“Where do I get my inspiration? From places that mean something to me,” says pop star Camila Cabello, perched atop a pink car, in her debut commercial for Skechers Hi-Lites sneakers.
The 21-year-old Fifth Harmony alum has had a big year, topping the charts with her hit single “Havana,” opening for Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” tour and headlining concerts around the world. From that perspective, her Skechers campaign, which debuted last August, couldn’t have been better timed, since the company is eager to get the attention of the young millennial and Gen Z consumers she counts among her fan base, as well as the global audience she courts as a Cuban-Mexican-American singer.
Since last summer, Skechers has seen steady upward momentum in its revenues — including record sales of $1.18 billion in the third quarter of 2018, up 7.5 percent year over year — and its stock got a bump from its latest earnings report, in which earnings per share came in 7 cents higher than Wall Street expected. But it is still sitting more than 30 percent lower than its April highs after investors got spooked by slowing growth and mounting expenses.
It’s difficult to know how much Cabello (or any celebrity ambassador for that matter) contributed to the company’s bottom line; however, CEO Robert Greenberg called her out by name in the company’s second-quarter earnings release as someone who resonates with the “savvy millennial consumers” the brand is after.
But how well does Cabello actually align with the Skechers brand as we know it? According to Janet Comenos, co-founder and CEO of Spotted, a research and analytics company that helps match brands with celebrity partners, it’s not quite a perfect fit.
Spotted conducts monthly interviews with consumers about traits they associate with different brands and celebrities, as well as collects data from third-party worldwide survey panels, and found that people perceived Cabello’s personality as “glamorous” and “provocative,” neither of which are qualities it sees most associated with Skechers’ retro-cool sneakers.
And while it’s possible that Skechers wants to push the boundaries of its brand, doing so could be a risky move if the same image is not reflected across the rest of its marketing efforts, said Comenos. “When there’s a personality mismatch between the celebrity and the brand, it leads to consumer confusion,” she explained. “It would almost be like Target taking their red and white circular logo and switching out the red for yellow sometimes — it doesn’t create consistency with the consumer.”
Still, many brands have found marked success when they’ve tapped unexpected ambassadors in a bid to broaden their appeal: Rihanna for Puma is one example, and just this month, a seemingly mismatched collaboration between rapper Post Malone and Crocs yielded a sold-out shoe.
What’s more, in response to an email inquiry from FN, a spokeswoman for Skechers, providing several images from Cabello’s recent campaign for the brand, said the label “agrees” that Camila is glamorous and that Skechers, too, “is fashionable.”
It’s also true that Cabello ranks as one of the most relevant celebrities of 2018, according to Spotted’s research, and her star is on the rise, with search volume, traffic to her Wikipedia page and social follower count all climbing throughout the year. The pitfall Skechers needs to watch out for is translating short-term sales (which many celebrities can generate through fame alone, as the Kardashian-Jenners frequently demonstrate) to long-term brand building.
“Overall, was she a relevant choice for them to align with? Absolutely,” said Comenos. “Are there are better choices for the brand? Absolutely.”