I am not a fan of celebrity endorsements. Never have been and never will be. I’m anti-endorsement for two fundamental reasons:
1.) I’ve seldom seen one where a celebrity’s image and reputation perfectly aligns with those of an organization.
2.) There’s simply too much organizational image and reputation downside in this age of naughty celebrity behavior (think: Tiger, Brett, Mel, Lindsay, Britney, etc.). I realize some of those celebs don’t double as product endorsers, but you get my gist.
So, I winced when I read the AdWeek article about Lady Gaga’s unholy alliance with the Polaroid Corporation. The legendary, if beleaguered, brand apparently inked a deal last year with the train wreck of a pop star to have the latter endorse Polaroid’s new line of digital cameras and trinkets. She was also ‘appointed’ Polaroid’s chief creative officer. To which I respond, Ha! Could you imagine attending a brainstorming session with Lady Gaga in which target audience demographics and psychographics are discussed? I think even Snooki could provide more coherent input.
For Lady Gaga, though, the Polaroid gig provides some much needed, real world credibility. Indeed, her statement says as much:
"The Haus of Gaga has been developing prototypes in the vein of fashion/technology/photography innovation – blending the iconic history of Polaroid and instant film with the digital era – and we are excited to collaborate on these ventures with the Polaroid brand. Lifestyle, music, art, fashion: I am so excited to extend myself behind the scenes as a designer, and to as my father puts it – finally, have a real job."
The Haus of Repman doesn’t buy this collaboration at all. For one thing, Gaga is a ticking time bomb. And, no matter how badly Polaroid needs to re-position itself and appear cool to Millennials, partnering with Gaga is anything but authentic. Desperate, yes. Authentic, no. I could see Polaroid partnering with, say, Keith Richards. But, Lady Gaga? C’mon.
In fact, if memory serves, Polaroid had great success in the 1970s partnering with actors James Garner and Mariette Hartley for a long-standing, highly successful advertising campaign. Garner and Hartley were established, trustworthy and, unlike Gaga, highly professional. More importantly, the campaign ‘rang true’. It represented the Polaroid that consumers had come to know and love.
This past week, Lady Gaga was on hand at the Consumer Electronics Show to help Polaroid launch a new product. Her appearance created enormous buzz, but she dropped the F-bomb right in the middle of her remarks and the Polaroid CEO was actually booed when he appeared on-stage before the pop princess. Do the brand guardians at Polaroid actually enjoy seeing their boss booed and hissed before a major press conference? I know I sure wouldn’t. And, I’ve known more than a few CEOs who would fire an entire marketing or communications department for anything that disgraced him or the brand.
Polaroid’s unholy alliance with Lady Gaga may be driving a momentary sales spike. But, based upon her outlandish ways (a la her dress made of raw meat), I predict this is nothing more than an accident waiting to happen. Soon enough, we’ll read reports of Polaroid and Lady Gaga parting ways because of ‘creative differences.’ What that will really mean is someone at Polaroid finally woke up and said, “Why in god’s name do we want to entrust the brand’s image and reputation with a celebrity train wreck who’s gone off the tracks in the past and could drag us along with her in the future?”