Celebrity Endorsement

Celebrity Endorsement: Exploring the importance of credibility and how the selection of the endorser can impact the most influential credibility factors.

 

Abstract

The purpose of this literature review is to understand the literature surrounding the marketing strategy of celebrity endorsement. In more depth, to see what factors sourced from the match-up a hypothesis and credibility models lead to the greatest impact on consumers perceptions and behaviours towards the endorsed product. The underlying theme is derived from Schimmelpfennig and Hollensen (2013) findings. Through using cited references and other published work, the main theories are explained and critiqued below. Whilst, offering a proposed framework based on the supporting literature. 

 

Introduction

Celebrity endorsement is a well-established marketing strategy, enabling brands to effectively manipulate consumer behaviours, to help persuade or convince them to do a certain action, in the case of marketing – purchase a product. However, the endorsement has developed through time and can now be seen reaching into different platforms, for example, political marketing (Chou, 2015). Businesses have realised the benefits of using such a strategy and now we can see most adverts are using a celebrity endorser to help appeal to a great audience and to hopefully improve brand recall. This can be evidenced by one in five UK advertisements featuring a celebrity (Halonen-Knight and Hurmerinta, 2010), however, the effectiveness of the campaign can depend upon the type of advert and which platform is it being published on. According to Statista (2016), 98% of social media promotions involving celebrity endorser are seen to be either highly or quite effective. This fact can be seen to be very convincing, but it is heavily dependent on the behaviour being desired from the brand, what would the difference be between highly and quite effective if the main objective is to purchase a product. 

To fully understand the methodology and strategies brands consider in the process of selecting their endorser, it is good practice to be able to confidently understand what is meant by the term ‘celebrity’ and how certain characteristics make them more appealable to specific brands. Throughout literature there are many definitions of a celebrity, an interesting viewpoint expressed from Gupta (2009) is that a celebrity is an individual whose name has attention-getting, interest-riveting and profit-generating value that derives from public attention. This offers support to Silvera and Austad’s (2004) explanation that a celebrity is a person who enjoys recognition from the public which derives from the individual having distinctive characteristics or a sense of likeability, leading to populations inspiring to be like the individual. Both of these, offer a mixed point of view on celebrities but they both refer to the aspect of recognition and attention from a population, due to this, brands can exploit the influence an individual has in order to a sell their product through the association of a brand and celebrity. This now leads into the established term of ‘celebrity endorsement’, which is defined by Kotler et al (2016) as being when consumers assume or infer their associations of entities towards a linked brand. Being compared to other explanations Kotler’s definition refers to more of the outcome of celebrity endorsement whereas, other literature has described it as celebrities lending their name or image to advertisements for products in which they may or may not be an expert (McCracken, 1989 ;Khatri, 2006). An interesting part of this definition is about the endorser’s experience in the usage of the product, this is a key characteristic that can influence the process of selecting the correct endorser.  The following table depicts the purpose of using celebrity endorsers and the potential disadvantages associated with this method.

 

Table 1. Purpose and disadvantages of using celebrity endorsers as a marketing strategy. Influenced by Erdogan’s (1999) visual representation.

Purpose and Disadvantages Explanation Author Notes for Marketers
Increased Attention Celebrities allow adverts to stand out from the surrounding clutter,  Sherman (1985) To ensure the endorser they use will be easily recognisable.
Vampire Effect However,  some customers will solely focus on the celebrity and will not notice the brand being endorsed. Rossiter and Percy (1987) To be cautious that the celebrity does not overpower the brand. 
Controversy Some celebrities could be removed from the media spotlight during the endorsement contract, either through controversy or becoming less relevance. Ziegel (1983) The literature suggests not to sign celebrities into long endorsement contracts, unless you are certain they will continue to be in the spotlight.
Brand Introduction – Overexposure If the chosen celebrity is endorsing a number of various products the relationship between the brand and celebrity would decrease in terms of the customer’s perceptions. Mowen and Brown (1981) If one of the celebrities shortlisted are already endorsing a number of products, be careful that their message is not diluted and the relationship isn’t jeopardised. 

