The world today is becoming increasingly competitive with each organization attempting to lure its consumers in the best ways it knows how. This has led to a situation where marketers are flooding the market with different communication tools aimed for their consumers. Whether in newspapers, on the internet, on television, and on billboards, consumers are bombarded with advertisement in all its forms. One of the forms of advertisement that is increasingly being used as a tool of communication between the marketer and the consumer in the U.K is celebrity advertising. The concept of celebrity advertising entails a famous person whether in music, film, theatre, sports, or in modelling doing the marketing on behalf of a brand, product, or organization. Over the last few years, the concept of celebrity advertising is increasingly becoming powerful and effective in the U.K which explains its popularity among marketers. Marketers use every opportunity to seek the attention of the consumer and more importantly- make a lasting impression that will make the consumer aware of the product as well ensure that the product remains in the consumer’s memory even after the induction. A celebrity can be defined as an individual who is well known in the public domain and for reasons other than the endorsement of a product (Belch and Belch 2003). Celebrities will normally be people who have achieved excellence in the fields. On the other hand, product endorsement refers to the act of providing a testimonial to indicate their approval or liking of the product. These kinds of endorsements will normally be people who have some prominence in the social circles. Celebrity endorsement is meant to help the consumer not only distinguish the product but to identify with the product. This is because people tend to feel associated with celebrities; a company that associate its product with a celebrity will normally have achieved effective advertisement. This paper aims at using consumer theories in analysing the reasons for the increased celebrity advertising in the United Kingdom. The paper will then identify the pros and cons of using celebrity endorsements as a form of advertisement.
Advertisement is a concept that begun in the early 18th century. However, it was not until the early 1930s when advertising would come to play a more active role in society. The use of celebrities can be said to have begun just around the same. In the early 1930s, most of the celebrities who were mainly from the movie industry used their status in society to promote charity, service, and even products. One of the first celebrities to represent a brand was British actress Lillie Langtry who appeared in an advertisement promoting pear soap. Since then, endorsement and brand representation by celebrities has become common. Endorsements are mainly categorised into three groups; experts, lay endorsers, and celebrity endorsers. Expert endorsements involve people who are knowledgeable about a product giving their approval to the consumers who normally have limited knowledge about the product. An example would be dentists endorsing toothpaste for consumers. Lay endorsements involve getting people- either real or fictional who have a connection to consumers and provide the message as one of them. Celebrity endorsements involve the use of celebrities to appeal on behalf of the marketers so that consumers can use a product. Celebrity endorsements have been found to have the potential to create an appeal and boost the attractiveness in the minds of potential consumers. The concept of the use of celebrity endorsements has been explained in several theories to be effective if used cleverly (Chan & Misra 1990).
Consumer Behaviour and Decision Making process
To understand the effectiveness of celebrity endorsements, a basic understanding of consumer behaviour is important. This help in learning their decision making process. Consumer behaviour is an understanding of the manner in which consumers buy products, the products they buy, the time they buy, and the reasons that drive them to buy the product. The process of understanding consumer behaviour will require an understanding of various disciplines such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, as well as economics. Consumer behaviour requires the marketer not only to identify individuals buy products but how the groups buy the same products. The process by which consumers decide on what products to buy is importantly in helping marketers do their job. The first step in consumer decision making is crave or need for a product or service. The consumer will then evaluate several factors and seek the opinion on the way to satisfy the need. The consumer will then buy the products that best qualify his or her evaluation (Haig 2011).
Consumer Behaviour Theories and Models
One of the most effective ways that researchers use to understand how consumers’ attitude affects a product or a brand is the use of models and theories. One consumer behaviour model is the ABC model of Attitudes and Hierarchy of Effects. This theory is mainly used in explaining consumers in the fragrances industry. Another theoretical model is the Kelman’s Model of Source Characteristics which seeks to demonstrate how celebrities influence the attitudes of the consumers. The theory suggests that depending on how words are uttered, and the person uttering them the outcomes are bound to be different. This means that marketers should ensure that the source selected to impact positively on the receiver. Sources that are likely to have a positive outcome on the receiver will normally have certain characteristics including attractiveness, fame, and expertise.
The source is then tasked with the responsibility of offering the consumer a product that meets his or her needs. This effectively raises the importance and the need to have a source whose message to the consumer will be well received. According to the theory, the important characteristics in a source are credibility and attractiveness. Source credibility theory states that the level of acceptance accorded to a message is dependent on how knowledgeable the source is as well as the source’s trustworthiness. Under knowledge or expertise of the source, consumers want someone they perceive to be assertive in creating helpful suggestions to them. Source trustworthiness refers to the perception on the consumers on the source’s ability to make suggestions that are not only valid but the suggestion that are genuine and out of good faith. A source that possesses these two characteristics will be more accepted by the product.
