How effective are Celebrity Endorsements Ever since the start of commercial radio in the 20’s and the since the first silver screen entered the market, broadcasting messages by celebrities has been a tool employed to endorse products. ”Just about every star was associated with one sponsor’s product he or she plugged. ”(1). Over the years celebrity endorsement became an essential part of marketing (more than 25% of television ads feature celebrities)(5), for the endorser it became an easy way of generating an income while for the endorsing company it became a guaranteed way to reach a wide segment of potential clients.
With the cost of celebrity endorsement deals reaching astronomical highs, one has to address the effectiveness of such expenditures on a company’s marketing plan and whether the economic result justifies the high cost associated with it. A better understanding to the aspects of celebrity endorsement is imperative in analyzing its worthiness; it starts with the nature of the endorser and with a main question of “who is a celebrity endorser? ” A celebrity endorser is defined as “an individual who enjoys public recognition and who uses this recognition on behalf of a consumer good by appearing with it in an advertisement” (2).
It is not the just the TV or movie stars, it encompasses people from the world of sports, politics and business among other fields. The role also varies from endorsing a product in an explicit mode as in “I endorse”, implicit mode as in “I use”, imperative mode as in “we should use” ,co-present mode in which a celebrity appears with the product and the cases where the endorser is an expert in the range of the product manufacturing or usage. No matter what role the celebrity takes “to persuade the target audience and push them towards purchase”(3) is the key factor in the success of the campaign.
Various psychological researches produced two main models that endorsers fall into the credibility model (4) and the source attractiveness model (4). The Credibility model ties the success of the endorser by how trustworthy and how much knowledge and expertise he portrays to the viewer while the source attractiveness model relates the success of an endorser by his or her physical appearance behavior and how much can the viewer relate to him or her. Few variations to the two main models exist however one role stays consistent with any model we explore and that is the persuasive role that the celebrity has to play.
In addition to the different models a celebrity endorser might fit into a cultural categorization applies when identifying endorsers as well. Observing various different endorsements ads it becomes evident that certain celebrities represents certain classes in society and are meant to target that class. Celebrities targeting upper class audience are different than the ones targeting middle class and lower class, while celebrities targeting one gender or one age group are different than the other. The same differentiation applies to lifestyles, demographics and behaviors if the targeted market.
It becomes evident that choosing a successful endorser requires careful attention to be paid to the target audience and to the endorser to ensure compatibility. This compatibility becomes the base of a successful endorsement campaign. Consumers have become aware and accustomed to a marketers approach, they understand the intentions of a marketer and subconsciously raise a wall to block his attempt at reaching them, and it’s a natural defense mechanism that a person uses when feeling pressured to purchase or associates the attempts of a marketer to pervious experiences.
And while the average consumer is learning to block marketers, fascination with movie stars and celebrities has always increased and reached all time highs with the introduction of reality TV. Now potential consumers are interested and have access to every minor detail in a celebrity’s life for the most part, this fascination opens the door to a different relationship that is built between a consumer and a celebrity. A celebrity is no longer just an idol but they become an everyday advisor in the sense of fashion, lifestyle and even relationships.
This bond that is created between the viewer and a celebrity helps understand the effectiveness that endorsements have where marketers have failed. The celebrity builds character in the eyes of the public and that character carries on into the product he is endorsing, and even though a part of the persuasion has to exist in the product itself, but a celebrity uses his status and the character he has built to gain credibility and likeability among the target audience.
This character the celebrity transfers to the product is known as the “meaning “(2). The transfer of the meaning to the product goes through three stages. The first stage is in finding the celebrity with the desired meaning that they want to carry to the product this requires casting from the wide world of celebrity endorsers. The second stage is choosing which celebrity embodies the meaning the marketing campaign requires for the product, this stage is subject to expense restraints and availability.
