Byline: Bree Altman

NEW YORK — Can the fact that Cameron Diaz uses a particular shampoo or that Meg Ryan says one gel is better than any other really make or break a hair care company?
You bet.
There is no denying the fact that celebrities sell products. Why else would major companies fork over millions of dollars for the privilege of using their mugs to sell everything from lipstick and hair color to underwear?
But recently, a new type of celebrity endorsement has begun to emerge: one for which the actor, rock star or supermodel receives no cash, yet willingly lets the public in on their best-kept beauty secrets.
“About four or five years ago, InStyle was the only magazine that wanted to know which celebrities were using our products,” said Kim Smith, director of public relations for New York City’s Bumble & Bumble salon. “Now it is the first question out of every reporter’s mouth.”
“We are living in a celebrity-obsessed society,” added Marco Musumeci, vice president of business development for Terax, an Italian hair care company with both salon and retail distribution in the U.S. “People are reading magazines like InStyle and Allure because they want to learn about the celebrity lifestyle. They want to emulate and look like their favorite celebrities, and they believe that using the same products may help them to achieve that.”
The companies that have probably benefited the most from this are the smaller, independent companies with quality products and few advertising dollars. In fact, celebrity endorsements have helped companies like Terax, Kiehl’s and Bumble & Bumble — none of which have ever advertised — go from cult favorites to household names.
There is no question as to the power of celebrity endorsements, said Daria Myers, senior vice president of global marketing at Aveda, whose products are sold in salons as well as in freestanding Aveda Environmental Lifestyle Stores.
“In addition to promoting the brand as a whole, they also help to sell-through individual products — but we see a greater response if the endorser is someone who is in tune with our mission and philosophy,” she said. According to Myers, some of the company’s most successful endorsements have been editorial mentions from Minnie Driver and Drew Barrymore.
The phenomenon reaches beyond shampoo, conditioner and styling products.
Take, for example, one of last year’s hottest hair accessories — Bumble & Bumble’s bra-strap headband, the Bumble Band. “When a photograph of Sandra Bullock wearing a Bumble Band appeared in InStyle, the calls started coming in the day the magazine hit the stands. It practically debilitated our sales department for days,” says Smith. When Dharma and Greg’s Jenna Elfman wore the same accessory to last year’s Golden Globe Awards, the band received over 400 press mentions.
Celebrity endorsements don’t just put brands on the map — they can also support advertising efforts made by larger, more established companies like Clairol and L’Oreal. For instance, when Cameron Diaz went from blonde to brunette, the Clairol hot line was ringing off the hook, said Lisa Carvalho, director of public affairs for Clairol’s parent, Bristol-Myers Squibb Worldwide Beauty Care. “There was no mention of any of our products, but people wanted to know how they could get the same shade, using our brands,” she said
While there is no way to definitively measure the sales generated by mentions in magazines like InStyle and Allure, the benefits are obvious.
About 30 percent of Bumble & Bumble’s product sales can be directly attributed to their public relations efforts, Smith claimed. At the Ales Group, which produces the Phytologie and Phytotherathrie lines of hair care products, editorial mentions account for approximately 80 percent of the calls received by their customer service department, said marketing coordinator Jessica Kriswell.
The surge doesn’t last forever. “When there is a mention, we see a definite increase, for about two months or so, and then sales fall back to normal,” said Myers. But regardless of their lasting effect on consumers, the mentions have proven to be a useful sales tool. “I give the clippings to my sales force for use when opening new accounts or increasing the orders of those already carrying the products,” says Carvalho. Musumeci and Kriswell do the same. “When a customer, be it a salon or one of the retail outlets that carry the Phytologie brand, see a press mention, they get excited about the product, and that helps them sell it to their clients,” Kriswell says.
But how do you get celebrities to talk about your products? According to Smith, it can be tricky: the Gwyneth Paltrows of the world don’t just walk into stores and buy products off the shelves, and they aren’t listed in the phone book.
“One of the most effective ways to get products into the hands of celebrities is through both editorial and Hollywood hair stylists,” says Smith. Another way, said Musumeci, is to get the products into the gift bags distributed at movie previews and major events, such as the Academy Awards.
Once the marketers know a celebrity is using the products, their name gets put on a list, which finds its way to magazine editors and television producers. Although, sometimes a marketing person will find out just like everyone else.
They read it in a magazine.

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