Celebrity Branding Case Studies: Kanye West, Serena Williams & Joe Wilson

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I just got back from New York City and today is my 26th birthday.  I was going to blog about my time spent in New York, but I think I’ll save that for another day.  I would have also blogged about my accomplishments to date and some future projects that you’ll be hearing about soon.  Instead of these two posts, I would like to tackle some celebrity incidents that have appeared in the news recently and share some branding lessons.  The three I would like to discuss are Kanye West at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA’s), Serena Williams at the U.S. Open, and then Joe Wilson during Obama’s health care speech.  I don’t watch TV, so I missed out on each of these three events, but was filled in by stories shared on social networks and friends who spoke about it.

In each case, a celebrity has stepped out of line and has brought negative attention to their brand. Some say that all press is good press, but I guarantee that a lot of people have lost respect for these stars and are not fans anymore.  In fact, I bet many people will cheer against them.  When it comes to your personal brand, you want to try and get as much positive exposure as possible.  When you become more and more well known, the stakes are higher and everything you do will be exposed to a greater audience.  In this case, the entire world heard about these three stories and they spread through many different forms of media very rapidly.

1.  Kanye Westkanyebillboard

If you haven’t seen the VMA’s from last night yet, then you still probably heard about this whole Kanye incident. During Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for “Best Female Video,” Kanye grabbed the microphone and gave a shout out to Beyonce, who was one of the other nominees for the award.  He said that Beyonce had the best video of the year and the crowd was not happy.  In fact, I heard that his publicist is no longer working with him and that he might be banned from future events of this nature.  From the social media side, there were over 5,000 tweets when the incident first occurred, and then suddenly over 50,000!  Taylor Swift fans on Twitter started the hash tag and trending topic “#teamtaylor” to support her.

If you examine this more closely, you’ll notice that Kanye is one of the producers for Jay-Z’s new album, Blueprint 3, which is coming out soon.  This media “spark” might be a huge promotion for it.  Of course Kanye, Beyonce and Jay-Z are all friends and work with each other, so there may be something sketchy going on here.  The results are clear: a People Magazine poll stated that 77% of people would pay money to see Kanye shut his mouth till New Years and another poll from TV Guide stated that 84% of people felt that it wasn’t staged.  It was obvious that Kanye was either drunk, on drugs or all the above.

2.  Serena Williams

Serena was defending her U.S. Open title in a match against Kim Clijsters, got into a verbal fight with the line judge.  Serena disputed a foot fault and supposedly she said that she would killer her.  This resulted in a penalization of one point, which ended up costing her the match.  Previously, she was given a violation for smashing her racquet.  Obviously Serena needs anger management classes or a shrink.  The results were that she was fined $10,000, which probably isn’t a lot to her.  The video below has been viewed almost one million times since it was uploaded!

3.  Joe Wilson

Joe Wilson is the South Carolina Republican congressman, who is now famous for screaming “You lie!” to President Obama during his healthcare speech to Congress last Wednesday.  Now the liberals and conservatives are up in arms wanting apologies.  This incident might have been a planned attack because the results were that Wilson and his Democratic opponent, Rob Miller, raised over $1.5 million dollars.  Punishments for this type of interruption can range from censure through a resolution or expulsion.

Brand analysis

All three of these celebrities have had their Google search results sprayed with poor headlines. What you’ll notice when you do a search for their name is that stories from major news outlets will appear towards the top, which is the first impression a viewer will get of their brands. Another trend for celebrities is that their Wikipedia page, which ranks high in search engines, will get blasted with their bad press as well, which creates a more powerful and consistent effect.

Google Celebrities

What you can learn from these mistakes

  1. Don’t do things just to get attention.
  2. Focus on building your brand in a positive light because you’ll have more rewards later and less stress.
  3. Think about the people who are already associated with your brand.  When you mess up, they look bad.  This can be the company you work for, your parents, friends, teachers, etc.
  4. Even if you mess up, try your best to remedy it as soon as you possibly can, otherwise social media will take over and word will spread faster than you can imagine.
  5. Branding is a long term process, so even if you attract a lot of attention with a stunt, your brand will get hurt in the future, based on what you do today.