One year to the date of the singer partnering with BlackBerry, Alicia Keys will end her relationship and return to her Apple-loving ways.

While celebrity endorsements are typically lucrative and common, the social media era has upped the ante for responsibilities. When a partnership isn’t clicking, it’s obvious to the general public and makes the company (more than the celebrity) look bad. Here’s why.

A Celebrity Can’t Save a Weak Product

Companies that have struggling product offerings won’t see their problems go away with flashy advertising, celebrity endorsements, and cute social media campaigns. When all is said and done, a bad product is still a bad product.

Both Billboard and The New York Post compared the Blackberry/Keys partnership to Lady Gaga’s time with Polaroid – which filed for bankruptcy 10 months into the relationship. Gaga was promoting Polaroid sunglasses which could take photos, display them, and connect to computers via USB. Maybe it was just too soon for wearable computers (pre-Google Glass, anyone?) or maybe there were greater problems with the organizational structure of Polaroid, but Gaga’s Little Monsters weren’t able to save the failing camera company.

Celebrity endorsements aren’t antidotes and fail to mask the problem when the partnership eventually breaks up.

Your “Creative Director” Title Means Nothing to Me

Morgan Simpson explained how the role of spokesperson has evolved in the world of social media. Public figures can’t set down the coke can or change out of their Nike outfit when the cameras get turned off. They’re expected to always represent the brand 24/7. This has led to two different paths: the public trying to spot a celeb cheating on a brand and celebrities being awarded fancier job titles.

Alicia Keys was in the former situation when she signed on with BlackBerry. She was caught tweeting from her iPhone shortly after the partnership was announced.


While most people would have given Keys a grace period – seeing as the tweet was sent the day of the Z10 launch and she might not have had one in-hand just yet – she claimed that her account had been hacked, which not as many people believed. The Internet called foul and the relationship began with fans believing it was a marriage of convenience (money) instead of love.

As far as the job titles go, Keys is only one of multiple celebrities to be dubbed “creative director” or “chief creative officer.” Ashton Kutcher, “product engineer” for Lenovo’s Yoga Tablet, has been working with the company to improve and promote its product. I placed quotes around these titles because each celebrity’s involvement varies within his or her contract.

TechNewsWorld sums up my point perfectly:

Having studied biochemical engineering in college… it’s not yet clear how [Kutcher’s] skills might transfer to the development process of a technology product.

The job titles tend to lean more towards the marketing side than the business and product development aspects, which trivializes what actual developers and directors do. I don’t think many people actually consider celebrity spokespeople to be part of the company – no matter what their employee ID says.

Who Wins in the Divorce?

While BlackBerry is trying to make the split seem as amicable as possible, position the partnership as a one year deal, and make it clear that they dumped her, Keys is still going to come out on top.

Keys was already tweeting from an iPad on New Year’s Eve, according to The Verge. This year she topped the charts with “Girl on Fire” and followed it with a successful “Set the World on Fire” tour. From this she’ll move on to more lucrative partnerships that aren’t as restrictive on BlackBerry.

Meanwhile, this news simply confirms that BlackBerry is struggling with its products – even its paid spokespeople keep trying to use its competitors’ phones and tablets. The company might have been the one to fire Keys, but she’s in a much better place than BlackBerry is.