FEATURE: How to pick the best star for the job

It's hard to gauge the effectiveness of a music 'face' chosen to promote a brand. Kate Magee takes a look at some companies that are offering a solution.

Music industry stars sell products. Having a high-profile figure on board gives an already cool brand a vital edge over its equally cool competitors.

It also offers dull brands the kind of fizz that their usual activities might not generate. Think self-proclaimed ‘CEO of hip-hop’ Jay-Z and his slick ad campaign for PC brand Hewlett Packard.

Given the image-power of such personalities, it is no wonder that brands turn to chart-topping artist and, if they are lucky, next-big-things, to help promote their product or cause. But is simply enlisting a ‘big name’ enough to create a successful brand? Not according to research consultancy Entertainment Media Research (EMR).

Boosting awareness
Using its ‘PopScores’ rating system, EMR researchers recently found consumers had a low awareness of which celebrities fronted specific brands. While 55 per cent of respondents were aware of the relationship between U2 and Apple, and Robbie Williams and T-Mobile, only 43 per cent were aware that Madonna fronted Gap campaigns. A paltry 13 per cent knew that Gorillaz promoted Motorola.

This lack of awareness is due to marketers and PROs prioritising a star’s general popularity over identifying an appropriate celebrity for the audience they are targeting, according to EMR founder and president, Peter Ruppert.

EMR believes its PopScores method can pin down which artists appeal to a particular demographic. Data that is vital, it argues, if you are to make the most from a celebrity ‘face’.

Every month EMR researchers ask a population cross-section of 4,500 to rate their ‘emotional connection’ to different artists by answering a series of questions.

This generates an average PopScore for each artist. The results for different age groups and genders can then be isolated out, offering the potential to match specific artists to a brand’s target demographic.

PRWeek put this method to the test by looking at four consumer-facing campaigns – three of them charities – fronted by a music figure. With Ruppert’s help, we analysed the PopScore results to see how well-matched each celebrity was to the brand’s target demographic. Opposite, the brands offer their responses.

EMR was founded in 1997. The information gathered by its rating system PopScores was originally used to help radio stations select their playlists, until the company started to sell it to the marketing community in 2006.

Working from a base in London, the company now serves the advertising, broadcasting and music industries across the UK, Australasia, Europe and the US. It is an independent company and privately owned.

In June 2005 EMR’s second digital music survey correctly predicted the UK population of legal downloaders would exceed illegal downloaders within 12 months.


Keating (l)

Christian Aid uses Ronan Keating for its Trade Justice campaign; a campaign that aims to create a fairer market for poorer countries.

The NGO’s target demographic is men and women aged 30 to 70, with the majority of its core supporters among the over-50s.

EMR gave Keating a total PopScore of 17, three points below the average of 20.

Ninety-eight per cent of respondents knew his name and 97 per cent knew a little about him (informed awareness), attesting to his popularity in the UK.

When the figures are broken down, his total Popscore was dragged down because of his lack of connection with 13- to 39-year-olds. But when you look at 40- to 49-year-olds and 50- to 59-year-old women, the scores shoot up to 44 and 43 respectively.

So Keating does appeal to the female elements of Christian Aid’s core supporters and its younger target audience too. But Ruppert suggested Kylie Minogue would have been far better suited to the target demographic.

She scored 45 in this group (men 41, women 48). British female pop star Dido also outscored Keating with 37 (men 35, women 38), but David Bowie with 44 (men 45, women 43) and Eric Clapton with 39 (men 41, women 37) would have also done well.

Christian Aid spokesperson Karen Hedges says the charity has to keep its core supporters happy while attracting a new, younger group.

'We use different celebrities for different types of markets,’ says Hedges.

'We use Damien Lewis to target the AB1 type, Lemar to attract a younger audience, and Ronan Keating for our core audience – among whom Ronan clearly has a broad appeal.

Although Hedges is at pains to underline the charity’s gratitude for ‘any celebrity who gives up their time to help us,’ she says that it is important that they are capable of conveying the NGO’s core message. Ideally, they should be able to stand up to a ‘grilling’ on the sector if needed.


Baby charity Tommy’s used RnB star Jamelia to launch its T-shirt campaign in 2005. Aiming to fund research into miscarriages, premature birth and still births, it targeted women aged 20 to 40.

Jamelia’s total PopScore was 21. While she scored high in name awareness, with 95 per cent, her informed awareness – survey respondents knowing anything about her – dropped to 83 per cent.


Although she's a strong tie with 20- to 29-year-old women (scoring 30), there didn’t seem to be an ‘emotional connection’ between the target audience and the artist, says Ruppert. In fact, she scored only 25 among 20- to 40-year-old women.

Tommy’s could have gone for another female pop star. Pink has a PopScore of 46, Kylie (again) 41, Gwen Stefani 38, Dido (again) 35 and Sugababes or Nelly Furtado 32. Tommy’s PR manager Ash Anand says the charity picked Jamelia ‘because she was a well-known young mother who, as the results show, appealed to our target demographic’.

He adds: ‘We were aware that her popularity fluctuates, but at the time we chose her she was very active in the music scene.’


Harding: Ultimo girl

Lingerie brand Ultimo uses Girls Aloud’s Sarah Harding as its model. The firm picked Harding hoping her good looks and pop credentials would strike a chord with 18- to 35-year-old men and women.

EMR figures for Girls Aloud as a group suggest the band’s aesthetic appeal has led to men aged 13 to 29 accounting for the group’s biggest fan-base.

Positive and negative scores were above the average, but with a total score of just 18, the group polarised opinion. Young men aside, the results showed that there was generally very low emotional connection with the target audience.

‘It is difficult to find a British woman with a significant connection with this demographic,’ says Ruppert. ‘I would suggest using the Sugababes, who are probably better suited, with 31 (men 29, women 33).’

Michelle Mone, founder and co-owner of Ultimo’s parent company MGM International disagrees.

‘Sarah Harding reflects everything that a woman aspires to,’ she says.

‘She is confident, sexy and extremely outgoing. She was signed to appeal to a younger market. Market research reports may be quite handy now and again, but I wouldn’t pay these results any attention.’

Mone adds: ‘The amount of letters and e-mails from men and women of all age groups has been incredible. We have seen a dramatic increase in sales, more so than when we used any other model.

‘Statistics can be useful, but you have to look at whether ideas work sales-wise. Our sales prove that Sarah is a good choice.’

Oxfam’s ‘music ambassadors’ include Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Kaiser Chiefs and Damon Albarn, who are aimed to appeal to 16- to 25-year-olds.

Coldplay scored 35 in that category, a score driven by women who score 40, while men score 26. If there is a disadvantage to Coldplay, suggests Ruppert, it is the skew of female fans.

Albarn: genius

The Kaiser Chiefs work better all round, with both men and women scoring 38, (men 40, women 37).

Although there are no scores for Damon Albarn as an individual, with Blur and Gorillaz he scored evenly, and highly, among both men and women. Ruppert approves of Oxfam’s choices, noting all the artists seemed to connect well with the target demographic.

‘If they were to looking for another artist, I would suggest the successful UK act Razorlight, who score 41 (30 with men, 48 with women),’ he adds.

Oxfam’s UK artists liason manager Raakhi Shah said: ‘We choose artists to work with Oxfam that will reach not only this demographic but who are also able to speak about the issues with a passion.’

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