Too Much, Too Soon

Originally posted on

In the wake of so much bad news 24/7, most of us cheered up a bit at Ted Williams’ rags-to-riches story. We all know the details: After a viral hit YouTube video, the golden-throated homeless man in Columbus, Ohio, became a guest on all the best couches (“Today,” “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” etc.) and was quickly snapped up by Kraft to be the voice of the ultimate comforting family food, Macaroni & Cheese. The future seemed bright for Mr. Williams, who publicly reunited with his 90-year-old mother and secured work with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

America loves a hero and loves to root for the underdog even more. But now that overnight sensations are actually real-time sensations, people apparently didn’t have time to get to the reading-the-fine-print part of the scenario. Williams has a long rap sheet and a history of drug and alcohol issues, and within days he had heard from various police forces, then checked himself into rehab.

Yes, we are all still rooting for Williams, but his story provides a tough lesson for marketers: We need to proceed with caution as we elevate people into superstars, especially today’s reality-TV/online/plucked-from-anonymity kind of stars. Not everyone is equipped to handle such things.

The sudden contract from a family brand was admirable from a reactive perspective, but in hindsight, maybe brands need to take a breath and make sure these instant celebrities are fit to not only represent the company but also possibly become a media sensation. In the rush to post the latest news on all our various social channels, we need to take a step back and think about how such folks will be affected. Kraft’s online views shot way above normal this past week, but what will be the long-term gain for the brand?

I’ve been talking a lot about reinvention lately. With a sputtering economy, many people are being forced to make drastic career moves and dramatic life changes, but maybe insta-celebrity is one of those personal shifts that should come with a warning label.

Jan 17, 2011 | Posted by in marketing, Social Media, The Economy | 0 comments

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