The source Attractiveness theory is based on the works or researchers in the field of social psychology. The theory states that the level of acceptance to a message by consumers is dependent several factors, which include: how familiar the product is; likeability, and similarity of the message. Familiarity in this context refers to knowledge of a source in the eyes or the minds of the consumers. Likeability refers to how much affection the consumers have for the source; this may be in terms of the voice, height, handsomeness/prettiness, and the general physical attractiveness of the source. It also refers to the ability of the source to connect to the consumer; this may be in terms of them having the same needs, or belonging to the same social class. The theory explains the process through which messages are accepted by the consumer in two ways: Identification and conditioning. Identification refers to the process whereby the consumer begins to associate and to feel identified with the attractiveness of the source which then means that the consumer also agrees with the opinions, habits, and style espoused by the source. According to Mitka (2008), people who are physically attractive tend to influence attitudinal change. Conditioning refers to the process through which the consumer begins to associate the attractiveness of the source with the product. The two processes are essential and mutually interdependent.
Grant McCracken expressed criticism over the Source attractiveness theory and source credibility theory. He then came up with what is now referred to as the meaning transfer theory. According to the theory, celebrities tend to oppose certain admirable qualities which also encode certain meanings, which if strategically used by marketers could be passed to a product, brand, or service. The process is long and involves the encoding of the meanings possessed by celebrities, passing on the meanings to the consumer, as well as the reception of the meaning by the consumer.
The theory suggests that each celebrity has a unique personal and aura. The persona and aura that celebrities espouse has different meanings depending on the age, gender, race, wealth, or lifestyle. For example, Mo Farah’s image is that of an energetic, agile, and strong man. The process of meanings transfer involves the strategic portrayal of the celebrity so that the consumer begins to associate the same values seen in the celebrity to those of the product. The meaning capture process is one that allows the consumer to buy a product or service, not just for the need to use the product butt also because of some cultural or symbolic meaning that he or she has come to attach to the product. According to the theory, some consumers will seek to buy a product so as to associate themselves with celebrities through the meanings they capture in the product. This kind of behaviour is mostly common in products that are to do with lifestyle such as clothing, fragrance, and even cell phones (Sliburyte 2009).
Celebrity Endorsement and Consumer Behaviour
One of the commonly used theoretical framework in understanding the effect of celebrity endorsement on consumer behaviour and their decision making process is the Kelman process of social influence. Kelman argues that social influence occurs in three processes, and the culmination of the three processes leads to the consumer adopting the attitude intended by the marketer/communicator. The three processes are compliance, identification, and internalization. In compliance, Kelman says that individuals are influenced by other people to do things if the individual wants to be in good terms with the person trying to influence. However, this part of the Kelman processes is not appropriate in analysing consumer behaviour since the consumer and the celebrity have little or no interpersonal interaction (Kelman 1961).
Under identification, Kelman (1961) says that consumers are more likely to imitate the style and behaviour of another person if they aspire or admire the social, status person of that person. This is what gives celebrities power over the consumers because celebrities are admired and imitated by people in society than ordinary persons. The last stage, which is internalization, occurs when individuals adopt the style and behaviour of another person whom they perceive to be honest and sincere and espousing values that are in tandem with their value systems. The success of celebrity endorsements in this regard can be seen in cases where celebrities pick on charity courses or sometimes they do commercials, but the consumer is unaware that the celebrity is doing so for as fee. The consumer will therefor see the celebrity’s message as an honest sharing of advice on his or her lifestyle.
Celebrities are also opinion leaders in their own fields. An opinion leader is someone whose thoughts are considered to be more informed and to be of more value. As such an opinion leader’s message is communicated in an authoritative manner. This explains the success of the advertisement by Mo Farah who is an award winning athlete and has endorsed energy drink Lucozade. As an athlete, Mo Farah is considered to be an opinion leader on matters that concern fitness and consumers are more likely to imitate him because his message has a lot of authority due to his reputation.
