The rise and rise of the celebrity couple, a powerful, influential and highly profitable brand

How candid Instagrams and magazine appearances drive the appetite for power couples, and how couples, advertisers and managers can benefit – and also lose out  

Heather Saul
Saturday 30 April 2016 18:10
The appetite for aspirational celebrity couples is propelled by social media
The appetite for aspirational celebrity couples is propelled by social media

Actors, musicians and models become increasingly influential as their profile grows, especially if they build a strong social following. But those in the public eye who come together as a couple can combine their influence across channels such as Instagram, magazines and in adverts to become powerful units.

Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik’s recent Vogue Italia cover marked the birth of the next celebrity power couple, a partnership that fosters a marketable and highly profitable brand.

Individually, they are both successful in their own right and boast huge and loyal followings; Hadid is ranked as one of the most influential people across all social channels, and Malik continues to enjoy a dedicated and incredibly engaged fan base. But together their worth increases dramatically, and while their partnership is genuine, it is also a branding coup.

What they can command increases exponentially once they begin to utilise their union by appearing together in adverts, covers, campaigns and by sharing intimate snaps together on Instagram. This is an effect that benefits all involved with the couple: agencies, managers, advertisers – the list goes on.


The advent of social media means the impact a relationship is having on a person's profile can now be assessed by looking at how engagement – when people read, share or otherwise interact with a post – increases on messages featuring each couple. D’Marie Archive is an analytics app which does just that to rank the value of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts belonging to models, brands and bloggers for companies hoping to advertise their products in posts.

Analysis by D’Marie's chief executive Frank Spadafora found Hadid’s modelling agency IMG saw an a 1446 per cent increase in engagement on their first post presenting Hadid and Malik’s relationship. While their posts on Instagram receive 5,705 engagements on average, their photoshoot video garnered over 51,000 likes and comments.


IMG’s second and third most engaged posts over the last month also feature Hadid, says Mr Spadafora. A behind-the-scenes video of the Vogue Italia shoot received at least 29,524 engagements, and Hadid's magazine cover photo received 16,678 engagements.

While Malik’s posts receive an average of 833,385 hits, the engagement on a photo from the Vogue shoot of him posing with Hadid shot up by more than a third (38 per cent). Over 38,000 comments on the picture contained heart eyed emojis, a literal sign of just how enamoured fans have become with their relationship.

Forming relationships in the public eye often boosts a celebrity's commercial worth and can extend their shelf life, especially if they marry, have children or are believed to have had affairs, according to Jeetendr Sehdev, a celebrity branding expert and professor of marketing at the University of Southern California. Often, personal lives can become a couple's unique selling point and the most marketable aspect of their personal brand.

“Celebrities become more valuable as couples by sharing their fan bases, negotiating new opportunities for movies, reality shows and by extending the life of their careers," he said.

“[Appearing publicly] as a couple creates offers of magazine covers, reality shows, and endorsements that wouldn’t otherwise exist. I doubt Malik would be on the cover of Vogue if he wasn’t dating Hadid. Similarly, USA-based Hadid is benefitting from being exposed to Malik’s phenomenal UK fan following."

Data compiled by Jeetendr Sehdev

Catherine Lyn Scott, a publicist at London Flair PR, agrees the influence wielded by the power couple's brand is not to be underestimated in terms of the potential financial return.

“Couples such as Zayn Malik and Gigi Hadid individually are household names [meaning that] anything they work on together, such as promoting a product, they can charge a higher fee,“ she explained. ”When the media becomes more interested in a couple, this enables them to up fees and thus increase their net worth.”

The appetite for celebrity couples has been greatly exacerbated by the development of social media and the way in which couples can present their relationships in an idealised, aspirational manner, making them instantly more shareable. The #relationshipgoal hashtag remains one of the most prevalent hashtags in the comment sections underneath images of couples such as Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris locked in an embrace. The sense of intimacy emitted by photos of this kind creates a closer bond between celebrity and their followers, who feel they are being given more access to their idols' lives by bearing witness to such seemingly candid moments.


Chrissy Teigen and John Legend are a prime example of how a relationship can charm a fan base and strengthen a brand. The fierce loyalty they display towards one and other - particularly during spats with trolls or Donald Trump - is one of their most popular traits. Occurrences in their domestic life that are commonplace in most relationships, such as a pregnancy, are presented as news and reported on internationally. They have a combined Twitter following of nine million.

Magazines such as Vogue fuel the enduring appetite for celebrity couples by putting them on a pedestal, ensuring they benefit from their popularity when they feature them in their magazines and websites again at a later stage.

“OMG! See Taylor Swift’s Adorable Look of Love!’, squeals US Weekly in one headline. “Power couple Chrissy Teigen and John Legend almost broke Instagram with their insanely adorable pregnancy announcement,” gushes Cosmopolitan under the “These people are the reason #RelationshipGoals exist” subheadline.

“Each individual brings their own fan base, resulting in higher sales for that issue," says Ms Scott. "When celebrities appear on a magazine together this often results in other publications discussing the issue, which also leads to higher visibility for the magazine and increases the value of their brand, both together and individually.”

But Mr Spadafora warns that while posing as a couple and appearing together in campaigns and endorsements can drive engagement and increase profitability, it can be a double edged sword.

“Sometimes packaging a couple’s social media can help drive engagement for a product or organisation, but it’s also risky," he said. "When a couple publicly confirms their relationship, one of the celebrities can receive backlash on their social media from their new beau’s fans. However, more comments – regardless if they’re negative – increases the level of engagement on an influencer’s platform and pleases the client.

“With the potential for negative reactions from fans, there is additional pressure for celebrity couples to stay together. Not all public couples last – Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian, and Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Yet sometimes the break up can be more engaging than the hookup and brands are just as interested in working with celebrities at those times.”

Former power couple Justin Timberlake and Britney Spear's relationship played out in front of the cameras, boosting both of their profiles

Mr Sehdev agrees that the breakdown of a relationship doesn’t have to have a negative effect on brands. “It can be another opportunity to generate revenue through exclusive interviews, tell-all book deals etc."

Conversely, any whispers of rumblings within a relationship, rumours of an unfaithful spouse or impending divorce can also be capitalised on as Beyonce has so deftly demonstrated with Lemonade, a visual album ruminating on race and black womanhood, as well as the repercussions of infidelity. Regardless of whether or not it alludes to a breakdown in her own relationship or a fictional one, the references to cheating have sent the world into a frenzy, spawning countless timelines recounting past speculation and sparking an unprecedented level of interest. This interest is exacerbated by lyrics such as 'Becky with the good hair', leaving people scrambling to find out the identity of Becky.

For this and many other reasons, the album continues to be discussed and debated across the internet.

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