By virtue of their size, small businesses do not have the same leeway giant companies do when it comes to advertising and marketing. A spectacularly bad decision in that arena can crush small businesses while their larger counterparts rebound, thanks to resources and a firmly-entrenched brand.
That’s what makes this short Wall Street Journal article—which itself has a link to a longer article I suggest you read—about a small Pennsylvania sports equipment company taking a huge gamble on NFL quarterback Michael Vick as the face of its business. You may recall that Vick was arrested and convicted of financing a dog-fighting ring, a charge that led to him being imprisoned. Upon his return to the NFL, Vick was greeted cautiously at first and with increasing warmth as he stayed out of trouble and played well for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Unequal Technologies was treading into dangerous waters. Big-time sponsors like Coca-Cola had dropped the quarterback, and while he had the obvious Pennsylvania connection, no one was quite sure what his future would hold.
I covered the Vick fiasco as it was unfolding on the sports blog I maintain in my free time, so this situation is a familiar one to me. I predicted after the dust settled that Vick’s image would rebound if he were allowed back in the NFL, but even I was struck at how quickly it happened. Unequal found Vick to be an excellent fit, but it was only after much soul-searching.
That’s the essence of the gamble for those smaller businesses who would align themselves with a celebrity spokesperson, whether local or national. Is this person someone you can hitch your brand on, based on their history? Even investing in someone popular with a squeaky-clean image is a gamble, given our inability as people to see into the future.
It depends on the business, but I’m convinced that your best strategy as a small outfit is to use your own people as the face of your company. They know what you do, their appeal as the every men and women of small business are enduring and they’re not prohibitively expensive. Because you know them well, there’s also much less risk involved, and we all want to mitigate risk to the greatest degree possible.
What are your thoughts? Who is/are the public face/faces of your business?
Photo credit to Carlos Alberto Brandão at http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=1191346