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The purpose of this research is to equip marketing personnel in Singapore with better understanding of the effects of negative information on celebrity endorsers can have on the consumers' attitudes towards the endorsed product and whether the occurrence of negative information have an impact on the consumers' perception of the celebrity endorser's credibility. Through this research, companies may also adopt the knowledge on how the link between celebrity endorser and the product can affect consumers' purchasing intention. By using survey, this method would allow us to gather information on the degree of concern that consumers will give to negative information concerning the celebrity endorsers and whether different amount of attention were given for different types of scandals. Information collected from the survey could also be used in determining further research. Through this research, companies have to bear in mind the amount of consumers' uncertainty when selecting the celebrities for the endorsement of their products to target different group of consumers (Bailey, 2007).
The use of celebrities in advertisements has been rapidly increasing, as it is believed to contribute substantial positive impact on financial returns for the companies that use them (Endorgan et al., 2001; Agrawal and Kamakura, 1995). The intensity of using a celebrity enables the product to imbue a strong persuasive communication in influencing consumer's buying intention is gaining in momentum and is intensified in this 'Internet' age (Biswas, Hussain and O'Donnell, 2009). The impetus that drives buying intention is initiated by attracting the consumer's attention and followed by developing a positive association that will lead to brand recall and eventually induce trial and then purchase of the product (Edwards and Ferle, 2009; Khatri, 2006).
Atkin and Block (1983) conducted a research on the effectiveness of celebrity endorsers. They found that advertisements that featured a celebrity appeared more favourably than those that featured a non-celebrity. When a well-known celebrity endorser is featured, the product image is likely to be more positive. However, this study is only limited to alcohol advertising on young consumers. Silvera and Austad (2004) suggested that the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement can also be greatly affected by consumers' assumptions regarding whether the celebrity endorser genuinely likes the product they endorse.
Steinberg and Tracik (2003; cited in Bailey, 2007, p.86) stated that normally when celebrity endorsers are involved in certain scandals, it does not affect brands and celebrities negatively.
Most of the previous studies on celebrity endorsements suggested that celebrities are selected based on the favourable virtues that they demonstrate (Erdogan et al., 2001). However, over the years, celebrities have been involved in various controversies, and where even celebrities with clean record are associated with multiple product endorsements, which will negatively affect consumers' perceptions of the endorser and the advertising (Tripp et al., 1994). As a result, even positive information may cause a negative impact on these consumers (Bailey, 2007).
2.2 Critical review of literature
2.2.1 Impact of negative celebrity information
In a research conducted in 2007 by Bailey, he concluded that negative information relating to the celebrity endorsers had little or no effect on the consumers' attitudes towards the endorsed brands and companies. This is due to the fact that consumers' purchasing intention of a particular brand does not merely rely on the endorsement of the celebrities. However, factors that will likely affect their attitudes will include the nature of controversy and the strength of the connection between the brand and the celebrity. Generally, when a brand is endorsed by a celebrity who is involved in a controversy, consumers will not turn away from the brand if the connection between the celebrity and the brand is weak (Bailey, 2007).
Over the years, negative events involving celebrity endorsers, instigated more recent studies that investigate the effects of these events (Louie and Obermiller, 2002; Money et al., 2006; Till and Shimp, 1998). In a study on the effect of negative celebrity information on consumers' attitudes, Till and Shimp (1998) found that negative celebrity information may reduced the attraction of the celebrity endorser and in turn affect the assessment of the endorsed brand negatively. The impact of the negative celebrity information is found to be greater when strong connection between the brand and the celebrity is present.
Louie and Obermiller (2002) conducted two studies on how companies should respond when the celebrity endorsers they engaged are alleged for the cause of negative events. Results shown in their first study stated that when they dismissed existing celebrity endorsers with high blame while keeping those with low blame, companies will perform better. In their second study, results stated that in the process of selecting the prospective endorsers, companies will performed more positively when they hired low blame candidates and less positively when rejecting moderate blame candidates.
In a research conducted by Money et al. (2006), involving celebrity endorsers from the US and Japan, they found that consumers in both nations showed stronger purchasing intention in the presence of self-oriented negative celebrity information than the consumers who were exposed to other-oriented negative celebrity information and even to those consumers where no negative celebrity information were present. Apparently, the consumers seemed to benefit from self-oriented negative celebrity information. Conversely, those who were exposed to other-oriented negative celebrity information does not behaved less positively than those who received no negative celebrity information.
Amos et al. (2008) conducted a research on the connection between celebrity endorser source effects and effectiveness in advertising. They found that the exposure of negative information involving the celebrity endorser can weaken the neutrality of the endorsed product/brand. Positive as well as negative celebrity information and image can be transfer to the product/brand. Companies should work out emergency strategies to revoke any potential negative information/events.
