Justin Bieber fever threatened by cold blast of overexposure
It has taken a boy to put the man in manicure, and his name is Justin Bieber.
Canada's curiously coiffed son recently launched a line of nail polishes, in partnership with Nicole by OPI, which sold out at all 3,000 stores in which it was available. Boasting such names as "I'm a Belieber" and "OMB," the One Less Lonely Girl collection is the latest example of how everything the pop idol touches turns to 'sold.'
But with his licensing list seemingly growing by the day, some industry-watchers say Brand Bieber is starting to look bearish.
"He can't continue on this path of endorsement after endorsement. Companies are going to get tired of it, consumers are going to get tired of it," says Matt Delzell, group account director for The Marketing Arm in Texas. "If he wants to have a run of a few more years, he will need to take a step back."
Among the many products currently attached to the Biebs are acne cream, headphones, Silly Bandz, scented dog tags and wristbands, a line of dolls modelled in his likeness and the aforementioned polish collection. There are also whispers of creating a Bieber-branded pudding — because what says 'teen idol' better than homogeneous pre-packaged sugar? — and a complete concept store at The Grove in L.A, which could carry everything from licensed toys to skateboards.
Added up, Delzell says it might be perceived as consumer-products overexposure, which risks damaging the singer's attempts to be taken seriously as an artist. But Delzell also acknowledges that Bieber "has a very smart team around him," and may be wise to take advantage of his popularity before it expires.
According to Celebrity DBI, an index that quantifies consumer perceptions of more than 2,600 celebrities, Bieber's current scores as both a trendsetter and influencer are in a very good neighbourhood.
This of-the-moment quality helps explain what Melissa St. James, an expert on celebrity spokespeople, describes as the singer's "endorsement bender," which she says perfectly targets young girls with Bieber fever.
" 'Strike while the iron is hot' seems to be the modus operandi of the folks in his circle," says St. James, an assistant professor at California State University Dominguez Hills.
"I don't think it's necessarily going to hurt Justin's image, because I don't think that image is going to last. … But I used to say the same thing about Britney Spears, and she's been milking her fame for more than a decade now."
The greater burden may rest with the brands getting into bed with Bieber, according to Canadian marketing expert Kenneth Wong.
"When you take away the exclusivity, you remove some of the cachet of the endorsement," says Wong, a faculty member at Queen's School of Business and partner with Level5 Strategic Brand Advisors in Toronto. "That doesn't necessarily mean Justin makes less money, but it does mean that the products that use him won't be getting the same value as they would if he were a little more discriminating."
Robert Klara, features editor at Adweek Media Group, says Bieber appears to be at a point in his career where he could "tell fans to wear paper bags on their heads, and they'd run out and do it." But similar to Wong and St. James, he suggests the singer's widespread endorsements, combined with the appearance of having pop-culturally peaked, or nearly peaked, doesn't bode well for Brand Bieber in the long run.
"In terms of the ability to touch anything and turn it into a revenue stream, most celebrities don't get very long," says Klara. "But my God, with the money Bieber's got in the bank, all he needs is a basic savings account and he can live off the interest the rest of his life."
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