Celebrity and marketing go way back. That said, yesterday's celebrity endorsements are giving way to something more complex, sometimes complementary, and sometimes competitive — witness classic alcohol brands fighting for shelf with Barrymore Pinot Grigio (Drew Barrymore), Mansinthe (Marilyn Manson), and 901 Tequila (Justin Timberlake). Celebrities are in familiar water with social networking, having long created content and acquired fans. Yet that relationship is changing too, as for some, setting up Facebook pages gives way to building their own communities in the same way they've built brands. The best example of this today is Jermaine Dupri and his new social networking community Global 14. Later this month to explore this initiative, I'll be sharing the stage with JD (never thought I'd type those words!). Here's a sample of what we'll discuss at the Forrester Interactive Marketing Summit in London:
CO: What made you decide to set up your own social network, as opposed to using public tools like Facebook?
JD: I wanted and needed to speak to the millions of people who have been listening to my music for the past 20 years. As I studied the power of the “celebrity follow,” I decided that Facebook didn’t sound like what I was looking for. I wanted my own community where I could tap into the power of the celebrity follow. The difference between creating your own community and finding friends on someone else’s network is like night and day. My own network is a place where being a member really matters – a place that is just as much yours as it is mine.
CO: Global 14 attracts a lot of young members. What’s the most interesting or surprising thing that you’ve learned about the expectations and behavior of this age group in social channels?
JD: I am amazed at how young people are willing to become ambassadors for your brand. I wanted to create Global 14 to build a community, but the Lifers (my name for Global 14 members) are taking ownership of Global 14 in ways I did not expect. For example, with my approval, a group of Lifers created Global 14 Radio, which is basically a broadcast extension of the Global 14 brand. The Lifers created Global 14 Radio out of pure loyalty to Global 14.
I’m also surprised at how much information people are willing to share about themselves. You hear so much about people wanting to safeguard their privacy on social networks, but young people will open up about themselves in a community where they feel comfortable.
CO: What practical tips can you share with a brand looking to build a relationship/partnership with you?
JD: You’re going to get a personal and authentic Jermaine Dupri in a partnership with me. I apply to my business partners the same level of personal involvement that I invest into Global 14. Earlier this year, I formed an innovative relationship with iCrossing to help me build a more connected brand for Global 14. The relationship has grown because iCrossing’s vice president of marketing David Deal has invested the time and energy to get to know me personally, and I’ve responded in kind. It’s easy to understand what I’m all about: I share my life on Global 14. Check out what I’m saying and doing on Global 14. If you like what you see, let’s work together.
CO: Do you see digital disruption as a force of good or evil in the music industry?
JD: Digital is a force of good for those who embrace it, and a force of evil for those who have their heads in the sand. Either way, digital continues to redefine the music industry. Steve Jobs turned Apple into a music brand, and now we have Google practically acting like a record label for Busta Rhymes. If you’re an emerging artist breaking through today, digital gives you more control over your own destiny. The savviest musicians are relying on digital communities ranging from Global 14 to Google+ to find their audiences. Come join Global 14 and see for yourself.