Saturday, December 17, 2011

Celebrities turned Wedding Pros

Yesterday on Twitter, I made some speculative comments about the potential for celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow to refashion themselves as "wedding experts." While I don't have any insider knowledge on this, I still feel that it will be a when not if situation. Here's why: being a lifestyle expert is the new black and the wedding industry is a lucrative segment of the broader lifestyle category (even with the decline in marriage rates, weddings are still a multi-billion dollar industry.)

As more corporations outside of weddings look to gain market share in the bridal space -- in part fueled by both the royal wedding and the Kardashian wedding and the spotlight those brought to the industry -- they will look for the best opportunities to help them move their products. What is the more appealing marketing investment for them? Partnering with a quasi-celebrity wedding professional or with an actual celebrity with mass appeal?

Currently, with the exception of Vera Wang, if you mention the name of any wedding "A-Lister" to a random person on the street, nine times out of ten you will be met with a "who's that?" That's a tough pill to swallow for some, but it's the truth. The economics are simple: a movie star turned wedding "pro" will generate more sales for a company than a semi-celebrity that still requires an on-ramp of introduction and name education to the public. A couple who gets engaged doesn't know who the wedding players are until they start doing their planning research but they already know the names of Hollywood stars.

There are a few major companies that historically have taken talented people who were relatively unknown and put their multi-million dollar marketing departments behind them. These companies are the exception. The majority of companies will want a quick fix and will take a short-term view to profit generation, especially while the economy is still in a slump. So while celebrities diversify their own brands by expanding into lifestyle and weddings on a much more frequent basis than the small handful we've seen in the past (and not just as spokespeople, but as actual planners, designers, etc), the large corporations will also be expanding into weddings (again on a more frequent basis) and using this new sub-market to do so.

So why speculate? Because part of my job is to forecast wedding business trends. Why pinpoint Gwyneth Paltrow? Because I've paid close attention to the way her lifestyle newsletter, GOOP, has progressed over the years and the way it now moves products for retailers. I could have picked several other people, but she is one who I feel is primed to move into the wedding space.

I also bring it up because of the growing amount of wedding professionals who are trying to brand themselves as celebrities and attain fame (usually in that order). There isn't necessarily anything wrong with this goal. However, it seems to be the entire financial model for some companies and it's a very precarious basket to place all, or even most, of your eggs in.

If the majority of your business plan revolves around getting famous so that you can get sponsorship deals and so forth, it's time to create some new, more reliable, revenue streams and reassign the dreams of fame to secondary or tertiary goals. There will always be someone more famous than you and many have their eye on the wedding industry.

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