The cult of celebrity

The cult of celebrity

Turn to any TV channel, website or magazine and you will see them: celebrities. Pundits often say that we live in a media- and entertainment-saturated culture, which makes us preoccupied with celebrities. 

The hospitality industry is not immune and should embrace this trend. Consider how many posh hotels and trendy restaurants are co-owned or promoted by celebrity guests these days. Celebrity photos — often hung on walls like trophies — have long made for effective marketing. Also, some big personalities in the industry have become cultural celebrities in their own right, such as Ian Schrager, Andre Balasz and Steve Wynn.

My business partner, Jim Houran, recently published an academic paper on the topic of “celebrity worship.” I spoke with Jim about what meaning and application his research has on our industry. Brands today are looking to stand out in a sea of competition. Building a “celebrity brand” is one way of distinguishing yourself from the pack.
Take one of my co-bloggers, for example, Ivanka Trump. She has used her stardom to become a jeweler, hotelier, television personality and real estate developer. I encourage you to consider how celebrities stimulate attention and loyalty, and perhaps apply those lessons to your business.
The major takeaway of Jim’s research is that building a special bond versus strict admiration keeps fans engaged and loyal. In other words, the most enduring and successful celebrities are ones that reinforce the feeling of a strong personal connection to fans. That personal connection is what hospitality leaders need to be thinking about and nurturing. Creating true believers is the name of the game. Real fans are the best PR, marketing and referral system, and they will work for free.