The most important means to guide brand success in the present competitive environment are effective communication and strategic positioning. Companies need to ensure that all possible efforts are made in promoting their brands in order to grab the consumer’s attention and purchase decision. The purpose is to attract the interest of the customers in creating a positive relationship and to influence them in inducing trials and finally in effecting purchasing decisions. Advertising has come to play a vital role in eliciting consumer purchase decisions and it is obvious for companies to take all possible measures in influencing and motivating customers to make purchases of their products. Theory as well as practice has proved that using celebrities in advertising does generate a great deal of attention and publicity for the product. This paper will examine the issue of when and why celebrity endorsements are effective for advertising campaigns. A relationship will be drawn amongst celebrities and the brands that they endorse in relation to the perceptions of people in making purchase decisions.
Celebrities are people who have immense public recognition amongst specific groups of consumers in terms of attributes such as attractiveness, extra ordinary life styles, their popularity and life achievements. These areas are only examples and it can be assumed that popularity of celebrities may differ from the social perspective but they enjoy a high level of public awareness (Schlecht, 2003). Celebrities also become spokespersons over long periods in representing brands and companies in the media. Celebrities are used as spokespersons by companies in view of their immense potential to influence the public and can bring in a lot of attention and recall. They enable the advertising company to enhance its awareness amongst consumers in making the brands to be perceived in relation with their personalities. In using celebrities, advertisers benefit a great deal in positively impacting the brand awareness and purchase intention (Harmona, 1992).
Celebrity endorsements are an effective means to make consumers to associate with the brand personalities in the advertisements and hence meet their aspirations. People desire to wear the right clothes, drink the best beverages, and use the best perfumes and when endorsed by celebrities they directly associate themselves in having a pleasurable and satisfying experience in being equitable with them in terms of consumption of the goods and services that they endorse. Research has proved that a person faced with two options while making a purchase decision will invariably go for the one that is amply represented by his aspirations being met by his role model using the same product (Clark and Horstman, 2003). Celebrity endorsements are more effective for products that have a price production cost margin over a larger customer base. In effect, celebrity endorsements are typically more resorted to for products that are marketed nationally in serving niche markets such as beverages and shoes etc.
Promotion campaigns of such products need to be coordinated amongst different consumer segments depending upon factors such as age, income and education groups. A case in example could be credit cards which require different strategies across consumer segments where the message has to address the aspirations of the different groups. If the celebrity is recognized internationally, the campaign becomes a cost effective strategy to address coordination amongst different groups (Clark & Horstman, 2003).
The applicability and concepts of celebrity endorsements were researched by Bruce et al (2004) and they found that almost 20% of TV commercials featured famous people. They researched the pattern of all endorsements and found that during the period 1980 to 1992, 60% of the endorsements pertained to beverages and athletic shoes. They also provided basis for the conclusion that there were additional stock gains on the day that a celebrity signed an endorsement deal with a company for its products (Bruce et al, 2004, pp. 123-125).
A lot of psychology and marketing studies have been done in getting to know how celebrity endorsements influence consumer decisions. Different hypothesis have been put forth in explaining the credibility of celebrity endorsements. Celebrities enable the product to become more sought after and improve perception of quality and their image is associated to the quality and service of the product which makes consumers to associate themselves with such an image. Experiments have suggested that under given circumstances celebrity endorsements enable the enhancement of consumer recall whereby they like the product more if it is endorsed by a famous personality (Clark & Horstman, 2003). Petty et al (1983) have found that consumers had the tendency to rate a product higher and of better quality if it was endorsed by a matching celebrity.
Clark & Horstman, (2003), have provided a model that has explained the success of endorsements by fictional celebrities. They found that amongst two celebrities that command similar variable costs, a company will prefer to use the celebrity who has a lower fixed cost. All promotion campaigns need to address several issues thus requiring promotion planners to grasp how decisions in regard to the variables in different communication processes influence the different phases of the response order in influencing the receivers. A number of models have been devised in giving insight about how independent variables effect celebrity endorsements and their efficiency.
The success of an advertisement message is dependent upon the perceived proficiency and credibility of the endorser. The main objective of advertisements is to persuade customers, implying an active attempt to alter consumer attitudes in favour of the brand (Solomon, 2002). Therefore it is very important to establish the credibility of the advertisement in order to convince target audiences about the efficacy of the brand. In pursuing a strategy that uses celebrity endorsement, the advertiser is able to project a reliable image by way of objectivity, trust, persuasiveness and efficiency (Till and Shimp, 1998). A number of researchers have found a positive relationship between brands and celebrities in explaining efficiency by using famous personalities to promote brands. Results have indicated that some celebrity endorsements succeed while some fail. In essence, the success of the endorsement is dependent on whether there is match amongst the brand and the celebrity. Although it has been acknowledged that a celebrity has the ability to enhance awareness and to create interest in the advertisement, he/she may not for sure be able to alter consumer attitudes in favour of the brand. The physical appeal of the celebrity will add to the evaluation of the product if its characteristics match with the conveyed image of the celebrity. Therefore, something more than credibility and attractiveness is required in conveying the complete image of the celebrity in relation to the endorsed product. According to Mc Cracker (1989), a celebrity can succeed only if there is clarity in terms of meanings associated by consumers with the brand and the manner in which he is related to it.
Brand endorsements are done in order to have the brand noticed amongst the clutter that is present in the markets. Synergy has to be established amongst celebrities and brands and the celebrity actually assists in formulating and processing the brand building process. Advertisers often complain that celebrities come with a host of liabilities which makes the decision to select the right celebrity a rather difficult task. Usually film stars and soccer and sports personalities are well groomed in being brands by themselves and often make success stories out of the endorsements that they do. In essence, the celebrity should have the attributes in matching the qualities of the brand that is to be endorsed. In selecting celebrities, firms usually rely on Q ratings set by Marketing Evaluates Inc, a New York based company, which finalises the rating on the basis of surveys and by using questionnaires about famous personalities (Ohanian, 2001).
Celebrity endorsements are much sought after since the value associated with the celebrity is passed on to the brand and thus helps in creating an image that can be easily related with by consumers. As a result of such endorsements the accruing relationships can establish a high level of credibility and enhance sales but the brand could fall in popularity in the same manner if a proper match is not found by consumers between the brand and the celebrity (Daneshvary et al, 2000).
Celebrity endorsements build awareness of the brand in connecting emotionally with consumers. With the presence of a celebrity the communication process speeds up in enhancing trust and credibility for the brand. Upon assessing the market situation it is clear that celebrity endorsements, though associated with high costs are justified in matching the brand strengths and celebrity qualities to achieve corporate sales objectives. However advertisers must be aware of the complexities in processing celebrity endorsements which require clarity in terms of credibility and effectiveness, matching hypothesis and multi product endorsements. Firms have to decide the extent to which they can have the benefits to outweigh the associated risks in knowing that every celebrity endorsement does not guarantee the desired level of success in sales. Endorsements by celebrities can create the buzz in making consumers feel elated about a product which is possible only if their expectations and aspirations are fully met. There have been examples of endorsements by ordinary people giving better results which imply that firms need to research on consumer needs and expectations in terms of inducing higher levels of credibility. This would help in carving a healthy, satisfying and more transparent market environment.
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