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Dishonorable Mentions: Celebrity Branding

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Sometimes image is tainted by chiseled jaws and glittery smiles.

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When promoting a product, advertisers are only given a few shots at creating awareness. One tried and true method -- other than copious amounts of cleavage -- is a star's face or name on a box. In our hero-worshipping culture, associating a brand with a celebrity is a highly effective way of generating sales. But sometimes a famous spokesperson's image actually hurts the product.

Like that guy who convulses with laughter when you take a football in the groin, Minyanville presents a few massive flops in celebrity branding.


Worst Attempt at Making Your Company Appear Hip, Edgy
Microsoft
(MSFT)
In an effort to shake off the cobwebs and channel the cool, Microsoft enlisted the services of 54-year-old funnyman Jerry Seinfeld. But the ads, starring Seinfeld and company founder Bill Gates, didn't go over nearly as well as Microsoft's spokespeople will have you believe - and were dissolved after just 2 weeks. In their place: Multi-ethnic crowds repeating the same word over and over -- "PC," in this case -- always a classic. Unsurprisingly, it still rated higher than Seinfeld eating a churro and Gates doing the Robot.


Worst Rejection of Smoldering Sex Appeal
Johnston & Murphy
(GCO)
Companies tend to inject sex into their ads, but when overt sexuality appears without warning, it can be a problem. An ad featuring actor (and acknowledged sex addict) David Duchovny's mouthwatering visage was recently pulled from a Johnston & Murphy store window. The Madison Avenue branch didn't specify why it was taken down, but did say it "got a call from corporate." Scully and Mulder will be dispatched to investigate posthaste.


Worst Fashion Choice
Dunkin' Donuts

Last year, celebrity chef and freakish walking grin Rachel Ray was selected as Dunkin' Donuts' new celebrity pitchwoman. But in May, a Dunkin' ad featuring Ray wearing a scarf caught the eye of blogger Michelle Malkin. The always-levelheaded Malkin compared the scarf to a keffiyeh -- traditional Palestinian headwear -- and accused her and the company of making a pro-terrorism political statement. Regardless of the fact that the scarf wasn't, in fact, a keffiyeh, the ad was pulled.


Campaign With Worst Fangirls
Barack Obama
Barack Obama has openly welcomed a bevy of celebrity supporters - from Robert DeNiro to Scarlett Johansson. But with the presidential race as tight as it is, he has to draw the line somewhere. And that line was at the feet of troubled star Lindsay Lohan. The Obama campaign declined Lohan's offer to stump for the Democratic senator, saying Lohan wasn't "exactly the kind of high-profile star who would be a positive for us." Ouch. Well, she can always be an unofficial spokesperson, like Olive Garden's Playboy Playmate Kendra Wilkinson.


Worst Luck in Branding
Scientology
For a religion that relies so heavily on PR, Scientology could really use more lucid spokespeople. Ever since Tom Cruise flipped out on Oprah and Jenna Elfman referred to AIDS as "a state of mind," the public has cast a wary eye on those who follow L. Ron Hubbard's unorthodox teachings. The religion has recruited celebrities since the 1950s, but the more they talk about its bizarre practices (and the ridiculous amounts of money it takes to release Body Thetans), the worse off its public profile.


For more on the wonder of brands, check out Hoofy and Boo's always astute report.

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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