Several weeks ago, a video that Creative Concepts (the organizers behind the Business Smart Tools conference) produced for their client, Bigelow Tea, generated some online buzz.  But while most viewers enjoyed the personal touch of seeing Bigelow Tea president (and 2009 BST speaker) Cindi Bigelow talking about tea with strangers on the streets of New York City, others thought the video needed some “YouTube star power” to help it appeal to a wider audience.

While Bigelow Tea hasn’t crossed the bridge to YouTube stardom just yet, they do have a few recognizable faces among their fans — including LA Dodgers manager Joe Torre, Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, and NFL sportscaster Phil Simms.  In fact, they recently shot another quick video in which these gentlemen talk about health, fame, competition and (of course) tea:

These two videos have plenty in common — including being filmed on the same morning.  They also have a similar theme: tea brings people together.

But while some viewers are inspired by the “everyman” vibe of the first video, others need a little more “star power” to keep their attention.  However, the difference between YouTube celebrity and “real life” celebrity does raise some questions.  For example:

*  Torre, Simms and Francona actually drank Bigelow Tea even before they become spokesmen for Bigelow, which makes their endorsements authentic.  But does that authenticity resonate with customers, or does everyone automatically presume a celebrity spokesperson is simply pitching a product, regardless of how the spokesperson really feels about it?

*  How would the message change if Bigelow hired a YouTube celebrity who’d never even had a cup of tea in her life, just for the sake of reaching that person’s built-in audience?

*  Even with the help of a YouTube spokesperson, would a Bigelow Tea video featuring that person gain any traction beyond that person’s existing YouTube fanbase?  Or would it result in one traffic spike that wouldn’t translate to long-term interest in the Bigelow brand?

*  Torre, Simms and Francona are near-household names (in sports-obsessed homes, anyway) but that doesn’t mean their fans are necessarily searching them out online.  Meanwhile, a YouTube celebrity’s fans are ALREADY online, so while their niche may be narrower, their audience may be more active — and more inclined to listen to what their heroes have to say.

All of these (and more) are questions that any company should ask itself when considering the best way(s) to reach their target audience(s) — online and beyond.

So… what do YOU think about online celebrity?


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