Customer Perception and the Celebrity Brand

Back in March rapper and hip-hop entrepreneur Jay-Z launched a new music streaming service called Tidal.

The company quickly found itself neck-deep in negative comment. The launch was derided as being egotistical, pretentious and self-serving.

Jay-Z said Tidal would bring a fairer deal for musicians and address what he says are the paltry royalty rights that sites like Spotify pay their artists.

No doubt the musician and his cohorts are passionate about the mission.

But trying to deliver that message standing next to Madonna and 15 other hugely wealthy global superstars didn’t feel quite right.

Celebrity support can always turbo-charge media coverage, and create incredible publicity for a brand or new product.

Translating that into sales and winning new business is another matter.

People may think Jay-Z is cool. They may love his music. They may worship the galaxy of stars who lined up to endorse the brand.

But customers are increasingly savvy about sussing the actual quality of a product, and capable of detaching their decision making process from the hype.

Jay-Z has been personally calling some of those who’ve signed up, and taking to twitter to engage fans directly.

Customers will only be tempted away from the likes of Spotify, though, if a new service is more convenient, cheaper or has better content.

Consumers of music won’t be easily persuaded to switch by arguments about fairness to artists and songwriters - particularly if those messages are delivered by people who haven’t been obviously disadvantaged by the current system.

Through social media and immediate online review, customer perception of product quality is shaped more quickly and accurately than ever before.

A big name endorsement will still win a company massive exposure. But stardust is no guarantee of commercial success.

If customer perception quickly detaches from the publicity, then celebrity backing may even damage the brand.