After deciding on an endorser stage three is the most complicated stage as in this step the endorser has to be able to transfer that meaning into the product, they have to make this meaning “available to the consumer in a material form”(2), this stage allows the consumer to accept the meaning they are given and accept the product and you use is a tool to build their own character. These three steps not only transfer the character of the endorser to the consumer but form a bond with them and the satisfaction from the product will add value to future endorsements.
All these added values become part of the character of each endorser and that becomes the determinant in his or her success. The consumer is influenced by the character the endorser transfers into the product in two distinct methods, identification and internalization. Identification is defined as the attempt of a consumer “to believe the meaning or image portrayed by a celebrity endorser” (6), while internalization is defined as the acceptance of a consumer of an idea that conforms to “his or her values or belief systems” (6) when introduced by an expert.
Differentiating between those two methods would determine further the method of pairing the right product with the right endorser. An expert endorsing a product that requires higher consumer involvement or that is considered highly valued or technological seem to have better success then a celebrity endorsing the same product. This result is due to the fact that products requiring higher involvement by the consumer to use or products with higher value require a higher level of understanding for the product explaining why internalization is more effective.
In return a celebrity endorsing a product requiring less consumer involvement or a product that is presented by the image it portray would have a higher success than an expert endorsing the same product. This is explained by understanding the nature of appeal of these products, with a high emphasis put on image and emotional association which is highlighted by the likeness to the celebrity endorsing. All consumers purchasing a product understand that with their purchase a certain level of risk is involved and only when the return they expect themselves earning is higher than the perceived risk will they commit to a purchase.
Various studies were performed (6) to understand the nature of nature of perceived risk by the consumer and the effect of the endorser on it. The results are important to analyze, as understanding how to lower the perceived risk will serve towards more successful product sales. Studies(6) indicated that an expert endorser of a higher technological product (a computer served as the product for the study) succeeded in reducing the perceived risk by the consumer, while celebrity endorser reduced the perceived risk by consumers towards a low technological, peripherally processed product (clothing served as the product for the study.
Even though there are other risks that remain beyond the effect of the endorser such as financial risk however choosing the right endorser has a direct effect on the result of the marketing campaign and impacts part of perceived risk by the consumer towards the product. These studies draw a wider picture of how not only should we evaluate the endorser by the consumer’s attitude towards them but also by their effect on reducing the risk related to a product that a consumer considers in its evaluation.
Now that the selection process of an endorser and the guidelines followed in order to insure their effectiveness is explained we turn our attention to how we evaluate their effectiveness on two main goals of a marketing campaign, brand recognition and sales. Brand recognition and branding has evolved from traditionally being viewed as a marketing function to being viewed as “heart of the business activity” (7).
It became an essential asset that has to be managed and its performance evaluated in terms of marketing efficiency and asset valuation. To create value in branding a company has to create a unique and strong brand association among consumers. The consumer’s role in creating a strong brand is essential since the higher the awareness between consumers to the product the more valued a brand becomes thus resulting in equity brand measured by consumer perception rather than quantitative figures.
The stronger the relationship a consumer has with a brand the stronger a brand is and this concept of brand-consumer relationship is explained by examining how a consumer achieves self consistency by purchasing products they perceive as a reflection of themselves this is defined as the “image congruence hypothesis” (7) in which consumers compare their perceptions about product to their own values and choose the one closest. 1. Ted Sherman, “History Of Celebrity Endorsement” (July 2010) 2. Grant McCracken, “Who is the Celebrity Endorser?
Cultural Foundations of the Endorsement Process” Journal of consumer research , (December 1989) 3. Colleen Bee, Scott A Jones “Who is trying to Persuade me? Exploring consumer Interpretations of Endorsement based Advertising “ (December 2007) 4. Hovland, Carl I and Walter Weiss (1951-1952), “The influence of Source Credibility on communication effectiveness” 5. 6. Dipayan Biswas and Abhijit Biswas, “The Differential Effects of Celebrity and Expert Endorsements on consumer Risk Preception”(June 2006) 7.