Hip-hop star Kanye West may be a musical genius—but he’s definitely not one of the most liked celebrities around. He’s infamous for interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009, as well as other public displays of bad behavior. When even the president of the United States goes out of his way to call you a jackass, you know you might have an image problem.
Keeping all that in mind, you might think Kanye’s days as a mainstream celebrity are over. And yet, who do you continually see in online gossip headlines, as well as entertainment TV shows? Kanye West. And why? Because, of course, he’s dating Kim Kardashian.
To say Kanye and Kim have different followings is to understate the obvious. The former has a pack of fervent music fans, the latter has a huge reality TV base. If one were to be cynical, one would say they only got together to grow their respective audiences—by tapping into each other’s celebrity status to burnish their own. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)
Actually, it’s a time-honored tactic in show business to team up to increase the popularity of both parties. Think about two of 2012’s biggest hits, The Avengers and The Expendables 2. Both realized a lot more box office profits simply because a whole lot of popular heroes were together for the first time ever and their fans came together in movie theaters as well.
And, by the way, it happens in politics too. Recently, ultra-liberal Democrat Cory Booker teamed up with ultra-conservative Republican Bill Frist to make national appearances for the cause of anti-obesity. Whether these two are both seeking to raise their profiles or are genuinely concerned about this issue (or, most likely, both), it’s clear they got together to make the biggest impact possible—by combining their very separate audiences to dramatic effect.
This works for business branding purposes as well. When you partner up with the right person—someone who has their own strong following and/or unique talents—the combination usually packs more power than each individual has on his or her own. Even more importantly, you also get access to that person’s specific audience.
For example, we’re honored to be able to work on book and TV projects with such marketing and business heavyweights as Brian Tracy, Dan Kennedy and Jack Canfield. But it’s good business for all concerned, because these greats get renewed exposure to our network in a whole new context—and our network, naturally, feels privileged to work with these legendary figures.
So think about who you can partner up with on a new project or business that could bring your product or service to a whole new audience—namely, somebody else’s. And keep in mind the following guidelines, suggested by Entrepreneur magazine, when you start searching for the right someone to join forces with:
1. Do they share your values?
If you and/or your business represent certain values, you don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t have the same affinity with those values—or, worse, openly contradicts them. You not only risk angering your base, you also risk undermining your whole business! The only exception to this rule is when, like Frist and Booker, you come together to support a cause bigger than the both of you.
2. Do they complement you and your business?
You don’t want to work with someone who does the exact same thing as you; you want to work with someone who has skills and assets that complement yours. Otherwise, that person could steal your thunder and your business. When you work with people that bring something new to the party, however, they make you look like you’re bringing added value to your customers.
3. Do they help you do your business better?
Sometimes a partner can actually fill in a critical hole in your business, such as improve your delivery system or offer a useful product extension of what you already provide. This isn’t an absolute necessity when it comes to choosing who you work with—but it is a definite plus to be on the lookout for.
4. Will both of you benefit?
When a partnership is unbalanced in this department, things have the potential to turn ugly. Resentments build quickly over one person feeling like they’re getting merely breadcrumbs, while the other is gorging on a loaf and a half. Both of you should know, going in, how this joint venture is going to do good things for each party—otherwise, you’re most likely headed for an unpleasant ending.
Celebrity Branding almost always benefits when more than one celebrity is involved. When you pick the right partner, you increase your credibility, your fan base and your star power. But there is one catch—and that’s that two negatives do not make a positive.
For example, while Kanye and Kim may have made a big media splash when they hooked up, they may have also inadvertently increased their number of individual haters. Why? Because they both have huge negative ‘Q’ Scores (the measurement of celebrity likeability), leading some news commentators to speculate as to whether they may actually have created the most toxic couple of all time!
So double up—not down—and double your success in the process. All it takes is the right partner to expand your market base and your influence.
—JW Dicks (@jwdicks) & Nick Nanton (@nicknanton) are best-selling authors who consult for small- and medium-size businesses on how to build their business through personalit- driven marketing, personal-brand positioning, guaranteed media, and mining hidden business assets. They offer free articles, white papers, and case studies at celebritybrandingagency.com.
[Image: Flickr user Christopher Hawkins]