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Marketing and branding: Celebs can be more than just a famous face



The world is not short of celebrities eager to lend their names to pretty much any type of product you can think of. From Johnny Rotten selling us butter to George Clooney pushing coffee, star endorsements are everywhere. But big brands are discovering some celebrities have more to offer than a famous name or a beautiful face; some have talent too.

Stars who combine fame with creative flair, consumer insight and business nous are increasingly sought after by companies desperate to rejuvenate their traditional approach to selling.

Coca-Cola has just signed fashion designer Marc Jacobs as creative director of its Diet Coke line. As well as collaborating on – and starring in – some of the brand's ads, Jacobs is designing new packaging to mark Diet Coke's 30th anniversary. For Coca-Cola, it's a proven formula: Jean Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld have also sat in Coke's creative seat.

Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am is another creative artist who has brought insights on fashion and consumers into corporate boardrooms. Coca-Cola has tapped him too (he's devised a recycling programme for it), as have Intel, for whom he's director of creative innovation, and the brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Some celebrities want to get even more stuck in. When drinks giant Diageo approached rapper Sean "Diddy" Combs to help revitalise its luxury vodka brand, Ciroc, the result was a thoroughly immersive partnership.

This wasn't just about Diddy starring in Ciroc ads, producing a soundtrack or lending his name to the product. He was appointed head of marketing. The deal gives him a 50 per cent share of Ciroc's profits, and together Combs and Diageo have driven sales of the brand from 40,000 cases a year in 2007 to more than two million last year.

These celebrities have proven you don't have to go to business school to have a real understanding of what consumers want.

Next week: Danny Rogers on PR and advertising