Celebrity Lessons in Selling
Oprah Winfrey Know what your people want and over-deliver.Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) Your products and brand should be all "you."Paul Newman Appeal to ethical consumers by keeping charity close.Gwen Stefani There's nothing wrong with a little shameless self-promotion.Justin Bieber Know your audience.Derek Jeter Use your hometown roots to your advantage.Conan O'Brien Get creative with your advertising.Ronald Reagan Be sincere, honest, and optimistic.The Kardashians Extend your 15 minutes of fame.Suzanne Somers Stand by what you sell. And smile.
The television host, producer, and philanthropist is famous for sticking to her brand. In many ways, Oprah's strong brand identity comes from the fact that she knows exactly what her audience wants—and gives them more. Her segment, "Oprah's Favorite Things," started modestly, featuring a few books and food items. As it gained popularity, Oprah responded and outdid herself every time, indulging her audience, and ending her show by giving everyone in the audience a 2012 Volkswagen Beetle. A spinoff of the segment, "The O List," appears in her magazine.
Jay-Z raps on Kanye West's "Diamonds Are Forever" that," I'm not a businessman/I'm a business, man." As a rapper, former CEO of Def Jam Records, founder of the Rocawear clothing line, sports bar owner, and investor, Jay-Z's brands are each an extension of the entrepreneur himself. As your business expands, or grows into new product lines or establishments, think of your brands and products in the same way, and you'll reap the rewards of brand consistency and a strong following.
Academy Award winner Paul Newman (right) and author A.E. Hotchner (left) started Newman's Own in 1980 almost as a joke. Budwisers in hand, the two created a tub of salad dressing and stirred it with Newman's canoe paddle. Thirty years later, the company has donated more than $300 million to charity, and its "all proceeds to charity" business plan has created a new kind of conscientious consumerism. Whether you give all proceeds to charity or just a small percentage, a certain breed of customers will notice—and spend.
Since singer Gwen Stefani started her clothing line, L.A.M.B., eight years ago, it has grown to not only include apparel, but shoes, accessories, bags, watches, and fragrances. Stefani's own promotion of the line has been a key strategy to build hype. She wears items from L.A.M.B., especially during public appearances, and refers to it in songs such as Harajuku Girls, singing, "Just wait 'til you get your little hands on L.A.M.B." Don't shy from talking up your products at every chance, and if your products are portable, flaunt how unique they are.
Pulling in $53 million in 2010 alone, the 17-year-old hit maker is the richest teen in entertainment. Sure, his albums and this year's documentary, Never Say Never racked in a lot of dough, but not all of it. Bieber—or his business manager—has made several smart moves to release products catered to his No. 1 fans—pre-teen girls. His new fragrance, Someday, is well on its way to becoming the best-selling perfume of the year, and his One Less Lonely Girl line of nail polishes with Nicole by OPI sold a million bottles in two months. Get to know who your product's biggest fans are and always keep them in mind when making any decisions.
In Derek Jeter's latest commercial for Ford, he's seen driving through the streets of New York City in a new 2012 black Mustang. This kind of scene is nothing unusual for the Yankees shortstop, who often appears in the Big Apple in advertisements working his status as the city's hometown hero. Channel Jeter's strategy by selling aggressively in your area and promoting the local aspect of your product.
After the talk show host was bumped to a later time slot on late night NBC television, Conan rode a wave of public support by forming teamcoco.com, selling merchandise, and launching a comedy tour. To advertise for his new show on TBS, he even had a bright orange blimp fly around the country. People who saw it and checked into Foursquare were awarded a special Conan badge. You don't have to get a blimp to increase sales and promote your product—just think a little outside the lines with viral marketing campaigns or online promotions.
Though the economic and foreign policies of the nation's 40th president have been divisive, he was nonetheless a charismatic leader known for having a special something. Remarking in an op-ed for USA Today, politician Patricia Schroeder, who coined Reagan's nickname, "The Teflon President," said, " Reagan's ability to connect with Americans was coveted by every politician. He could deliver a speech with such sincerity. And his staff was brilliant in playing up his strengths." Play up your product's strengths in sales and advertising in a way that exudes optimism.
The Kardashian sisters, Kim, Khloé, and Kourtney, hung on to the buzz created by their show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, by signing up for endorsements and launching products at just the right time. Generate a buzz around your product at the moment when it's getting hot, make the fame last.
The Three's Company star has been the subject of much criticism for her weight loss products, supplements, books, and advocacy for hormone replacement. On an episode of "Oprah," she even showed viewers her daily health routine that included 60 pills and hormone injections. But the woman who once hawked the ThighMaster has racked in millions, and her books have become bestsellers. We're not saying you should advocate potentially dangerous products—but always believe in what you're selling. —Elizabeth Sile