Some of these marketers now have to compete with matters such as the extent to which the endorsement careers of contentious endorsers can be revitalized (see Kang, 2005, who discusses the case of Nike's efforts to resurrect the brand's association with once-beleaguered NBA star Kobe Bryant) (Bailey, 2007).
Gender is a common demographic variable, used in nearly every study, yet never fully utilized in various researches aside from the casual mention in the respondent profile (Bush, Martin and Bush, 2004; Wang, 2005; Silvera and Austad, 2004; O'Mahony and Meenaghan, 1997).
Klaus and Bailey studies in 2008 considered the impact of gender on consumer's attitudes and perceptions of celebrity athlete endorsements (Klaus and Bailey, 2008). This does not only refer to the gender of the consumer but also the gender of the celebrity endorsers. Klaus and Bailey developed two independent variables- the gender of the participant and the gender of the celebrity endorser. However, there were ambiguous results in the study.
Ohanian in a similar studies reported that there were no significant main effects of gender in her study of the impact of gender on consumers' perception in terms of a celebrity's attractiveness, trustworthiness, or expertise in the endorsement (Ohanian, 1991). In her study, there was no effort made to match the celebrities used, in terms of the products with which they were associated (for example, matching male sports celebrity and female sports celebrity; matching male entertainment celebrity and female entertainment celebrity).
Hence, based on the above study, we could deduce that Ohanian's study that dated in the 90's which may be a little outdated. Perhaps the theory then may not be applicable to the social changes and features of the current society that is 20 years later. This helps to develop a hypothesis that what was true then may not be true now due to the paradigm shift of society over the years. Thus, the hypothesis developed might even be opposite to Ohanian's claim.
The selectivity hypothesis suggests that women are more comprehensive processors of information than men are. Kempf, Laczniak and Smith studies found that, women viewed advertisements comprehensively, while men were more likely to look for readily available cues to form brand judgements (Kempf, Laczniak and Smith, 2006). Given that negative emotions are assured higher analytical value, Matheswaran and Meyers-Levy suggested that females tend to go more into detail on negative emotions before positive emotions (1990; cited in Edwards and Ferle, 2009, p.26)
In another research conducted by in 2004 by Boyd and Shank to investigate the effects of gender matching between consumers and sports celebrity endorsers to determine whether consumers' perceptions of the attractiveness, trustworthiness and expertise of the celebrity are affected. They found no significant effect on attractiveness or expertise of the celebrity, but a significant interaction on trustworthiness. Women rated female sports endorsers more favourably than they rated male sports endorsers and men favoured the male sports endorsers more (Boyd and Shank, 2004). In consistent with this, research by Edwards and Ferle (2009) also indicated that when the celebrity endorser is the same sex as the consumer, he/she will be rated more favourably.
Hence, with good understanding and limitations of many previous researches the current research wishes to explore in-depth the possibility of a relationship between the gender of the consumers in their attitudes under the impact of negative information about the celebrity endorsers. In addition it also attempt to understand consumer's high intention to buy a product may not necessary stem from a favourable image of the celebrity endorser, but may be caused by other mediating factors, such as price and functionality of product.
2.3 Research Framework
2.3.1 Conceptual Schema & Key Hypothesis
Consumer's Attitude towards celebrity endorser
Negative Celebrity Information
Consumer's Attitude towards brand
Consumer's Purchasing Intention
Figure 1 - Relationship between negative celebrity information, celebrity credibility, brand credibility, consumer's attitudes and purchasing intention.
With reference to Figure 1 above, it shows the conceptual schema tested in the study. It clearly shows the likelihood of a relationship affecting the attitudes towards the brand, the celebrity endorser and the purchasing intention.
Moreover, several researches have frequently use college students as their subjects for research, which may not be representative to consumers as the whole. Hence, it will be more comprehensive if the research targeted respondents of all ages to study so that it can better understand and evaluate this peculiar consumer behavioural reaction.
With this intention in mind, the following hypotheses are proposed:-
Negative information on the celebrity endorser will impact adversely on the consumers' attitude towards the celebrity and the endorsed brand.
The impact of negative information will be stronger when the celebrity endorser is closely connected to the endorsed product.
Female consumers respond more strongly than male consumers on negative information of a celebrity endorser.
This chapter provides a better picture of the current issues, ideas and theories relevant to the research. This is essential to develop the critical theme of the topic and provide answers to the research questions. Critical review of the two demographic variables, age and gender are been discussed in Chapter 2.2. In Chapter 2.3, a research framework and key hypotheses are presented to provide an overview of the research focuses.