Brands Employing Celebrities As Endorsers Cultural Studies Essay

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Many theorists and scholars believe that there are different methods which marketers should follow in order to create a successful marketing campaign. This literature review will focus in detail on the methods that are implemented when brands employ celebrities as endorsers. The research will show the advantages and disadvantages of employing such celebrities and what they need to take into consideration when deciding to use this popular advertising tool.


We firstly need to establish what celebrities are known to be. Is it Tom Cruise for his heroic role in Top Gun? Could it be the winner of Big Brother, or merely a cartoon character? 'In his 1961 book The Image, Daniel Boorstin defined celebrities as people well known for their 'well-knowness'. His definition simply suggests that being a celebrity is about not being forgotten. However, what he fails to mention is that there are a full range of modern celebrities. There are real celebrities, such as Tom Cruise, who is well known for his talent, and there are celebrities who are more like fictional characters, such as reality stars.

'The celebrity phenomenon has largely been created by the movies and television, but there is no doubt that other media have played a significant part. Indeed a whole new sector has grown up that promotes and feeds off celebrity culture. Magazines such as Hello!, OK!, Heat and Now! Sell an enormous number of copies per issue and its estimated that in 2002 the total sale of celebrity- related magazines approached 100 million in the UK' (Pringle, 2004: 10)

This suggests that there is a large increase in the number of 'celebrities' who appear in these types of publications. As mentioned above, we have become suffused with celebrity. Within different social groups, celebrities differ from the norm to a high degree of public awareness. There are classic forms of a celebrity, like models, Reality stars, Actors, Sports athletes and Pop stars and there are not so popular or obvious celebrities like politicians and business men. These individuals and characters are targeted to a product, which makes it likely that the target audience will identify with both the endorser and the message.


It has been said that many celebrities are used in advertising to attract consumers to products. They are generally used to create brand awareness, Bartels & Nelissen believe that 'Celebrities are perceived to be more credible, friendlier, more familiar and more trustworthy than ordinary people' (Bartels & Nelissen, 2002:116) This would appear that many consumers are more inclined to buy a celebrity endorsed product as they believe they know more about the celebrity modelling it. Many consumers will believe that if the celebrity is endorsing the product then it must be good, which influences them to make the purchase. As Kamins discovered

'Although they may not be a celebrity, or ever become one, the typical consumer may still symbolically aspire to identify with this group by purchasing the product recommended by the celebrity.' (Kamins, 1990:4)

Kamins has suggested that although the consumers are aware that they will never become a celebrity, they will still buy the product as it must be good if a celebrity is fronting the campaign. In many campaigns, what it doesn't suggest is the amount of revenue the celebrity is earning by fronting the campaign- this will be researched in more detail later on in this thesis.

Celebrity endorsement advertising has become increasingly popular over the last 20 years, more so from the introduction of different definitions of a celebrity and how the meaning of a celebrity has changed in terms of how the term 'celebrity' is used by a consumer. As Kamins mentions 'Indeed, even a decade ago, one in three television commercials used celebrity endorsements and today this advertising approach appears to be on the increase across all media types' (Kamins, 1990:4) Many researchers have identified that celebrity endorsement advertising is a good promotional tool to attract consumers to products, despite the amount of money brands use to have celebrities front their campaigns, they must receive a good response; otherwise this tool wouldn't be so popular in brand advertising. 'The intention is for the positively perceived attributes of the celebrity to be transferred to the advertised product and for the two to become automatically linked in the audience's mind' (Gunter, Oates & Blades, 2005:20) However, Weir (1993:171) suggests that 'despite the fact that individuals generally believe that celebrities say what they do about products because they have been paid to say it', it could be said that many consumers are much more aware nowadays of how the 'advertising game' is played, the amount of money celebrities are paid to endorse products currently is not kept a secret. However, if consumers know this information and are aware that most celebrities endorse certain products because they are being paid a substantial amount to do so, why are they continuingly buying them and contradicting their opinions and views?

'They appreciate that celebrities are 'doing it for the money' and if that's all they are seen to be doing in the brand campaign then it's unlikely to be particularly successful and could even be counterproductive' (Pringle, 2004: 95)

With these views in mind, many products are successful before the celebrities are recruited as endorsers, or in some circumstances different products have different celebrities every year to front their campaigns. It could be argued that many brands use celebrities as a way of telling consumers that they can afford to use celebrity endorsement advertising, it is sometimes used as a way to show that they are a good brand because certain celebrities would want to endorse their brand.


Many marketers have to take into consideration different aspects of a celebrity before deciding upon them fronting their advertising campaign.

The credibility of the celebrity is important in all marketing campaigns; the source of the information needs to reflect the product. As a consumer we will need to believe that the celebrity has been used to front the campaign because of their expertise in knowing or using the product. They would also need to reflect and attract the target audience. Byrne has mentioned that. 'Credibility is the extent to which the recipient sees the source as having relevant knowledge, skill or experience and trusts the source to give unbiased, objective information' (Byrne, 2003:29) as Byrne suggests the consumer will have more confidence in buying the product if the celebrity reflects the brand.