Rise of Celebrity endorsements in the U.K
The first celebrity endorsement in Britain can be traced back in the 1760s. Josiah Wedgwood who owned a pottery company used the royal institution to endorse his products, which boosted the brand of his company. Later, in early 1900s, cigarette companies used famous people in the entertainment sector to promote their products. With the advent of radio in the 1920s, and television in the 1940s, the number of commercials would increase, which introduced the aspect of celebrities doing commercials. This shows that as the channels used in mass communication become sophisticated, the level and effectiveness of celebrity endorsements increase. This is because; sophisticated mass communication channels will reach larger audiences, which will increase the number of consumers. Secondly, as the media becomes sophisticated, the number of celebrities has also increased. In the early 20th century, celebrities were mainly in theatre while today the field of celebrities has been diversified to include sports, music, movies, and modelling (Spears, Royne, & Van Steenburg 2013).
One of the reasons that have boosted the effectiveness of celebrity advertising in the U.K is the fact that the British have a culture that tends to be driven by celebrities. Modern culture in Britain and most other western countries tends to be dictated by the lifestyles that celebrities pick. Consumers in the west will tend to have an interest in the lifestyles of celebrities and an inherent desire to copy their lifestyles. As such, marketers whoa are creative will grab the opportunity and use the celebrities to associate themselves with a successful celebrity. An example is when Gillette approached David Beckham to market their products. Although David Beckham is a celebrity in the field of soccer, Britons, and many other people n the world have an interest in his lifestyle outside the football pitch. By promoting Gillette as the shaving razor of choice, many other people will want; either subconsciously or consciously to use the product, not because they want to be associated with Gillette but because they want to associate with Beckham and his lifestyle.
In celebrity advertisement, the marketing company will come up with a message which will be read by the celebrity on behalf of the company. In this case, the message appears even more credible when it is done by someone the consumers know and trust. Social psychologists argue that a message source that is perceived to be reliable tends to be more convincing than one whose reliability is not clear (Biswas, Hussain, and O’Donnell 2009). Moreover, most of the consumers are not aware that celebrities endorse brands and products at a fee; they will perceive the endorsement as a genuine likeness for the product. One of the most significant yet tricky things to achieve in advertising is recollection. Companies will want to use a form of advertising that improves the ability of the consumer to remember the product or brand. The use of celebrities serves this role perfectly well. Celebrities command a certain aura and authority which helps in grabbing the consumer’s attention. Given the interest people have in celebrities, it is easier for the consumer to remember the product that is associated with the celebrity (Ohanian 1991).
Apart from evoking interest, most celebrities are authorities in their respective fields. This make the message they bring to have the credibility of an expert, an example being an athlete endorsing sports shoes (Costanzo and Goodnight 2005), or in the case of a famous model endorsing a make-up product. Psychologists suggest that one of the most inherent needs in human beings is the need to be attractive and to get approval. Celebrities are endowed with the approval of many people, and their attractiveness is seen in their behaviour. This motivates many consumers to use the same products that relate to their attractiveness so that they can also feel part of the society. This explains why most of the products being endorsed by the celebrities are mainly to do with image (Till 1998).
According to Lake (2009), a major reason that explains the increased use of celebrities in advertisements, in the United Kingdome is because of the financial returns that companies have reaped from previous engagements. Despite the huge costs involved in getting a celebrity to endorse a product, companies are increasingly paying the large sums because they are sure of positive returns. Lake (2009), suggest that because many other traditional marketing tools have failed, companies are now able to put in more resources in to celebrity advertising. With the emergence of globalization, celebrity endorsements have also increased in the U.S. This is because consumers are now in a close knit world where celebrities have come to have influence in more than one country. For example, although Serena Williams is a U.S citizen, most of the advertisements she has done are also displayed to the U.K population. The same case applies to football guru Didier Drogba. Didier has endorsed Samsung and the commercials are carried on internationally.
The rise of celebrity advertising in this context is in two phases. One is that there has been an increase in the global audience which has also increased the power celebrities have over consumers. For example, in the early 50s a footballer would probably be considered a celebrity only in his city. However, the modern Footballer is an international celebrity as more and more people are watching football across the globe. Secondly, globalization has brought with it a number of multinationals. Multinationals are fond of using celebrities for advertising due to their cost effectiveness. The U.K is home to a number of multinationals and thus has also experienced the use of international celebrities. Multinational corporations such as Pepsi and Coca Cola have a consumer base that stretches every corner of the globe. It would be difficult for the corporation to design commercials for every country. Thus, multinationals prefer using one commercial, which is transmitted throughout the world. Using celebrities who are recognized world wide is thus the method of choice for most of the organizations. An example is the endorsement of Pepsi Cola by Britney Spears in a commercial that although shot in the U.S was also transmitted in the U.K and in may other countries.
