By Feyisitan Ijimakinwa
Today, consumers are spoilt for choice and sometimes it can be hard to distinguish one brand from another. In spite of global economic meltdown, brands are still fighting for the mind share, as well as pocket share of consumers. Brands use different methods and approaches to achieve these, and one of such is celebrity advertising.
Celebrity advertising is the use of a public figure’s likeness for the purpose of selling a product or service. Celebrity advertising can be accomplished through celebrity endorsements, whereby the celebrity consents for his or her likeness to be used in advertisements for a certain brand. It’s not a new idea in marketing; celebrity endorsements sell products. While not all brands believe in the celebrity endorsement theory, it is premised on the simple logic that people idolise celebrities. So, when famous people are seen in advertisements promoting a new product, audiences are prompted to buy that product, either subliminally or directly.
Celebrity advertising is very popular. Typically, celebrities are either drawn from traditional media or they are in new media such as social media. Examples of traditional celebrities would be actors, musicians, or professional athletes. New media celebrities include, but are not limited to, digital influencers or internet celebrities. Traditional celebrities can command high costs while endorsements by new media celebrities can be less expensive
Typically, celebrity advertising is associated with large companies. This might be a better choice for established brands with recognised products. Smaller and start-up companies might do better by finding up-and-coming celebrity digital influencers. Often, digital influencers don’t have the name recognition of a traditional star, but they may be very influential among target demographic groups
Social media stardom is on the rise; many celebrities have strongly established themselves as a valuable brand, just through the simple use of different platforms, especially Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter. We have all become mass followers of different celebrities and their private lives on social media. In today’s completely connected world, it is hard for us to not be continually made aware of what celebrities are doing in their everyday lives – and fans take note of this. Brands have learnt to harness this power of celebrities on social media, to create an effective bond with their target market.
Targeting New Customers
A great way of reaching new customers can be by asking a celebrity to either become a brand ambassador or promote your products. A company may discover that it already has an established customer base, but it is struggling to expand into new markets. If such a brand utilises a celebrity for its promotion that attracts a different demographic, it could open up a new market, for the brand, that was otherwise hard to capture.
Social Media Influencers
As well as celebrity endorsements, targeting key individuals and influencers in a particular industry or among a particular demographic can also be a smart move. There is a burgeoning list of social media influencers who command large following and listenership. Someone described social media influencers as “new level celebrities that are not necessarily tied to the screen, stage or field of play.” Getting such influencers onto a brand’s wagon can increase brand awareness and enhance customers’ overall experience.
Celebrities Inspire Consumers’ Confidence
The brand value added by celebrities is immediate and palpable. When a celebrity signs an endorsement deal with a product, an element of legitimacy is suddenly present in the company, simply because of the power of the name backing it up.
A brand research points out that a brand that signs an endorsement contract with a celebrity or an athlete can see its stock rise up to 25%, as soon as the news breaks. This represents an increase in perceived legitimacy from the celebrity’s endorsement, even though the product has not changed at all.
According to a report by Forbes, audiences are daily exposed to close to 3,000 advertisements across all media, leading to an element of marketing overexposure. Studies have shown that advertisements that use a celebrity, about whom many people already have positive feelings and impulses, grab an audience’s attention more easily than a standard advert.
Minefields of Celebrity Advertising
Celebrities are familiar faces that we associate with familiar characteristics. People are inclined to trust a recommendation or endorsement from a known public figure. We feel like we personally know celebrities and we trust them. However, there are drawbacks to celebrity advertising.
A famous celebrity can overshadow a brand and detract from it. Sometime, a brand will rely too heavily on a celebrity endorsement. When that happens, the celebrity can outshine the product or give the impression that they are not genuinely interested. This can make a brand seem inauthentic.
If consumers are not convinced that celebrities are sincere about an endorsement, it can negatively impact the brand. Celebrities who endorse too many products may lose credibility with the public. It is important to match your product or service to the right celebrity.
It can take a long time to influence consumers through a celebrity endorsement. A celebrity endorsement from a star that is not well matched to the brand will not influence consumers at all.
Last line: It is not wise to forgo other marketing channels and focus on endorsements only. Celebrity endorsement alone does not guarantee success. A combination of different factors makes for the success of a brand and its acceptance in the minds of consumers, and the most strategic is ensuring you have a good product to start with.
Feyisitan Ijimakinwa is a Perception and Reputation Management expert, and writes from the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.