Time for the Creators?

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May 25, 2023

Time for the Creators?

I recently put a post up on LinkedIn asking whether the creators are taking over from the 'traditional' brands.

Why I asked this question was that I was inspired by a twitter post, saying that Mr Beast’s new bar is being distributed to every 7/11 in the USA. As well as this, there was also the big noise that has been around the KSI x Logan Paul's drink PRIME, in the UK and elsewhere.

Some people's responses to the post were saying that celebrity endorsement was always the way. And this is true, to a point. Of course, celebrities have long been promoting products, whether it is George Foreman and his grill or Paul Newman and his salad dressing. But I am finding these creators particularly interesting for a number of reasons, the main one being how they are building their brands and what that means for the products they are promoting.

The Businesses

The 'old' value chain of a brand was very much a product-oriented one. We bought products because businesses had experience and expertise in creating a product within a specific category, and they built brands around these products.

> Create a product > Find your audience > Build a brand > Sell that product

This meant that the business, and brand, became associated with a specific category. It was very rare that brands could be broken out very far from their category. Is Ben & Jerrys going to launch a new car? Is Colgate going to release a new sofa? Unlikely.

There is one brand which I can think of that breaks its brand extensions out of its category – Ferrari. They are a bit of an outlier, breaking out of the expensive car market by releasing various products, from scooters to theme parks. But even Ferrari get accused of weakening the ‘master’ brand by doing all of these brand extensions.

The Creators

The 'creators' model is a very different one, and one which is much more aligned to a market-oriented approach. The fact that the creators built their brands first, and have added products into the mix later, changes everything.

> Build a brand > Find your audience > Create a product > Sell that product.

For creators, the role of their brand has become more about the connection with its audience, and less about the products associated with it. Because they're not wedded to an original product, the brand extensions they launch can be wild and varied. This enables the creator to align their brand to any product, in any category, with little danger of damaging the ‘master’ brand. As long as the product fits their brand, it is fine. This is a big shift, and one which should be paid attention to.

Mental + physical availability

The well-known Ehrenberg-Bass Institute and Professor Byron Sharp have their concept of mental and physical availability. I suggest that the ‘creators’ brands are excellent examples of generators of mental availability, and linking their brands to products creates strong associations.

If you add this mental availability to the physical availability of the product, then you are on to a winner. As I said at the start of this article, what got me thinking about this was the fact that Mr Beast has a bar in every 7/11 in the USA. That is an amazing feat of distribution, but one that I’m sure Mr Beast wasn’t responsible for himself.

In fact, the other example I gave at the start of this article – KSI x Logan Paul’s PRIME drink – is a very different example of physical availability and the potential of its power. Over here in the UK, the drink wasn’t all that well distributed, and was quite hard to get hold of. The thing was, because of the effect of the digital landscape, this was able to be turned into a positive thing for the brand. We were shown footage of people literally fighting over cans of PRIME, because their availability was limited. Whether this was a planned move or not, it was very effective in creating demand through a lack of supply.

In today’s world, I wouldn't be so quick to remove the digital from the physical. They are inextricably linked, and so we need to maximise the effectiveness of each channel and touchpoint when we are considering a brand.

Are Creators the future?

So, what does this all mean for ‘traditional’ brand? Is this the end for them and the beginning of the ‘creator’ economy? Probably not. There are certainly questions around the longevity of the product (and even the creators) brands. I think this is a valid question, but one which we can’t answer right now. It is however, going to be interesting watching what happens next in the fascinating world of creators.

Article originally published in

Paul Bailey | May 25, 2023
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Paul Bailey
Brand Strategy Director
25+ years brand diagnosis, strategy, realisation. Tired, but happy.
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