It's no surprise that advertisements are heavily relied upon by the fashion and retail industry, which spends the most on advertising dollars per year in the U.S. — $43 billion, or 22 percent, of a total $206 billion in 2017, to be exact. Traditionally, celebrity spokesmodels have always been a top pick for ad campaigns, but according to a new report on celebrity endorsements from marketing data and research firm Spotted, fashion and retail brands are still pretty clueless when it comes to aligning with the best famous face.
Not only are brands' celebrity choices generally inconsistent, notes the report, but there's a large opportunity for backlash once a partnership goes public. Spotted assesses a celebrity's "risk score" by considering more than 20 factors, including inappropriate or offensive behavior, divisive political views and scandal, as well as how recently these factors occurred, recovery (or damage control) and the likelihood that these risks will happen again in the future.
Spotted found that more than half of the fashion and retail industry's endorsements carry a risk score of 50 or above. (Oof.) As for the riskiest celebrity choice, that spot goes to Kim Kardashian, who lands within the 100th percentile. The report points out Kardashian's "inappropriate public behavior," ranging from the time that North West took a supposedly scandalous photo of her for Instagram to defending Jeffree Star's racist comments. "Even though Kim Kardashian supports over 22 charities and causes, she lacks consumer trust and is perceived risky among consumers," explains Spotted.
Despite Kardashian's ranking, she's still garnering a slew of endorsement deals. Recently, she joined her sisters for the second time as the faces of Calvin Klein's new jeans and underwear campaign, in addition to Fendi's latest campaign for its Peekaboo bag, along with her momager Kris Jenner and oldest daughter North West. And how can we forget her errand-running lookbook for Yeezy Season 6, followed up with a crew of Kim clones? Sure, Spotted's data shows how huge of a gamble it is for brands to pair up with Kardashian, but brands clearly believe taking the chance might be worth it considering her massive audience and reach.
From Spotted's analysis — which also highlights personality match, consumer approval and audience match — more than 75 percent of all fashion and retail endorsement deals result in low consumer approval. Overall, luxury brands make the weakest choices compared to mass-market labels. "The creative directors of these high-end labels tend to use celebrities as creative 'muses,' even if every indication shows that the celebrity is a poor choice," says Spotted CEO Janet Comenos.
Among those luxury brands, Versace's celebrity strategy is considered the worst, according to Spotted, due to a number of "very weak partnerships." For the Italian house's Spring 2019 campaign, Christy Turlington's placement was deemed "the lowest strength," landing in the 19th percentile, with Naomi Campbell sitting as the strongest partner in just the 51st percentile. "Additionally, Versace's partnerships are characterized by high levels of risk, with their highest endorsement risk deal being in the 88th percentile," notes the report.
As for which celebrities garner the lowest consumer approval, the results are, unfortunately, also Kardashian-adjacent. Amongst the bottom-five famous faces who can negatively impact a brand are Kendall Jenner, who mostly books luxury-level campaigns, including Longchamp, Fendi and Missoni, and Hailey Baldwin, whose endorsement deals include Tommy Hilfiger and Levi's.
Perhaps it's no surprise that influencer marketing has become a growing alternative to booking celebrities for a major campaign. However, we're already seeing major shifts within that strategy: Micro-influencers are on the rise as mega-influencers reportedly wane in value — while brands' budgeting for paying influencers is still a bit all over the place. And even that isn't a fail-safe strategy: Think of the backlash when Dior oversaturated our Instagram feeds with a mass influencer campaign.