4 Reasons Why “Celebrity” Works at Retail

As Fast Fashion Dominance Prevails, Celebrities Are One Saving Grace

This Holiday season, I’ve been shopping in stores more than usual. While out and about, I noticed several non-designer celebrities with collections at retail, including:

  • Gabrielle Union and Eva Mendes at New York & Company
  • Tracee Ellis Ross at J.C. Penney
  • Jennifer Lopez at Kohl’s
  • Heidi Klum Intimates at Macy’s
Image for post
Image for post
  • Plus other celebrity collections on my radar sold direct to consumer are Sarah Jessica Parker’s SJP, EleVen by Venus, Kate Hudson’s Fabletics, Beyonce’s Ivy Park, Rihanna’s Fenty x Puma, just to name a few.
Image for post
Image for post
  • And movie and TV property-inspired lines are a plenty like Rag & Bone’s Star Wars collection and The Limited’s Scandal collection, akin to the industry-legendary Mad Men Collection offered exclusively at Banana Republic.
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

While seeing Gabrielle & Eva at New York & Company, I pondered a question that lingered until I wrote this, Why do retailers and people bet on celebrities?

From a marketing situation analysis point of view, fashion has been struggling a lot in the past five years. Fast fashion retailers like Zara, H&M and Forever 21 continue to increase number of stores and accordingly market share. Simultaneously, clothing subscription companies like Rent The Runway offer threats as well with $89/month subscriptions allowing customers to choose 4 outfits (beyond formalwear as initially offered)and return them, thereby allowing women to expand their closets for <$100 each month (they also offer a $159/month unlimited option too).

Image for post
Image for post

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this, but my thoughts on why celebrity is leveraged as a marketing strategy by some as follows:

1) A collection in a celeb’s name, made available exclusively at/by a retailer, is an implied endorsement by that celebrity of the entire brand, e.g. “Jennifer Lopez is down with Kohl’s, if this store is good enough for J-Lo, it’s good enough for me. I love Kohl’s.” Clearly, this drives purchase.

2) Everyone wants to be rich & successful. Society idolizes those who have cracked this code and whose mere image embodies and represents wealth & success. We desire to smell like them, dress like them, drive like them, we want to BE them.

3) Images and names of celebrities strike us, especially in-store. When I saw the image of Gabrielle Union at New York & Company, I absolutely stopped and paid a wee bit more attention to the yellow dress than I would have normally.

4) Many of us need help making fashion decisions and navigating fashion landscapes. Not everyone is born a fashionista. For the 80% of us with less fashion sense than our fashion-forward friends, having a celebrity with a noted reputation, wealth & success to match helps us navigation making fashion choices. “If Heidi wears this lingerie in the bedroom, then move over Warner’s, I’m rolling with Heidi.”

5) We are simply obsessed with all things celebrity. Celebrity Gossip. Celebrity TV Shows. Celebrity Magazines. Celebrity Websites. Celebrity, Period. Sad, but true. Anything that feels like a celebrity of any level (even a YouTube blogger) has blessed, us normal people embrace.

These are just a few reasons that came to my mind about celebrity’s influence on purchasing behavior/retail. Please share if you have additional or different thoughts.

NOTE: While I am hypersensitive to this particular celebrity marketing practice, I have no positive or negative opinion on it as entertainment/brand partnership marketing is what I do everyday, so mums the word to me. :) I want us to be less gullible as a society, but get why it works and more importantly that it works.

Respectfully, Olivia

Written by

Founder, Omerge Alliances. Creator, Freedom At The Mat. Marketing Strategist & Educator (NYU). Mizzou Journalism & Gonzaga University Grad.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store