came shortly after the Kardashian-Jenner clan announced the end of their reality tv show. After the news broke, Kardashian has made a number of business deals. Whether or not they were made to fill some financial gaps is up for debate.
Prior to her investment into the collagen brand, Kardashian partnered with beauty subscription brand Ipsy to appeal and re-engage its core millennial base and became the spokeswoman role with Nurtec ODT – a migraine medication, which she received backlash for.
But for brands and retailers looking to not only increase sales but address political concerns or make statements of their own, onboarding a celebrity could be impactful. Case in point: in addition to committing more than $25 million towards diversity and inclusion, Ulta Beauty appointed celebrity Tracee Ellis Ross as diversity and inclusion advisor. The appointment of Ross allows the beauty retailer to make a move that many brands and retailers have been looking to make as they address diversity and inclusion within their organization while also bringing on a perhaps missed perspective. Ross was also brought on to help the retailer with BIPOC brand development.
Ultimately, brands and retailers are more than likely to pay a premium to bring a celebrity on board. But to answer the question from earlier, “Is the move impactful?” In most cases, yes. Furthermore, the move to provide equity is seemingly a no-brainer and potentially advantageous to the brand, particularly if partnership proves to be more fruitful than opting for a traditional endorsement deal. With equity involved, the celebrity now has more motive for the brand to succeed. The agreement ultimately becomes mutually beneficial, especially if sales skyrocket.