Think BR: Rhianna and Nivea - good association gone bad
It can be surprising how far perceptions about certain celebrities differ from the measurable facts, writes Denzil Thomas, business director, Billington Cartmell Music.
Denzil Thomas, business director, Billington Cartmell Music
Few marketers will have missed the news that Beiersdorf is not renewing Nivea’s association with Rihanna as she doesn’t fit its 'family image'.
Because we at Billington Cartmell Music work on so many artist associations, I find Beiersdorf’s abrupt about-turn intriguing... surely someone did the due diligence back in 2010/11 when the association was put together?
I don’t believe that Rihanna has suddenly got more 'dangerous’. Some commentators claim she has been spotted smoking grass in public places, posting uncensored tweets (an unfortunate celebrity fact of life) and generally getting a bit more 'Gangsta'.
Whereas before the Nivea association she was spotted......smoking grass in public places, posting uncensored tweets and releasing tracks such as G4L (Gangsta for Life).
It is also said that her frequent image changes could be difficult for a beauty brand – although, frankly, I’ve never seen two pictures of Rihanna looking the same before or after Nivea’s endorsement.
And a skincare brand could turn image changes into a positive; you can change your look but your skin is for life, etc.
Nivea knew what it was buying into 18 months ago. As the press release said, signing Rihanna was a re-positioning towards younger consumers: "We are excited to have Rihanna supporting us in our celebration and building a new generation of fans."
The Nivea Visage Young range aims to set early skincare habits in 13-19 year old girls, so this association as a recruitment funnel for lifetime brand devotees made sense, with the data proving that Rihanna’s popularity peaks significantly with young females.
Moreover, Rihanna’s position as the world’s biggest recording artist has only been strengthened in the past year.
She has 60 million facebook likes and her videos were watched 34 million times last week on YouTube/Vevo.
Based on the number of total tracks sold in 2011, she was the UK’s biggest-selling artist, beating even the seemingly-invincible Adele.
The online metrics - the appropriate measure given that this is how the target audience consumes music - prove that Rihanna is the biggest artist ever in every measurable sense.
So what has changed? The answer: Stefan Heidenreich, the new head of Beiersdorf. He issued the ‘not renewing’ statement, as well as all the comments in the German press about Rihanna’s unsuitability for the brand.
Rihanna’s contract seems to have fallen victim to the new broom phenomenon which we see played out so regularly in the marketing arena. We’ve all been touched by the ‘not invented here’ syndrome, the ‘not my people syndrome’ or the creative subjectivity syndrome.
Heidenreich has decided that Rihanna is wrong for Nivea, on loose grounds of morality and against the evidence of her huge power in Nivea’s target market. And his words make it clear that this is something he feels very strongly about indeed.
It shows how subjective music associations can be, thanks to the very emotive power of music and music celebrities. I often say that music’s biggest asset, the ability to affect consumer behaviour via emotions, can be its biggest weakness in the boardroom.
We will never completely eradicate subjectivity when it comes to choosing artists for brand associations - and we wouldn’t want to.
However, at a time when we need to measure and evaluate every aspect of a campaign, we have to minimise subjectivity. We have to walk into the boardroom and say: "It doesn’t matter what music or artists you or I like, these are the available artists that will perform best in this campaign and here is the definitive evidence."
The days are long gone when artists were recommended on a hunch. At Billington Cartmell Music we have led the use of Music Industry statistics (via MusicMetric) in informing artist decisions. Indeed, it has been so successful in underpinning decisions for clients such as Lucozade and Sennheiser, that we now use them on every campaign, as standard.
I am constantly surprised how far perceptions about certain celebrities differ from the measurable facts.
And I cannot be alone in concluding that one person’s subjectivity, rather than a considered objectivity, seems to have left Nivea looking very publicly out of step with its target audience.
Denzil Thomas, business director, Billington Cartmell Music.
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