Of course not every nonprofit has access to a celebrity to help raise its profie … or fundraise.

But if you do, should you jump at the chance?

This article from the NY Times provides some excellent insights into the world of celebrity marketing. Does it work? You bet your Rihanna umbrella … your Patrick Demsey cologne … your Nicole Kidman perfume it does!

Here’s why.

First and foremost, sheer awareness … capturing attention:

“As consumers, we see over 3,156 images a day. We’re just not conscious of them,” says Marshal Cohen, from consumer research firm NPD Group. “Our subconscious records maybe 150, and only 30 or so reach our conscious behavior. If I have a celebrity as part of that message, I just accelerated the potential for my product to reach the conscious of the consumer.”

Second, emotional connecton trumps rationality:

Even savvy, skeptical consumers who understand that stars are paid to support a product may still rely on an endorsement and buy the brand anyway, says Robert Cialdini, a professor of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University.

“We’ve used our cognitive capacity to build a sophisticated informational and technological environment,” he says. But overloaded with information and stimulation, shoppers’ brains revert to a more primitive, raw association of celebrity and product, Mr. Cialdini explains.

So, should we all jump on the phone to Nicole Kidman’s agent? You wish!

Assuming you can access a celebrity, there are obvious issues of "fit" (Is there any actual compatibility between your nonprofit mission, your target audience and the celebrity, or relevance that connects the two "brands"?) and "durability" (What is the desired lifespan of this relationship and how might the affair turn sour?) that need to be assessed.

Is celebrity marketing limited to the "killer" brands of the nonprofit universe, like UNICEF and Amnesty International?

No, not at all.

Celebrities are defined by the pond in which they swim. If your nonprofit has a local or regional focus, there are still likely to be plenty of high profile personalities — outstanding athletes, media celebs, artists & performers — who just might help your nonprofit break through the clutter and help deliver your message.

And don’t forget … every star was born somewhere. It might just be your nonprofit’s hometown!

Happy celebrity hunting.


P.S. Don’t get your hopes up, Kidman was born in Australia. Rihanna in Barbados. But Patrick Dempsey … Lewiston, Maine!


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