As more celebrities build their own brands, the ones that succeed solve real problems and play off of the founders’ DNA. There are a number of ways to approach building a celebrity brand, and this playbook puts forth recommendations and questions outlining the strategy to create one. This playbook accompanies Shooting Stars: Celebrity-driven brands are reaching the stratosphere. Will they come crashing back to earth?

Purpose and design

Celebrity brands are about much more than popularity. Celebrities need to be involved in brand and product ideation to define a clear purpose for the brand and its products.

  • Why do you want to build your brand and sell these products?
  • What is the point of the brand? What is the goal?
  • Why are you the right person to do it?
  • How defined will the brand be? Will it be anchored to specific products or flexible enough for multiple categories? What products does the brand lend itself to? What products are not obvious but could be hits? What products should you steer clear from?
  • What words or feelings would you use to describe your brand and/or products? What is the aesthetic or vibe? What do the products look like and how do they operate? How do they compare to everything else in the market? How will they stand out?

Looking to competitors and predecessors will help define what gaps your brand can fill in the market and how you should approach the ideation of your brand and product to attract consumers. Kim Kardashian, for example, learned from her sister Kylie Jenner that a restricted inventory could limit her brand’s profitability. This way, Kardashian was still able to sell out her flagship product with KKW Beauty, but rake in $13 million more than Jenner in first-day sales.

  • Who are your competitors? What is working for your competitors and what isn’t? What lessons can you learn from your predecessors, both as celebrity brands more generally, and as celebrity brands in your specific product vertical?
  • How have other companies approached longevity? How long do you want this brand to exist and maintain relevance?
  • How will your brand lure more shoppers, either by creating a new market or stealing market share from other brands?  
  • Whom is your brand created for? What demographics are you aiming your brand at in terms of age, income and geographic location?
  • Where is your brand on the spectrum of practical to aspirational in terms of utility and price point?

Audience engagement, marketing and product releases

The biggest reason to launch a celebrity brand is to tap into a pre-existing audience. Social media has revolutionized the way that celebrities can engage with their fans—whereas in the past, celebrities could only indirectly engage with their audiences, the audiences celebrities now have on social media platforms are highly centralized, and give the celebrity direct access to his or her fans.

Celebrities already boast large followings on social media, but they can utilize these platforms and engage with fans in a way that also promotes their brands.

  • How will you promote and talk about the brand with your audience, either online or offline? How much will you rely on social?
  • What can’t go wrong to keep your brand and messaging intact?
  • How involved do you want to be in the brand’s promotion? Do you want to be the face of the brand, or have a deeper involvement in marketing?
  • How will you grow the brand? How can you tap into your own strengths and talents to promote your brand in innovative ways?
  • How will you notify your customer base of launches and the status of releases?
  • How will you use customer feedback to improve the products?

With a prominent social media presence, celebrities have more flexibility in releasing their products. Consider the ways in which a social media platform like Instagram can influence your release strategy. Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, for example, learned from both Kardashian and Jenner that by evading the limited product release altogether, she could prioritize inclusivity, setting Fenty Beauty apart from other celebrity brands in the beauty industry.

  • Will you sell direct-to-consumer, wholesale, or both?
  • Will you hold inventory or work on pre-orders? Will you release in limited editions?
  • Will you use flagship releases to test your products or will you release as a bigger collection?
  • How many SKUs will you launch with and how will you launch them? How often will you release new products? How do these decisions impact the growth and scale potential for the brand?
  • How will you approach scarcity? What will your scarcity choices imply about the brand when it comes to its accessibility? Would you rather leave money on the table than discount products if they don’t sell? How might discounting hurt the brand’s perception?

While top-tier celebrities can effectively act as the face of brands, they still need to connect with downstream influencers, who often elicit more engagement from their followers and can play an important role in the success of celebrity brands.

  • How will your brand work with other influencers even if you are the face of the brand?
  • Will you give influencers the product before launching so they can review and post during the launch, or will they have to wait like everyone else for the product?
  • How will you identify what influencers are good fits for your brand and which are not?
  • How will you ensure that influencer interest doesn’t dissipate after the launch, and instead remains a thriving channel for sales and marketing over the course of the brand’s lifetime?

Partnerships and funding

Many—if not all—potential partners already see the benefits of working with celebrities, filling in the infrastructure gaps you need to succeed. As a celebrity with a celebrity brand, it’s paramount that you define your skill set, examine your strengths and weaknesses, and decide how large of a role you want to play in the brand itself, before teaming up with a partner. Armed with this knowledge, you can then identify which partners you need in order to realize the brand’s full potential.  

Choosing the right partner can determine the sustainability of your brand. Knowing how you envision the brand’s progression will help align you with the right partner.

  • What skillsets are you bringing to the table? What skills do you need to outsource to a partner?
  • How will you sort through companies that express interest in working with you and select the ones most likely to help you accomplish your goals? How will you make sure you won’t be taken advantage of?
  • What would your ideal brand partner look like and why?
  • What is your one-year, two-year, five-year, and ten-year plan? How long do you foresee the brand existing and evolving over the course of its lifecycle? How long do you foresee the partnerships lasting?
  • How do you plan to expand the brand’s offerings over time? How will you ensure that the brand is sustainable, depending on if and how you plan to branch out into new product verticals, open a brick-and-mortar store, remain an ecommerce operation or sell wholesale, etc.? What partners will you need to drive these efforts?

Celebrity brands are quick to ascend, but can also suffer from the attachment of a famous figure. It’s imperative to maintain a sober outlook on funding to prevent your brand from becoming overvalued and collapsing.

  • Will you need external funding? How much funding do you actually need to accomplish your goals? How will you manage your company to ensure that it remains profitable and its valuation doesn’t skyrocket because of your own attachment to it?
  • How do you understand how your fame aides and limits your brand? How can your partnerships help you preserve and support your brand?
  • Are you open to acquisition? How can a parent company elevate your brand in terms of the market share in the industry you represent and what skills could it bring to the table? How much are you willing to sell your company for if a company expresses interest?
  • How big do you want your company to grow? What does success look like and how long are you giving yourself to get there?