Op-Ed: Why Rihanna is the celebrity brand name

Celebrities are the people we know and love, the leading examples of excellence and success in their fields. We all have favorite singers, performers, Olympic medalists, award-winning actors and dedicated philanthropists. These are the names we grew up with and read in the news. These names sell in the business world, whether they are of fashion designers or reality stars. Names sell and businesses know this. Celebrity names pique our interests in products and connect both fans of that celebrity and fans of that product, bringing together two groups. This insanely effective method worked best, as demonstrated in 2016, with Rihanna.

Rihanna is practically beyond a household name. Stepping into the music scene with Jay-Z in 2005, Rihanna became one of America’s most loved singers and performers. With 30 top-10 hits, eight Grammy Awards, over 230 million claimed sales and a 2017 estimated net worth of $230 million, Rihanna is the definition of success in the music industry. Her success has, in recent years, transferred as well into the business and marketing world. In 2016, the NDP Group, a global market researching company, confirmed that Rihanna is the most marketable celebrity in the world, more marketable than celebrities like Beyoncé, Ne-Yo and Usher. Rihanna is also one of the most followed people on Instagram and Twitter, making her extremely accessible and showcasing her ever-growing fan-base.

The marketability around Rihanna and her celebrity name is evident in multiple business contracts, like her 2015 $25 million contract with Samsung, which featured Rihanna promoting the Galaxy line of products while Samsung supported and sponsored Rihanna’s eighth studio album, “Anti” (2016), and its supporting tour.

Rihanna’s marketability is not just something from her expansive music career and business ventures. Rather, Rihanna’s marketability comes from the empire she has built around her brand and her name. Rihanna’s every business investment and creation, from her work with four high-grossing fragrances and the company Jeep to her 2017 Fenty Beauty line, has been conveniently marketed not only on Rihanna’s popularity as a celebrity, but also on her presence in the popular culture industry for over 10 years.

Rihanna’s case is very exceptional and is far from the rule, however. From Rob Lowe and DirecTV to Nicole Kidman and Etihad Airways, celebrity endorsements of products can often result in lawsuits or economic loss. Many celebrity business empires do not stick due to lack of power behind the celebrity name. Kate Hudson’s Fabletics brand saw economic troubles when sales dropped last year due to a small group of customers claiming they were finding hidden charges on their purchases. Some celebrity business ventures are not successful due to other reasons, like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, a lifestyle brand that reportedly lied about many of the benefits of its products and recently won the 2017 Rusty Razor award for its promotion of “worst pseudoscience.” Many of the unsuccessful celebrity business stories come from celebrities not knowing what their name is promoting, which eventually hurts their name’s credibility. In a recent interview, Paltrow herself admitted to Jimmy Kimmel, “I don’t know what the f— we talk about.”

Thus, the question remains: why is Rihanna’s case so astoundingly successful while for other celebrities, it seems that business ventures can be messy and difficult? The answer is unclear, but it may lie simply in the fact that her international presence and power are far superior to other celebrity names. It may also lie in Rihanna’s creative control of her business ventures, which was truly cemented in 2014, when she became the creative director of Puma. Rihanna’s deep involvement works for her and her business vision, adding to her already established celebrity and brand-name without the pitfalls and problems other celebrity endorsements and involvements face. As said, Rihanna’s case is exceptional and definitely one of the best examples. In 2017, Barack Obama called Rihanna “a powerful force,” and she really is.

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