The tweet smell of success... the power of celebrity endorsement
Endorsements from celebrities on Twitter has given some small Irish firms a global audience
On Monday night, Fawlty Towers star John Cleese took to social media to tell his 4.3 million Twitter followers that the best gluten-free crispbreads he's tasted are Gourmet Sodabread Toast made by The Foods of Athenry in Co Galway.
The Tweet was favourited a whopping 415 times and retweeted 190 times.
In Oldcastle, Athenry, Siobhan Lawless's phone started going mad.
"People started tweeting me and then someone phoned and said look at your newsfeed and - wow!" laughs the Foods of Athenry owner. "We'd no idea he was a fan, we've an online shop but it's not like we've ever seen an order come through from John Cleese. It's amazing to think that someone like him would just spontaneously do that, that he even knows where we are in Galway."
She tweeted him back to say thanks, but will also be using his endorsement as leverage to attract new retailers in the UK and encourage existing outlets.
"I'd be very hopeful that it's something we can build on," she explains. "We're not in as many retailers as we'd like and something like this really strengthens our case, we're thrilled."
She's speaking from experience. Just a few months ago, singer Ellie Goulding Tweeted her love of the company's vegan Cookie Shots, Blondies. "Twitter went wild," says Siobhan. "There was definitely a pick up in sales and retailers were retweeting her within an hour. I don't know if celebrities know their power sending one small tweet but there's definitely a knock-on effect."
It's not the only Irish brand basking in the glow of an online celebrity endorsement. Earlier this week Keeping Up with the Kardashians star, Kylie Jenner, posted a photo on Instagram singing the praises of Irish tanning product Cocoa Brown to her 25.9 million followers - the brand promptly sold out in the US.
Not bad considering it's only been available on shelves Stateside for less than six months. The rush on sales is testament to the power of celebrity, especially when it comes to social media. Digital marketing expert Síodhna McGowan from inspiredthinking.ie says part of this success is because customers understand a shorthand between celebrities and brand.
"The personality, style and interests of the celebrity says something bitesize but meaningful about what the brand stands for, as opposed to a lot of smallprint on the back of a product pack that no one ever reads.
"A celebrity endorsement tells a story, it's a shortcut to understanding a brand fast and knowing whether or not it's for you."
Put simply, if you follow John Cleese, you've had an insight into his life and already drawn your own conclusions on whether you're like him (eating gluten-free, befriending goats and disliking Piers Morgan) or not.
As customers we also respond to social media because it's accessible, snappy and yet personal. An Instagram from someone in their pants in their bedroom gushing about a product often feels more honest and believable than a million dollar ad campaign.
It's something brands are getting increasingly savvy about. The Kylie Jenner tweet came after Cocoa Brown CEO Marissa Carter revealed that she was sending some hampers to famous faces in the USA a few days ago.
"Customer buying behaviour is impacted by what they see, interact with and comment on while on social media and brands need to be where the customers are," says digital media expert Aoife Rigney.
"But there needs to be a fit between celebrity and brand, if it's obvious a celebrity is pushing a product, consumers are turned off.
"The effectiveness of advertising this way depends on several factors with a big one being congruity between the image of the brand and the celebrity."
Kylie Jenner tweeting about computer software rather than fake tan might not have had the same resonance.
But why are we so keen to emulate those in the limelight and take their word about what products to buy? Psychologist Sally O'Reilly reckons we buy into the notion that splashing cash on a celeb-endorsed product gains us a bit of access to that 'better' world.
"Celebrities are sold to us as better versions of ourselves and that is tantalising," she explains. "We want to get a flavour of what it feels like to be them and buying something, or looking into their world, can offer a means of experiencing that."
It's undeniable that many of us are influenced by celebrity selling power. A UK survey last year found that one in three of us has bought a celeb-endorsed product, with women twice as likely as men to snap up something suggested by a famous face.
But is our hero worship of reality stars and actors healthy? Sally says it's important we're not losing sight of ourselves in the rush to share similarities with the stars.
"The more obsessive we are about other people (famous or otherwise), the more likely it is that we feel we're missing something ourselves.
"In my experience, the happier we are, the less we envy other people and say things like 'I'd be happy if I had the same XYZ as so and so in the public eye."
It's easy to be sceptical about the motives of rich stars online tweeting their love about products and the way in which we, as their followers on Twitter and Instagram, are potentially being manipulated, but for some companies an unsolicited gesture of support can be gold-dust.
For Siobhan Lawless, co-owner of the Foods of Athenry in Galway (foodsofathenry.ie) the timing of John Cleese's tweet meant more to her than just a marketing opportunity, coming as it did on the eve of her mother-in-law's funeral.
"My husband said it was granny saying thank you for a good send off," she says. "It had been a very difficult couple of days so to have something like that happen, for someone like John Cleese to sit down and say something so nice about our company really meant a lot, and not just from a business point of view."