But in spite of the sophisticated messaging we use, customers frequently want to focus primarily on one thing: Prince. They know that Prince is from Minneapolis and very frequently will ask us if we've seen him or if we can get him to appear at their event if they select Minneapolis. When the news hit that Prince had died, one of our customer prospects did indeed reach out to us and said, “Please tell me it’s not true?!” So it's clear that no branding initiative or campaign could ever have eclipsed the instant notoriety we have by having Prince Rogers Nelson hail from our city.
Julie Batliner is president of Spong PR and the secretary/treasurer of the Meet Minneapolis board of directors. Her firm has worked with such high profile companies as Sherwin-Williams, Jack Link's, Maytag and of course, Meet Minneapolis. Spong PR’s offices are coincidentally in the same building where Prince’s club, Glam Slam, used to be.
As an expert in reputation management and brand development, I asked Julie some questions relating to the brand of Prince. Our thanks go out to Julie for sharing her expertise.
What are the virtues and hazards of celebrity endorsements for a brand? Can you give any examples?
Celebrity endorsements done right can transform a brand, make it relevant again and give it the cache that it needs. One of the earliest success stories was the partnership between Nike and Michael Jordan when they started “Be Like Mike” and sales soared. A more recent example is the partnership between George Clooney and Nespresso, which works well because they both share an aura of elegance and class.
There are also calculated risks for brands aligning with a celebrity. High-profile figures are under constant scrutiny and gossip media are looking for ways to increase readership and viewership. A comment that offends people or an immoral action can send a brand into a negative tailspin. With the proliferation of social media, the news spreads fast and brands receive negative feedback and pressure immediately to stop funding the celebrity. One example of this is champion Tiger Woods and his sex scandals. He not only lost sponsorship deals but it affected his performance, which gave the story ongoing negative legs.
What sort of relationship between the celebrity and the brand needs to exist in order to successfully advance the brand?
This most successful matches happen when the celebrity emanates the same values and personality of a brand. It also helps when the celebrity is already using that product and was naturally a true super fan.
In what ways did Prince advance the Minneapolis brand?
Prince crafted one of the most recognizable global personal brands in the performing arts industry. He continued to reinvent himself keeping him in the limelight as an icon. His relationship with Minneapolis was the perfect combination of authentic and organic. While Minneapolis did not hire him as a spokesperson, he became synonymous with our city giving it more personality and fame. Whether it was his Paisley Park recording studio where many were invited over the years, famous places featured in "Purple Rain," the neighborhoods where he grew up that kept stories alive, or well-known venues including First Avenue, it’s cool to know that the places we frequent every day were the places he began his career as one of the most incredible artists of all time.
He interacted with his hometown Minneapolitans in underground ways deepening the genuine connection with the city, which people shared on social channels and through stories building his link to Minneapolis.
The multiple celebrations around the city on Thursday night were testament to the love Minneapolis has for Prince. There was an outpouring of personal memories tied to "Little Red Corvette” or "Purple Rain" on Facebook, fans stayed up all night at the First Avenue dance party commemoration, friends toasted with purple cocktails, and landmarks donned his signature purple. Hundreds showed their personal connections showing just how important Prince was to Minneapolis. It was a historic night.