Branding Betty

Since I was a senior in high school, I have watched Betty White.  Yes, I watched the Golden Girls.  Once the Golden Girls program was no longer gracing my television, I thought White’s career would never resurface — I was wrong.

Snickers ran an ad featuring White during the 2009 Super Bowl that resurrected and reinvented White’s career.  My first thought about the 30 second time slot, nice move BW.  Then I saw the Saturday Night Live skit and thought that White really had some good PR standing behind her.  Since White’s début in 2009, her publicists have given their 88-year-old actress a new image and a new marketing strategy.

According to PRNewser, “Due to the popularity of her appearance in a Snickers ad, more than 188,000 people have joined a Facebook group in an effort to make former Golden Girls star Betty White a Saturday Night Live host.”

Publicists have branded White as a crass, quick tongued, grandmother figure, and it has worked.  They have reached a new audience that most likely was not a fan before 2009 (myself excluded). White now stars and is featured in numerous sitcoms and talk shows. What’s next? According to a press release, Jerry Leigh is offering Betty White apparel.  For a limited time, fans can wear White’s face on t-shirts and sweatshirts by purchasing them through the site hoodiebuddy.com.

It is no doubt that White has good publicists who know how to move her career forward in a way that reaches a new and younger audience.  But how much is too much?  Is there such a thing as too much branding?  Could the apparel be an example of this?  And most importantly, what is the strategy behind Betty White products?

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10 Responses to Branding Betty

  1. bajohn10 says:

    I too am a Betty White fan. But admittedly, my admiration did not come until after her ad that ran during the Super Bowl. I consider myself a direct product of her publicists’ planning and media strategies.

    While I won’t be purchasing a Betty sweatshirt, I believe everything they have done up until this point has been completely successful. But I would argue that they are not just rounding up younger fans, but older fans too. I think her humor and new image is appealing to most generations.

    I am interested to see if her success continues. This buzz has lasted for quite some time, and it would be even more impressive if she can find a way to keep it going.

  2. kzinn says:

    I must say that, I too, am a Betty White fan. Admittedly, I did not become a fan until 2009 when White resurfaced as the witty pop culture icon she has become.

    The other day I was watching E! News and there was a story on Betty White. After the segment, the anchor asked his co-anchor “What do you think of Betty White? Are you tired of seeing her as the crass old lady making sexual innuendos?” That struck a chord with me since I love Betty so much. I never really realized that people could get sick of seeing her in the same roles, making the same types of comments.

    Celebrities must keep in mind that over-exposure does exist. While I very much enjoy the characters that White plays, I do not see how clothing with her on it would be interesting or relevant. It is important not to over-do an image and I think that creating Betty White clothing might do just that since she is seen in so many other media spots of late.

  3. jweishar says:

    I think Betty White and her branding are savvy and smart. Not many would expect an elderly woman to be so witty and feisty, and I think that is what is so appealing about her to the public.

    On the other hand, I do think that it gets to be too much. Personally, I get tired of hearing about Betty White all the time. For example, the introduction she gave to Sandra Bullock at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards was pretty suggestive, and I don’t find that believable even though that is her brand. Apparel sounds a little ridiculous to me.

    The Snickers commercial was funny and clever, and her performance in The Proposal was excellent. I just think it gets to be too much when you keep hearing an 88 year old tell racy jokes, it’s not funny after a while. Overall, the public seems to enjoy it, so I’d say the publicists behind it all know what they’re doing.

  4. mbgiles says:

    I think it’s great that at 88 years old, Betty White seems to be more than alive and well. Through recent campaigns, she has successfully attracted a younger audience that will continue to grow should she have the opportunity to host Saturday Night Live in the future.

    I don’t think White has gone too far with personally branding herself, especially since the apparel campaign is for a limited time. In my opinion, she is not overdoing it. On the other hand, I think that “too much branding” is on par with the statement “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Although we (as consumers) may not enjoy seeing the same ad, or deal with the overbearing amount of press on one person or thing, there is no denying that a brand can still make a memorable impression.