It would be said that many consumers trust the celebrity's knowledge and understanding, to believe that the product they are endorsing is a good product, and the consumer should buy it. As Gerard previously stated 'Expertness and trustworthiness are two key qualities that, if present to a sufficient degree, will lead the audience to accept and internalize message' (Gerard, 2004: 181) As long as the expertise from the celebrity is used within the campaign there should be no reason why consumers will not believe that the product is not worthy enough to purchase, taking this into consideration many consumers will also have the trust of the celebrity to believe that what they are saying is true, and that the product is a good product as the celebrity 'uses it'.

Shimp (2003) created a 'Tears' Model, whereby he believe that this model is a good reflection on what makes celebrity advertising successful, as long as marketers follow this strategy there should be no reason why employing a celebrity will not be successful. Within the model he believes that there are 5 important factors that should be taken into consideration using the dimensions of credibility and trustworthiness;

The trustworthiness of a celebrity is important to create a meaning transfer from product to consumer, it is important to justify why the celebrity is used to promote the product. As Shimp explains

'In general, endorsers must establish that they are not attempting to manipulate the audience and that they are objective in their presentations. By doing so, they establish themselves as trustworthy and, therefore, credible. Also, and endorser has a greater likelihood of being perceived as trustworthy the more he or she matches the audience in terms of distinct characteristics such as gender and ethnicity' (Shimp, 2003: 252)

Shimp believes that providing the celebrity has these 5 features in common with the product being advertised, and then there should be no reason why it would not work.

There has also been suggested that a 'No tears' approach to endorsement advertising has proven to be just as successful.

The meaning transfer model

The meaning transfer model was designed by McCracken, whereby he belives that if the celebrity is used well then it will transfer the positive effect onto the product being endorsed.

The model below shows an adaption of the Meaning Transfer Model that Halonen-Knight and Leila Hurmerinta, devised based on McCracken's theory.

McCrackens model shows a very similar success to other theories in a sense that the progression between brand and celebrity is the achievement of success for branding. McCracken believes that the reason why there are successes in celebrity endorsement advertising is the meanings transferred from the celebrity to the audience using the product.


The attractiveness theory suggests that an attractive celebrity will draw the consumer's attention to the advertisement. This consists of the three related ideas: Attractiveness, Respect and Similarity.

'Under the assumption that "what is beautiful is good," advertisers have often chosen celebrities on the basis of their physical attractiveness, intending to gain from the dual effects of celebrity status and physical appeal. Indeed, a considerable amount of research exists both in the social sciences and in marketing supporting such a strategy by showing that a physically attractive source facilitates attitude change toward issues, products, and ad-based evaluations. However, research findings also reveal that the physical attractiveness of the source does not always enhance these same measures.' (Kamins, 1990:4)

As Kamins suggests, an attractive celebrity fronting a campaign can lead to the consumer being physically attracted to the product. However, in reality this theory wouldn't apply to all products, the author understands that this theory may be more suitable for hair and beauty products, as there is a connection between product and celebrity, but would not necessarily apply to every product. This could be a disadvantage for some campaigns, as many consumers may find themselves drawn to the celebrity and forget the product being advertised.

'Extremely attractive communicators, however, are less effective because they divert too much attention away from the message… In addition, having more knowledge about the communicator can diminish the effect of attractiveness.' (Bartels & Nelissen, 2002:119)

However, Kamins has stated that in theory an attractive celebrity and product 'match up' but will not necessarily attract the consumer to the product being advertised.

'Thus, according to Kahle and Homer (1985), when a celebrity's physical attractiveness is congruent (matches up) with the presence and degree to which the product advertised enhances attractiveness (i.e., attractive celebrity linked with an attractiveness-related product), the "match-up" hypothesis would predict a positive impact upon product and advertisement evaluations. However, if there is incongruence between the product and celebrity attractiveness, evaluations will decline.' (Kamins. 1990:5)

If the consumer respects the celebrity, then this tends to enhance brand equity, due to the positive effect the consumers have towards it due to its endorser. The last component of the TEARS model is /Similarity. This refers to the consumer's relation to the celebrity in terms of age, gender, social class,etc. It would appear to be an important feature of advertising, as it is an easy way for the consumer to relate to the endorser. A celebrity endorser is regarded as more trustworthy if his/her characteristics match those of the audiences.


Companies frequently use spokespersons as a way to deliver a message to promote products, services and ideas to encourage consumers to use their brands. A celebrity is a very popular spokesperson; marketers tend to use celebrities as a way of brand recognition, to appeal to the target audience. Kamins suggests that 'celebrities are effective endorsers because of their symbolic aspirational reference group association' (Kamins, 1990:4) Chanel, for example, used the actress Nicole Kidman to endorse its No5 perfume. (Figure 1)

For many women, Chanel No.5 is a classic perfume, and one of the best known perfumes in the world. The perfume is described as 'entrancing and elegant', no wonder Chanel chose this successful Hollywood actress to star in their advertising:

'a beautiful woman who is also an actress of the highest calibre, who has endured a marital break-up and has risen victoriously and with dignity above life's vicissitudes, with style and grace, to become one of the most acclaimed actresses of her generation.' (Maclaren, 2007:36)

According to the Meaning Transfer Model, Kidman would be an ideal celebrity for this type of product; it would appear that there is a connection between celebrity and product, as well as the consumer relationship.

The world's first celebrity endorser was the British actress, Lillie Langtry, for Pears Soap in 1893. She was asked by the soap's manufacturer, Pears, to provide a testimonial saying 'Since using Pears soap, I have discarded all others'. This statement was then printed on posters starring Lillie.