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The Rise of Celebrity Brands: What’s Behind the Boom


Exploring the Rise of Celebrity Brands: A Deep Dive into the Business of Fame

Unveiling the Intersection Between Celebrity and Business Worlds

ALISON BEARD: Welcome to the HBR IdeaCast from Harvard Business Review. I’m Alison Beard.

The Evolution of Celebrities as Serious Business Figures

So you might not suspect this about me, but I am an avid reader of Us Weekly, the celebrity magazine. Amid all the business reading I do, it’s a true guilty pleasure. But over the past several years, I’ve noticed these two worlds converging somewhat. Musicians, athletes, actors, reality stars – I’m talking about Rihanna Ryan Reynolds, LeBron, the Kardashians – they’re all becoming serious business people and they’re making a whole lot more money from the products they sell, whether it’s makeup, gin, sports drinks, or shapewear than from the songs, games, shows, or films that made them famous.

Decoding the Shift in Consumer Goods Landscape

When did this shift happen and why? And what does it mean for existing consumer goods companies and regular entrepreneurs?

Insights from a Harvard Business School Professor

Today’s guest is here to explain how social media and online retail have boosted celebrity brands, what makes a good or bad one, and the impact this trend is having on the broader economy. Ayelet Israeli is a professor at Harvard Business School.

Unveiling the Factors Driving the Rise of Celebrity-Owned Brands

She’s the co-author along with Jill Avery, Leonard Schlesinger, and Matt Higgins of the HBR article, What Makes a Successful Celebrity Brand? And she joins me now. Ayelet, welcome.

The Influence of Influencer Marketing and Direct-to-Consumer Branding

ALISON BEARD: So celebrity endorsements have been around for decades. Nike’s built a business around it. Why have celebrity-owned brands become so much more prevalent nowadays?

Navigating the Challenges and Opportunities in Celebrity Branding

AYELET ISRAELI: We think that essentially several factors brought us here. Number one, the rise of what we call the creator economy or influencer marketing, where there are so many social media influencers and consumers have gotten used to engaging with them and seeking their authenticity and input around a lot of different topics.

Lessons Learned from Successful and Failed Celebrity Brands

ALISON BEARD: We have seen really successful celebrity brands in the past. I’m thinking as far back as the George Foreman Grill or Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop or Dr. Dre and Beats, are there any lessons that today’s celebrities have taken away from those earlier entrants in the category?

Strategies for Building Authentic and High-Quality Celebrity Brands

AYELET ISRAELI: One thing that these brands have in common was the true kind of fit between the celebrity and the product category of their brand.

Navigating the Fine Line Between Success and Gimmickry in Celebrity Products

ALISON BEARD: At the same time, I feel like there are reasons to be wary of a celebrity brand. Like why would Ryan Reynolds know more about making gin through his brand, Aviation Gin, than a beverage company like Diageo?

Exploring the Role of Consumer Feedback and Product Development in Celebrity Brands

AYELET ISRAELI: So we definitely see a pattern that the product actually has to be very, very good.

The Importance of Expertise and Involvement in Developing Superior Celebrity Brands

ALISON BEARD: So how do these celebrities go about developing the expertise they need or hiring the expertise they need to develop that kind of superior product that can beat those being offered by multinational companies?

The Impact of Social Media Engagement and Follower Relationship in Celebrity Branding

AYELET ISRAELI: So I would actually emphasize the second part of what you said more, the intimate relationship.

Considering the Risks and Rewards of Partnering with Celebrities in Branding

ALISON BEARD: But then you’re giving them a big cut of the profits.

Navigating the Crowded Market of Celebrity Brands and Building Sustainable Success

AYELET ISRAELI: I think we hear about a lot of celebrity brands, but I don’t know that we’ve seen so many successful celebrity brands.

Surviving in the Competitive Landscape Without Celebrity Associations

ALISON BEARD: This is really my big question because I feel like this trend is happening in other areas too, like celebrity podcasting and celebrity children’s books. So what about businesses, entrepreneurs with no celebrity association?

Final Thoughts on Building Resilient Brands Beyond Celebrity Endorsements

AYELET ISRAELI: And I also think there is this question of hype or fad versus longevity and brands that actually create value.

ALISON BEARD: Well, Ayelet, thank you so much for talking to us about celebrity brands. I will keep reading about it in Us Weekly and HBR.

AYELET ISRAELI: Thank you so much for having me.

ALISON BEARD: That’s Ayelet Israeli, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and co-author of the HBR article, What Makes a Successful Celebrity Brand?

And we have more episodes and more podcasts to help you manage your team, your organization, and your career. Find them at or search HBR on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen.

Thanks to our team, senior producer Mary Dooe, associate producer Hannah Bates, audio product manager Ian Fox, and senior production specialist Rob Eckhardt. And thanks to you for listening to the HBR IdeaCast. We’ll be back with a new episode on Tuesday. I’m Alison Beard.

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