Advantages of Celebrity Endorsements
The use of celebrity has several advantages that make it a feasible endeavour. According to Till (1998), celebrity endorsements generate more desirable outcomes than endorsements by non-celebrities. Companies that use celebrities whose personalities match the product and the target market will reap enormous benefits. An endorsement by such a celebrity has been found to increase brand awareness. Products that are new in the market will especially need a strong entry that will leave a mark on the memory of the consumer. An endorsement by a celebrity on a new product means that consumers will want to know what product their favourite celebrity is using. According to McCracke (1989), consumers are more likely to remember a product that was associated with a celebrity than one with a non celebrity.
Secondly, celebrity advertisement achieves a certain level of emotional connection that is not common with other forms of advertising. Some celebrities, such as David Beckham and Pierce Brosnan in the U.K are held in very high esteem in the minds and hearts of the general population which is the consumer base. As such, they are able to influence the consumers- sometimes sub-consciously and more importantly add an emotional twist that the consumer will come to associate with the brand being endorsed.
Thirdly, the manner that the celebrity connects with the consumer is normally fast. According to Kotler (2005), the mere presence of a celebrity in a marketing campaign tends to hasten the communication process. This is because of the huge interest the society and the media have on the lives of celebrities. The brand will enjoy a level of free publicity as the media is likely to cover the celebrity endorsement thus saving on advertising cost and ensuring that consumers get to know of the endorsements first as possible.
Fourthly, the meaning transfer theory argues that each celebrity has an aura associated with him or her and a unique personality that possesses different characteristics. The same applies to the product that the celebrity will endorse. Endorsement of a brand by a celebrity contributes to the process of brand recognition which is important for any organization that seeks to gain competitive advantage. An example, when Pepsi Cola chose Britney Spears to endorse its drinks, its main rival Coca Cola turned to her main rival in the entertainment sector Christina Aguilera. The purpose of the endorsement was to differentiate the products by appealing to the fans of the two rivals.
Celebrity endorsements have also been found to be a source of imitation which further increases the sale and usage of the product. According to Agrawal and Kamakura (1995), consumers become loyal to a brand because a celebrity they look up to has been associated with the product. This is true for soaps and other basic home stuffs where the drive is not so much to do with the characteristics of the product but more because of who is using it. Needless to say, an endorsement by a celebrity increases Brand Image. As mentioned earlier, companies will opt to select celebrities who are trusted by the public. In most of the cases, the consumers is not even aware that the celebrity is being paid to endorses a product which will mean that he or she will attach the same credibility bestowed on the celebrity to the brand.
Disadvantages of Celebrity Endorsements
Despite the effectiveness and merits of using celebrity endorsement in advertising, celebrity advertising faces a number of challenges. Firstly, the use of the celebrity in an endorsement poses the risk of overshadowing the brand. Celebrities have a strong presence and the use of a celebrity to endorse a product may mean that consumers will only remember the personality with little regard for the product endorsed. A research done by Cyber media in London and focused in a specific celebrity endorsement showed that 80% of those sampled could only remember the person appearing in that commercial while they forgot what product was endorsed.
Secondly, the use of celebrities in endorsements makes it hard for the marketer to substitute. This is because consumers easily associate a brand the celebrity who endorsed it. In the event that the celebrity is no longer the ambassador for the brand, consumers will quickly change preference and forget about the product. This also makes celebrity endorsements a costly affair as the market has to sign a long term contract with the endorser. Celebrities will also insist on high fees in recognition of the fact that they are near-indispensable (Sliburyte, 2009). Some companies have suffered from credibility loss as a result of the celebrity engaging in conduct that is becoming. Any mistakes by the individual endorser will also translate in loss of sale of products. In other instances, celebrities have been found to endorse products that they do not use. This publicity becomes embarrassing to the organization and leads to loss of consumers. An example is the case of Tiger Woods who has endorsed Nike golf balls but was later found to have been using different golf balls. The incident hurt Nike with some consumer groups suing the company for misleading consumers.
Celebrity endorsement is an idea whose time in the U.K has come. As we have seen, marketers have to be creative and innovative so that they come up with only the most effective campaigns. Given the recent technological advancement and globalization, celebrity endorsements are becoming more and more feasible, which has led to the increased popularity. However, while celebrity endorsements have several advantages, markets should be careful in the selection of the celebrity to ensure his or her message connects with the needs of their consumers.
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