The Evolution of Celeb Seeding & If It's Still Worth It

Give it away, give it away. Now.

While celebrity endorsements have always been a “thing,” celeb seeding really took off in the '90s and early 2000s with the rise of brands and products like Juicy Couture and the trucker hat. 

Back in the day it was almost impossible to leaf through a magazine without a glimpse of Paris Hilton in a fuzzy pink track suit or Ashton Kutcher topped off with an ironic mesh hat.  

If it was not a paid for endorsement or gifting suite, celebrity seeding was a tricky process that involved multiple steps and a lot of finger crossing. PR pros tasked with gifting had to identify the best contact (stylist, manager, assistant, best-friends-little-sister’s-cousin) and pray that the item landed in the hands of the actual celebrity rather than some handler along the way. 

There was also the mind-numbing time spent pouring over photo databases hunting for a celeb wearing your brand on their most recent Starbucks run. Finally, someone in PR typically needed to pitch those hard-won images to media contacts and hope the photo was strong enough for inclusion in a story. There were few guarantees and lots of product was sent out into the void never to be heard from again. 

With the evolution of social media, seeding has evolved. The playing field has opened up and now includes influencers who can go direct to their audience via their own Instagram, Snapchat, or other. Social media has given brands hungry for endorsement new and more direct avenues for both outreach, contact, and end-consumer visibility. 

Outside of the products that influencers are personally fanning out for, now, with a little luck, a well-timed tweet, comment, or share has the potential to catch the eye of an actual tastemaker with a larger social following. In a sense, social media has helped reduce those six degrees of separation to just one and has given brands a more instant gratification with fewer obstacles to navigate.  

To seed or not to seed

At some point it seems every woman is offered the following euphemism, maybe by an old-fashioned parent or an overprotective brother, “Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?” This passive-aggressive advice would certainly not win any praise from Amber Rose, and it doesn’t play well in the world of influencer marketing either. 

Seeding and gifting are a necessary part of most consumer-product marketing strategies, and while they come with very few assurances, one strategic placement has the power to move the needle right off the scale.

Like every marketing initiative, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of gifting and to always consider timing and target. 

A few basic tips for giving the milk away for free: 

Find Your Muse - If you sell leather handbags, don’t gift a vegan celeb or blogger. If you make anti-aging cream, don’t go after a YouTuber with a fan base of 10 million 13-year-olds. Consider the look and feel of what you’re hoping to promote and who the tastemaker is reaching. 

Become A Subtle Stalker For Good (not evil) – If you don’t have a relationship in place, try to suss out the best point of contact. Maybe you can find a way to go direct, via a mutual contact or find a reliable team member to start the conversation. 

Pick A Winner - Make sure you are sharing a product that is so new and hot it will stand out or a tried and true classic that everyone would be happy to have. Don’t use gifting as a time to get rid of your “clunkers.”

Keep It In Your Pocket – Identify whether you have a product that makes sense to gift. While more outreach and product seeding is likely to increase the potential for a return, it’s important to really look at your costs and margins and come up with a cold hard number gifting budget that you can stick too.  With seeding, more is often more, but not if it puts you out of business. 

Feeling Myself  - If you design fine jewelry, coordinate trips to Bali, or are offering something with a very high price point, gifting needs to come with some kind of guarantee. A high price tag will often create leverage to secure just the kind of coverage you’re hoping for.

Continue To Subtly Stalk (without being annoying) – Follow up is important. Influencer, celebs and the people who work with them are inundated and harangued by people trying to give them stuff all the time (tough life).  It is important to try and get a definitive sense of interest via reasonable follow-up. Don’t be too extra; after one or two follow up emails let it go… otherwise you just seem crazy. 

Channel Your Inner Bad Ass and Dig In – Seeding should be done consistently with the launch of each new product or collection. Just because you want Kylie Jenner to IG your natural lip balm it doesn’t mean she will, but if you work at it long enough and hone your approach, you will develop a few tried and true contacts that will give your brand the love it deserves. If all else fails and it’s within your budget, hire a pro to handle your seeding initiative(s) for you.

Jessy Fofana founded La Rue PR over ten years ago after successfully directing public relations and marketing initiatives for an impressive list of well-known fashion, home décor, lifestyle and cosmetics brands and retailers.  Having worked in both digital and print magazine publishing as well as co-founding a fashion and lifestyle brand that she later sold, Jessy and her team at LaRue PR understand exactly what it takes to create the kind of take-notice, multi-faceted campaign that delivers brand-changing buzz.  With an experienced team of professionals, LaRue PR covers all the bases including print and digital media coverage, influencer relations, synergistic brand partnerships and more.  LaRue PR provides the skill and experience of a large agency with the creativity, dedication and affordability that can only be offered by a boutique firm.