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Brand creative directors-a desperate bid for cultural relevance

March 15, 2012

The new trend for many brands is to hire iconic cultural figureheads as creative directors, hoping that they can sprinkle their magic zeitgeist dust on the brand.

Brands realize he power of celebrity endorsement, but the creative director role is a very different one; instead of just being a shill for the brand, they usually have to put their creative talent(s) to work .

However, it’s a dangerous game to play and there are no guarantees for success. Polaroid hired Lady Gaga and asked her to design product, but she’s certainly no industrial designer, HP had more success with Gwen Stefani, but that relationship, fizzled out, kind of like the brand.

The latest in the long-line of creative director appointments is John-Paul Gaultier, who now works for Diet Coke Europe.

I get the importance of cultural relevancy, but these appointments are expensive and force the brand to focus it’s attention on the efforts of one individual who certainly isn’t likely to represent the tastes, interests or desires of the majority of their consumers.

Do you think these appointments are consumer tested with the same level of rigor as the brand’s advertising?

The other problem is the cultural relevance of these individuals; get them too early and no one has heard of them, get them too late and they’re irrelevant and get them at their peak and they are probably too busy to add any real value.

There’s nothing wrong with the idea of cultural figureheads helping brands connect better to culture.

However, culture these days is so diverse and constantly changing, in this new world, maybe it would be smarter for brands to place smaller bets over a shorter time period with a diverse group/federation/team of individual talents, than to gamble everything on one person with a grandiose title, the ego to match and a long-term contract.



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