Welcome to the new era of celebrity-backed brands

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Fortune favors the bold and, increasingly, the many celebrities who’ve made the leap into the CPG industry. Famous names are moving from stardom to startup brands with startling success — and it’s time to take them seriously.

Celebrity brands are nothing new (think George Foreman Grills and Trump Steaks, to name a few) but their ability to compete in the CPG space is. The market landscape is shifting, yielding hypercompetitive share to celebrities with a dream and the money and fans to back it up, and it’s a phenomenon that’s here to stay.

Forbes just named Kylie Jenner the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. Her three-year-old company — Kylie Cosmetics, famous for its lipstick and liner duos — is valued at more than $900 million. With just seven full-time staff and little overhead, Jenner does much of the company’s heavy lifting on Instagram, converting influence into income by advertising to her 128 million followers on the platform. On the launch of her products in Ulta beauty stores last November, Jenner told Forbes, “I popped up at a few stores, I did my usual social media — I did what I usually do, and it just worked.” The launch bumped sales to $54.5 million in six weeks.

Welcome to the new era of celebrity-backed brands, where stars aren’t just endorsing products, they’re taking a seat at the board room table. Celebs are bringing an inspired, informed approach to consumer brands — informed by years of building their personal brands.

The success stories are growing in number:

  • Actress Jennifer Garner joined Once Upon a Farm, maker of organic food cups and pouches for kids, as its chief brand officer in 2017. The company is serious about growth, bringing in CEO John Foraker, the former CEO of Annie’s, and recently receiving a $20 million Series B investment.
  • Actress Jessica Alba’s Honest Company was founded on the star’s desire to provide simply labeled, transparently sourced home and baby products. Seven years later, the brand represents more than 100 consumer goods sold in more than 17,000 stores in America.
  • Sean Cane, former Honest Company president, has now moved on to become co-CEO of Hello Bello, another organic baby-care startup founded by celebrity couple Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard. The duo says they launched the company to make organic and plant-based products affordable choices for parents. The brand rolled out in Walmart stores last week.

These brands aren’t flashes in the pan. This surprisingly effective combination of cause-inspired, dedicated stars and enough venture capital and fan following can be a perfect ingredient list for star-studded brand success.

Look no further than Foodstirs as the proof point for cooking up recipes that work. Sarah Michelle Gellar, the 90s scream queen known for her roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I Know What You Did Last Summer, launched the premium baking mix brand in 2015. Gellar approached the venture with the aim of disrupting the existing status quo.

“When we started to research the category, we saw that it was a seven-billion-dollar category that was being dominated by these older brands that had an 80 percent market share,” Gellar told Forbes. “We thought that was interesting because as a consumer we know what people are looking for. We decided to take the leap and try it.”

The products have now been sold in more than 15,000 stores nationwide.

The evolution of the celebrity brand has brought hands-on business leaders who are doing far more than slapping their name on a label. As Gellar told CNBC anchors of her involvement in Foodstirs, “I think it goes to show that I’m not just the face of a brand.”

How will this new era of celebrity brand success shake up the CPG market? Join the debate at GMA’s Leadership Forum, Aug. 14-16 in Colorado Springs, where we’ll feature top celebrities who’ll explore how they’re fueling upstart brands and what fame means for consumer loyalty.

Stay tuned for our celebrity reveal at gmaleadershipforum.com.

The GMA Leadership Forum will be held Aug. 14-16, at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

For more information, view the 2019 program agendaRegistration is open now.

Reimagining the Leadership Forum: By Manufacturers, For Manufacturers

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This year’s Leadership Forum marks a major shift at GMA. We are committed to doing things differently so we can connect and develop CPG leaders and empower industry growth.

We are an important, impactful industry and we deserve a conference that speaks directly to us.

This year’s “By Manufacturers, For Manufacturers” is more than a tagline. It’s a promise to create an event that is authentic to CPG — our challenges, our opportunities, our future. It’s a chance to come together to solve problems, to stretch our thinking until our brains hurt, and to be not just ready for the future, but ahead of it. Through inspiring and insightful content, we will elevate the industry by strengthening those who lead it.

For us, this is much more than a conference. It is evidence of the reimagined organization that GMA is becoming. We’re looking at what’s now, what’s new and what’s next in the CPG world, with a bias for content that will:

  • Embrace new voices. We’re not content to hear ourselves talk. This year’s agenda includes an honest exchange with our critics to ask them, point blank, if they could change one thing about our industry, what would it be? Understanding the opposing narratives will help us find a better way forward. We’ll also explore how celebrity names are fueling upstart brands and how fame affects consumer loyalty.
  • Redefine consumer relationships. From serious questions about the changing relationship between consumers and brands in the era of income inequality and wage stagnation to sooner-than-you-think technologies that threaten to limit your access to the consumer, we’ll dig into market-shaping trends.
  • Grow as a force for good. We are a purpose-driven industry, working to create a more sustainable, socially conscious world every day. Together, we’ll discuss the balance between activism and authenticity in brand messaging, and how packaging speaks volumes about your product before it’s even opened.

We guarantee you will leave with practical, forward-looking insights that empower you, your company and the broader industry to grow. When the 2020 Leadership Forum opens, it’s our goal to have you bragging to your colleagues that you were there in 2019 when everything changed.

We’ll see you in Colorado Springs.

The GMA Leadership Forum will be held Aug. 14-16, at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

For more information, view the 2019 program agenda. Registration is open now.