There are other aspects that one could delve deeper into, for example, the Q score of Personalities database and the Davie Brown Index, these are just two of many theories expressed by Schimmelpfennig and Hollensen (2013) and Erdogan (1999). But the fundamentals of this marketing strategy are simple,  there is no need for over-complication. The following literature will examine and analyse some of the factors that are seen to have an impact on a consumer’s attitudes, by filtration through the match-up hypothesis and credibility models.

 

Early Stages of Credibility Literature

Celebrity endorsement has received a lot of attention in regards to published research through the last couple of decades. The reason for this is because of the effectiveness of the campaigns, in most cases. It came clear that marketers were required to understand what makes a celebrity or endorser successful in their marketing campaign and due to this idea there have been various research carried out in this area. It is common knowledge that celebrities are well known in the public eye and they draw attention to their lifestyles. Understanding the process and factors that led to better-performing endorsers was key for companies because it will give them a higher return on investment. This is essential because, obviously, the usage of a celebrity can be a very expensive cost and if the ROI was not sufficed, then the campaign would not go forward.

A fundamental study of celebrity endorsement, and a highly supported one, was carried out by Kanungo and Pang (1973), and then Misra and Beatty (1990), where they compared male and female models in terms of selling a product and their findings lead to the term of “fittingness” between a product and individual (in their case, a beauty model), This then leads to the common term in endorsement theories, the match-up hypothesis, which has now been adjusted into two theories. One being the Source Attractiveness Model (STA). Initial research carried out by Friedman and Friedman (1979)  lead marketers to believe that the effectiveness of an endorser depends upon the physical attractiveness and the product in question. Friedman’s findings sparked complementary research on this theory. Leading to Till and Busler (1998) providing evidence in support of the previous theory, it was concluded that physically attractive endorsers were more effective when associated with products that heighten attractiveness. Also demonstrated by Kahle and Homer (1985), they found increased attitude towards a brand’s product when the associated endorser was attractive, in their case, it was the use of attractive males and facial razor blades. Nevertheless, not all of the research offers conclusive findings. A major limitation of Kahle and Homer’s (1985) experiment is that they only used one product (razors), meaning if other attractiveness enhancing products were in question, would the results offer the same result? Furthermore, if one was to scrutinise their study, you could argue their findings are not correctly representative of their situation and target audience. Due to the fact, their findings didn’t show any data demonstrating that an attractive celebrity has less effectiveness when endorsing a contrasting product (one not used to enhance attractiveness). This problem is also backed by Till and Busler (1998) who suggest the published study was incomplete. This exposes questions and limitations, in regards of the validity of Kahle and Homer’s published work and whether or not the research is deemed to be replicable.

Due to this discrepancy in research, this led to researchers considering other factors that impact the effectiveness of endorsers. This expanded the literature surrounding the Match-up hypothesis, leading to published research in areas such as expertise and trustworthiness. Yet do not forget, this didn’t hinder the amount of literature supporting physical attractiveness, it solely promoted the other factors on selecting the more “fitting” endorser. 

The following table shows more of the published research supporting the effectiveness and importance of celebrity endorsers and how attractiveness, expertise and trustworthiness play a significant role in the overall effectiveness of an endorser. Keep in mind, there will be other research supporting this theme but due to over-saturation, this table is limited at below 20 pieces of literature.

 

Table 2. Literature and research supporting source credibility and individual factors.

