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Role of celebrities in advertising is complex: MEC Study

15-January-2010
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Role of celebrities in advertising is complex: MEC Study

With an aim to understand roles for and the effectiveness of celebrity endorsements as a marketing tactic, the second edition of ‘Food for Thought’ series explores celebrity Sensor to understand how consumers react to brand associations with celebrities. The findings of its latest celebrity Sensor report was released by Mediaedge:cia’s (MEC) consumer insight and ROI division, MEC MediaLab.

The study highlights that 32 per cent consumers say that celebrity endorsement influence their purchasing decision. What is also interesting to note is that over 75 per cent consumers believe that too many products are being promoted by celebrities in India. The research also shows that celebrity endorsement still plays an important role in generating brand salience and positively affecting the brand image. In fact, 57 per cent believe that celebrity endorsement makes a brand stand out, while 62 per cent agree that it enhances a brand’s personality.

Another interesting finding is that celebrity role in advertising is complex as they do not appear to build brand trust or belief in product efficacy and nor does it encourage word of mouth. Only 35 per cent of consumers feel a celebrity helps them to trust a product, while 32 per cent believe that a celebrity actually helps them believe that a product actually works and only 31 per cent say that a celebrity makes them want to recommend a brand. The research also highlights the risks for brands that use popular celebrities with broad appeal as 42 per cent of people find it hard to believe which celebrity promotes which product, and this figure jumps to 66 per cent for celebrities who endorse more than one brand.

The celebrity sensor research was conducted over 1,000 adults of urban India, which concentrated on the bigger cities and towns. The sample has been based on the company’s global guidelines for celeb sensor studies. This study was also conducted across 25 countries worldwide.

The highlights

In conversation with exchange4media, Shubha George, COO, MEC, said, “Conventional belief is that India has a greater celebrity culture, but we found the India results in line with other countries. However, this level of interest is generated by a smaller set of celebrities, essentially film stars and cricketers. While there may be specific stars that have overwhelming fan following, at a broad level, interest levels in celebrities are pretty much similar across the country. While majority of Indians prefer local celebrities, there is a strong 40 per cent who would like to see international celebrities endorsing brands.”

She further said, “Celebrities work better for some product categories compared to others, for instance mobile phones, beauty and fragrance, luxury goods and cars. Only around a third of consumers trust brands more, or believes that a brand is efficacious because a celebrity is endorsing it. The biggest area of influence of a celebrity endorsement is that it increases the brand's salience significantly and adds to its imagery. Also, there is peer recommendation and word of mouth generated by celebrity endorsed products.”

On youth influence and the challenges for marketers over celebrity endorsements in India, she observed, “Surprisingly, interest in celebrities vis-à-vis brand associations among youth is similar to the rest of the population. Older age groups (above 45 years) is slightly lower, but the rest are quite matched. Consumers find multiple endorsements by the same celebrities confusing and agree that they have difficulty in remembering who endorses what. This is the single most important challenge for marketers and agency professionals, because multiple endorsements are a reality and if the endorsement is not managed well, there is a real danger of it passing by. That would indeed be a waste of millions of endorsement and advertising monies.”

Six pointers for marketers

MEC also provided six pointers for brands evaluating celebrity endorsements, the first one being the importance of picking the right celebrity and have a long term strategy on how to use them. Secondly, have a powerful central thought that strongly binds the brand and celebrity and uses the celebrity beyond his or her recognisable face.

Third, avoid the danger of casting the celebrity as a screen ‘avatar’ for instance, having Hrithik Roshan dance in all commercials reduces brand recall.

Four, beauty brands beware of beautiful faces: just a pretty face causes confusion in consumers mind as when these celebrities are used without any differentiation to the brand consumers tend to replace one beauty with another in their mind.

Fifth, multiple celebrities for a single brand dilute the association and fragments recall and finally, under investing in media kills the association without even an opportunity to test the strength of the association and to be effective, celebrity endorsements must be used as an overall communication strategy and not standalone.

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