Celebrity Endorsements and their Negative Elements In order to understand how celebrities effect brand perception, it is important to be clear from the outset what is actually meant by the term ‘celebrity’. Celebrity is a type of fame that creates immediate recognition by the majority of the public. This recognition is often accompanied by a desire on the part of the public to either identify with or differ from such a person. An individual that has reached public notoriety for a myriad of reasons, a celebrity is one whose personality, personal story and private information have become public property, creating a joint contract of sorts between that private individual and the public consumer.
A genuine celebrity has a clearly defined personality and reputation. They are anyone who is familiar enough to the people a brand wishes to communicate with, to add values to that communication by association with their image and reputation (Pringle 2004). For advertising purposes, a celebrity can be defined as an individual who is known to the public for achievements in areas other than that of the type of product they endorse, yet they can prove detrimental to the advertising effort for a number of reasons.
Present-day celebrity culture’s link with consumer capitalism is evident in all forms of mass communication. Since the invention of movies, radio, television and recorded music, celebrities have emerged using the media to sell their abilities and talents. While the celebrity is usually a complete stranger, and someone we are never likely to meet, nor ever truly know, the virtual intimacy created between the celebrity and the audience is impossible to ignore.
Today’s celebrities are put through a process that grooms their persona and entertainment style to a specific market. Those in the celebrity industry responsible for the manufacturing of celebrity identities have advanced into a “multi-faceted, integrated, and highly rationalized phenomenon through which people can be manufactured into, and marketed as, celebrities in any field” (Andrews 2001 p 4). The optimum goal of this celebrity-making process is for the individual, and his/her representatives, to harmoniously orchestrate the various industrial facets of cultural production, and thereby foster a consistent and highly visible celebrity identity.
While there are specific formulas to attain celebrity status such as a handsome sports star or a pretty and popular singer, the packaging of an individual is the key in the psychological sale to the consumer. Those high profile individuals that are properly packaged to a targeted market, though not necessarily successful in their own right, have a tremendous visual impact thus saleability ie: Paris Hilton. The skilful manufacturing of a well-celebrated personality gives credibility to seemingly unrelated products to a broad-ranged demographic.
It also creates additional commerce by selling unintended advertising. Beckham’s voice and picture sell wireless phone services as well as advertising space in the tabloids. This, in turn can increase his popularity, visibility, demographic and ultimately the amount of money is his pocketbook. “An analysis of stock price movements showed that press releases announcing celebrity endorsement contracts resulted, on average, in a . 44 percent excess return” (Till & Shimp, 1998). In the modern market one of the primary challenges for advertising is to provide a tangible and differentiating element to marketing of brands (Lane and Russell 2000).
The use of a celebrity spokesman is one approach to enhancing tangibility and providing differentiation (Zeithmal et al 1988). Although there is evidence to suggest human spokespersons and celebrity endorsers have been effective, they are also risky to use (Tom et al. 1992). Moreover, the match between an endorser and a brand is critical to successful advertising. An example of this is the Sharon Osbourne/Asda Grocery campaign. Because consumers didn’t see Osbourne as a typical Asda shopper there was no match between the target audience and the celebrity.
Unsuprisingly the campaign was unsuccessful and sales did not increase (Quilter 2005). Another example of mismatching is the practice of celebrity sports stars promoting unhealthy foods. Not only is it a contradiction to the very reason they are popular in the first place, it is an obvious falsehood. It’s hard to believe that David Beckham frequents McDonalds, a fast food chain that serves quick and mostly unhealthy food products.
This type of mismatching is damaging to both the saleability of the product and the credibility of the celebrity, an essential factor in marketability. The public perception of celebrities also does not necessarily match the intention of the product makers. Parents seldom appreciate a much adored and emulated athlete endorsing fatty, salty and sugary food brands. “Liverpool and England striker Michael Owen, football pundit and former England hero Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne also come in for criticism. Nine Premier League clubs and the Football Association also came in for criticism for promoting fizzy drinks and junk food to children” (Guardian staff, 2003).
Advertisers want their target audience to have a positive feeling toward their chosen celebrity which transfers to the brand or will otherwise enhance the brand's standing. The product’s credibility is threatened if negative information about the celebrity becomes public either during or after an advertising campaign. Widely publicized negative incidents of celebrity endorsers may become liabilities to the brands they endorse. “The fear of potential celebrity scandals has given rise to a mini-trend toward using deceased celebrities – individuals who posthumously can no longer engage in behaviors that might bring embarrassment and injury to the brands with which they are linked” (Till & Shimp, 1998).
An advertising company, obviously, should select a spokesperson whose characteristics are fit with the brand image meant to be displayed to the consumer, but many evidently do not carefully evaluate their choice of celebrities to ensure that the celebrity's image matches the desired brand image. Brand images of products that rely on celebrity endorsement are strongly linked to perception of the celebrity, why that person is a celebrity and what that celebrity has been doing lately.
“Advertisers today seem to be keenly attuned to the attribution processes through which subjects infer a spokesperson's reason and rationale for advertising a product. The recent use of celebrities in advertising who make the claim that they have never served as a spokesperson before (i. e., George C. Scott for Renault) is a direct attempt by advertisers to influence consumers' attributional processes” (Kamins, 1989).
That is, it is hoped that consumers will attribute the celebrity's involvement in the product to his/her firm belief in product quality and service (or other similar attributes) rather than just the monetary reward. Advertisers know that when used properly, celebrities can be very powerful and help amplify the effects of an ad campaign. At the same time they are cautious to utilize this strong influence in an appropriate manner. Celebrities alone do not guarantee success as consumers understand advertising, know what advertising is, and how it works.
People know celebrities are being paid a lot of money for endorsements and this knowledge leads them to cynicism about celebrity endorsements. Works Cited Andrews, D & Jackson, S. Sport Stars Book. London: Routledge, 2001. Guardian staff. “Watchdog cries foul over footballers' junk food endorsements” Guardian Unlimited. (January 27, 2003). January 7, 2009 Kamins, M., Brand, M., Hoeke, S., Moe, J. ‘Two-sided versus one-sided celebrity endorsements: The impact on advertising effectiveness and credibility. ” Journal of Advertising. (Spring, 1989). Lane, R., Russell, T.
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