Mechanism and theories of celebrity endorsement -
September 20th, 2010
Mechanism and theories of celebrity endorsement
Celebrity endorsements give a brand a touch of glamour and the hope that a famous face will provide added appeal and name recognition in a crowded market. In the battle for the mind, you get the customer excited by showing him a known face, and an effective demand is created. In short it helps increase the recall value of the brand. A piece of research states that the target audience age group of 15-30 gets influenced first by cricketers, then Bollywood stars and only then music, festivals and food4.
According to Source Credibility Theory5, acceptance of the message depends on 'Expertness' and Trustworthiness' of the source. Expertness is defined as the perceived ability of the source to make valid assertions. Trustworthiness is defined as the perceived willingness of the source to make valid assertions. Audience acceptance increases with the expertness of the source and the ability of the audience to evaluate the product.
According to Source Attractiveness Theory, which is based on social psychological research, the acceptance of the message depends on familiarity, likeability and similarity. Familiarity is the audience's knowledge of the source through exposure; likeability is the affection for the source's physical appearance and behavior while similarity is the resemblance between source and receiver.
This theory explains the message acceptance in two ways: Identification and Conditioning. Identification is when the receiver or the target audience of the communication begins to identify with the source's attractiveness, and hence tends to accept his opinions, beliefs, habits, attitudes etc.
On identification, a quote from Bijou Kurien, COO, Titan, "We decided on Aamir because we wanted someone who is a bit iconic, who is style-conscious himself, and somebody who cuts across both sex and age group, between urban and rural India. A celebrity who is mouldable and who is not over-exposed". Conditioning is when the attractiveness of the source is supposed to pass on to the brand after regular association of the source with the brand.
Grant McCracken6 has criticized the previous two theories and proposed the Meaning Transfer Theory. The theory explains that a celebrity encodes a unique set of meanings which if well used can be transferred to the endorsed product. Such a transfer takes place in three stages – encoding meanings, meaning transfer, meaning capture (Figure 1).
I. Encoding Meanings: Each celebrity has a unique set of meanings, which can be listed by age, gender, race, wealth, personality or lifestyle. In this way, the celebrities encode a set of meanings in their image. For example Preity Zinta can be seen as a lively, charming, bubbly, witty and enthusiastic.
II. Meaning Transfer: This stage transfers those meanings to the product. When skillfully portrayed, celebrities can communicate this image more powerfully than lay endorsers.
III. Meaning Capture: This assumes that consumers purchase products not merely for their functional value but also for their cultural and symbolic value. The theory says that consumers buy the endorsed product with the intention of capturing some of the desirable meanings with which celebrities have passed on to the product. This is more eminent in lifestyle products like clothes, perfumes, cell phones etc.