  5. kpang says:

    I’m not a Betty White fan, but I was familiar with everything mentioned in this post which definitely says something about how she has been publicized lately. I don’t go out of my way to keep up with what White is up to, but she seems to always be present somewhere, whether in commercials, movies, or now on apparel. She has gained a new audience through her recent appearances and charming personality. I haven’t gotten sick of her yet and I don’t see her disappearing from the spotlight anytime soon.

    I do think that it would be easy for White to be overplayed, but it doesn’t seem like it has been too much yet. On the topic of branding, I think that the apparel is excessive. I don’t see how it is relevant to her career and it kind of just looks campy and cheesy to me.

  6. lrstarr says:

    I don’t consider this a case of over-branding. In this situation, the product/message to be sold is Betty White’s memorable persona, and the clothing and TV appearances are simply purveyors of the message. Her newly established identity is intended to be ironic, comedic and accessible to a younger audience. The hoodiebuddie products reinforce this goal with their trendy pop-culture use of her image. Frankly put, I haven’t kept up with the Betty White hype but those shirts still appeal to me. If you want to talk about verging on branding overload, look at Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. They literally have a stake in every market; their names attached to hundreds of products. I think when it comes to celebrity personalities, branding to this degree walks the line of phoniness but I can’t blame the celebs and their publicists for wanting to milk the fame for profit; even if it means risking authenticity.

  7. mwilson9 says:

    As I read your blog my mind ran back on the Golden Girls days and the Snickers commercials and I definitely think that Betty White has made a great comeback. She brands herself as being the tough, yet hip grandmother figure that everyone loves. Up until this point I thought that her PR team was doing a pretty good job, she not only made a great appearance once or twice, she has managed to be cast in TV shows, movies and commercials.

    But, her own apparel? I don’t think so. Definitely a bit much. This is a problem I have noticed with some PR professionals. Sometimes we just don’t know when to stop and it often ends up ruining a good thing.

  8. kdaoust says:

    My personal stance on Betty White aside, I don’t think that the recent branding of Betty White has gone too far. In fact, I don’t think they can go too far — even if that means making clothing with her face on it or her sassy old woman commentary. I actually think that will boost her image. So many famous characters have been branded (literally) onto clothing items and haven’t gotten old. Take the fictional Ron Burgundy for example — Steve Carrell and Will Ferrell’s characters are on dozens of items and their quotes and characters are still going strong.

    I think it is strategic to come out with Betty White apparel to add to her recent popularity. I may not wear it, but I will still get a chuckle out of it because let’s be honest — that woman is a riot.

  9. alervin says:

    I have to admit that I am not a Betty White fan. I really don’t understand all of the hype surrounding her. After the Golden Girls (of which I was never a fan), she seemed to drop off the face of the earth — until her fame was miraculously resurrected. I’m not sure how this happened and don’t really see the appeal. Although, I do admit that it is impressive a woman of her age is as spry, quick witted and capable — is this the reason for her re-found fame?

    She had to have a wonderful publicist who knew exactly what to do to bring Betty back into the spotlight. She has managed to re-brand herself, and has done a great job. I am impressed by her public relations and branding techniques but still do not see the appeal.

  10. sbfogel says:

    In my opinion, the 2009 transformation of Betty White from Golden Girl to dirty-mouthed Grandma has been one of the most successful revivals in the celebrity sphere. Between her commercial spots, her hosting position on Saturday Night Live and her appearances at major movie awards ceremonies, White has become the grandmother everyone wished they had. I personally think her public relations team are branding geniuses. While I understand that “overbranding” may be a concern to viewers, there should be no such thing in the world of Betty White marketing. Whether White’s face is on TV or on a t-shirt, the actress is peaking (again) in her career and funny enough all of her products sell.

    Betty White’s re-branding should be a success story studied by all public relations professionals.

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