Authors Concept Key Findings Notes for Marketers
Block et al. (1983)

(Byrne, Whitehead and Breen, 2003)

Pornpitakpan and Chanthika. (2004)

Ayselgul Ermec Sertoglu et al (2014)

Johns et al (2015)

Munnukka et al (2016)

Wang and Scheinbaum (2017)

Trustworthiness The majority of studies found that trustworthiness was the most credible source for consumer involvement. The main studies offer the idea that this factors in most influential when the product is a specific category, for this piece of work in regards to airline industries. Furthermore, nationally came into play with the research suggesting come cultures would rather trust a native celebrity in comparison to a global celebrity, this would raise the issue of cultural differences. This can be very important for marketing because it is vital they are aware of what type of product they are offering and what factor has the most impact. For example, the research shows, if you are selling airline tickets or categories of that type, trustworthiness has the most influence on the consumers. Other factors will have an impact but the trustworthiness is proven to have the greatest impact. Furthermore, in regards to the selection of the celebrity, the country you are selling the product in will play an integral part because the literature claims that people will trust a native celebrity in comparison to a global endorser.
Ohanian. (1991)

Till and Busler. (2000)

Byrne et al (2003)

Pornpitakpan and Chanthika. (2004)

Cunningham et al. (2007)

Dom et al.( 2016)

Kim et al. (2014)

Expertise Expertise was seen to be possibly more important than physical attractiveness in terms of matching a brand with a endorser. Furthermore, expertise is more appropriate for matching endorsers with celebrities. Nevertheless, the studies carried out emphasise the importance of fit or belongingness in the match-up process. Most respondents evaluate positive perceptions towards expertise associated to athletes. The literature suggests that when selling a high involvement product expertise can play a leading role. The other factors can help influence the consumer to become engagement within the advert but for the purchase to occur an expert endorser must be present. The study by Byrne et al (2003) using Jamie Oliver as a endorser and claim from their findings that his expertise and trustworthiness was the key reasoning behind the selection.
Block et al. (1983)

Till and Busler (1998)

Pornpitakpan and Chanthika. (2004)

Cunningham et al. (2007)

Dom et al.( 2016)

Ilicic et al (2016)

Attractiveness The key studies in this area consider how ‘attractive’ celebrities can impact an consumers intention and behaviours. There are studies that suggest attractiveness will be most influential when the product in question helps to improve the consumers physical attractiveness. Nevertheless, the other two factors still have an impact on the overall acceptance of the celebrity endorse.  By now, marketers will be aware all of the factors can influence a consumer’s level of involvement for a campaign due to the selected endorser. The part part to take away from these published research is that the product being sold is the most important aspect because the more effective factor will be determined due to the product.

 

The Fundamental Factors 

With more published literature surrounding the Match-up hypothesis and Source Attractiveness Model (STA) this has improved the validity of findings for other factors that can impact the match-up (fit) of a celebrity to a brand or product. The other theory derived from this, fairly, new literature is the one source credibility. This is similar to the STA because it looks at the factors that will impact the consumer’s perception and attitudes towards a subject, but this looks at what factors make a subject credible. Credibility is seen to be the degree in which the source is perceived as possessing relevant expertise to a product and can be trusted to give an honest opinion (Goldsmith et al, 2000; Barbara et al, 2002). This definition offers a comparison between this and the Match-up hypothesis because it states credibility derives from expertise and trustworthiness. Due to this, expertise and trustworthiness are seen to be the two main components of the source credibility model. Further research into this theory also concluded that an individual’s tendency to accept information from endorsers depends on the perceived credibility of that source (Hovland et al., 1953). Because of this, marketers must understand how to offer the perception of their endorser being credible. The following literature offers support for the importance and significance of the two factors.


According to Ohanian (1990) consumers, in general, have greater confidence in endorsers who are perceived, to be honest and truthful about their offering. This raises the first point of trustworthiness. Research has been carried out in this area, not so much currently as physical attractiveness but enough for marketers to gain a solid understanding of the concept. A key piece of research that offers evidence for this field was carried out by Wang and Scheinbaum (2017) where they found that trustworthiness of the endorse plays a crucial role in the consumer’s attitude towards the product, whilst also suggesting firms should invest in both attractive and trustworthy endorsers. A major drawback of the study was that the product in question was airline flights, known as a low-involvement purchase. If marketers were to apply this study, they would need to consider what product they are trying to sell in order for them to choose the most effective endorser. Products like luxury cars (high involvement) may have different audiences with various attitudes and beliefs, this would essentially impact the effectiveness of their stated findings. Bear in mind, these are not issues with the studies but it is just a potential issue for applying the findings to a different environment. Therefore, this does not prove that trustworthiness is the most influencing factor.  Nevertheless, some findings offer that, both trustworthiness and expertise, are significantly related to one another. Erdem and Swait (2004) evidence this by expressing the point that in certain categories of products (packaged goods, fashion and sports equipment) there is statistically proven significance that higher expertise led to greater trustworthiness. This leads to another key piece of source credibility, expertise. 

