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Celebrity Sweepstakes

RR celebrity marketingSo, millennials only want authenticity, they want a genuine backstory from real people and will not be swayed by celebrity endorsements, phony brands and glitzy marketing.

Try telling that to Target and Crate and Barrel…not to mention Joanna and Chip Gaines, Reese Witherspoon and all the other Goop-meisters out there.

Over the past 60 days, both Target and Crate have introduced major new initiatives in their home assortments, the former unveiling a Magnolia Home program created by the husband-and-wife TV stars the Gaines. Crate, in the meantime, has partnered up with the Oscar-winning actress to cross-sell home products from Witherspoon’s Draper James brand, which has both in-store and online retail operations. While they differ in scale and prominence in each retailers merchandise scheme, they have one thing in common: they are celebrity-driven brands squarely aimed at millennial shoppers.

In an era of Tom’s shoes socially responsible marketing, Fair Trade coffee and self-professed zero tolerance for any ersatz marketing ploys, two of America’s most important home furnishings retailers have resorted to that old reliable gimmick: put a well-known person’s name and face on the package and the rest will be merchandising history. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with any of this. Both programs are nicely thought-out, well designed and executed and very saleable. (I should know, I’ve already become a customer for some of it.) But when every marketing consultant worth his or her quinoa telling you this new generation is different and won’t tolerate fake brands, some in the industry are betting otherwise. Instead they are resorting to the standard playbook that has been used quite successfully for their parents, those decomposing Baby Boomers who never met a celebrity brand they didn’t want to place in their homes…or plaster across their asses.

And it’s not just these two retailers. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop brand has morphed from just a few wellness products to a wide-ranging mix of home and apparel products, moving most recently into a print magazine. Other celebs like Jessica Alba (OK, maybe celebrity is too strong a word, ya think?), are also out there hawking assorted products. The Gaines at least have some street cred with their highly popular TV remodeling and decorating show Fixer Upper. But Reese Witherspoon? She talks about the influence her grandparents have had on her, Grandma being a snappy dresser and good baker, Grandpa being a charmer with good manners. Not exactly the design pedigree needed for decorative pillows and dishes.

Is all of this good business? The fact is that it probably is. We all identify with certain people and aspire to be like them. That’s just human nature. And it’s got nothing to do with generations.

Warren Shoulberg is a journalist who has been reporting on the home furnishings market for many years and is a sucker for a good brand.

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