A celebrity’s expertise is explained as being the perceived level of knowledge or related skill, the endorser has to the associated product or brand (Erdogan, 1999; McGinnies and Ward, 1980). One similarity between both expertise and trustworthiness that is expressed throughout literature is that they are both heavy dependant on the perceptions of the consumers, these have, arguably, the most significant impact on the effectiveness. To relate this to reality, if an endorser is presented correctly and is perceived to be an expert in the process of using the product, they will have a greater impact on the customers intentions because they will be perceived to be a valid source of information, this finding is also backed up by Aaker and Myers (1992) who offers the same explanation, in terms of relevance.

Upon researching the current literature on celebrity endorsement the recurring theme is that the factor that has the most impact is in direct relationship with the product type, whether that is high or low involvement products. Nevertheless, the factors will all have an impact in some way or another. Leading on from the discussed factors, according to Laroche, Kim and Zhou (1996) a consumer’s purchase decisions are influenced by the perceptions held towards the brand’s statue, improving the confidence. However, that is a completed different aspect to endorsement theories. Despite its widespread use, the credibility of a source has not been put into practice due to reliability and the validity of purposed scales (Ohanian, 1990). At this moment in time, there is little published work explaining how to three work together, one would assume this is because there are so many factors that can impact the customer’s decision it would be difficult to research and offer evidence supporting the findings. Also, publishing work with the number of variables discussed would lead to a lot of scrutinies and discussion surrounding the relevance due to the influences that can still impact. This would not give marketers a solid understanding and enough evidence to solely use the research when it comes to celebrity endorsements. Due to this, the following proposed framework will concentrate on the three factors that were associated with the source credibility model.

 

Conceptual Framework

Through synthesising the literature, the proposed framework offers a cohesive framework for understanding how certain factors work together to create a positive perception towards an endorsers message. This visual framework has been influenced by Zakaria and Mustaffa’s (2014) framework of endorsement factors but with no consideration to internal consumer influences, also Rahim et al’s  (2015) conceptual framework due to the separation between the credibility factors, but by representing how they cohesively work together to reach the desired outcome. Nevertheless, there are other factors that can come into play but in concluding the previous literature, the framework offers a solid visualisation of how marketers need to consider different factors. Furthermore, three products are being used due to the fact that the research continuously refers back to the type of product in question, this will represent how different factors will have a bigger impact on certain product types (Roozen, 2008), it is up to that marketers to determine which product they are selling and what factor has the greatest impact.

 

Conclusion and Further Research

Upon reflection, one can see the connections between the credibility factors, however, there are still gaps in the research that solidifies the theory. In terms of individual factors, they have been tested but all together, this is a limitation of this literature review and the published research because the majority of studies concentrate on all of the factors, instead of individually. In order to gain a full understanding of the rationale behind the selection of the most effective and persuasive endorser marketers should consider many different approaches before making a decision. Nevertheless, there is still literature that questions the validity of the selection process (Hollensen and Schimmelpfennig, 2013). The included literature only considers one model in this process and this is not to say this will definitely be successful. The conceptual framework proposed offers a pathway to helping to select the ‘correct’ endorser. But there are many other factors that will have an impact on the consumer’s attitude and behaviour. But it is for certain, there is evidence supporting the rational method behind the selection process for endorsers and marketers must take this into consideration. But, there is no set process to guarantee the effectiveness of endorsers. All that marketers can do is consider the published literature as a starting point to the selection of the most credible celebrity.

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