Popularity, Product Relevance, and the Effectiveness of Celebrity Spokespeople

ABSTRACT - The current business press documents that the use of celebrity spokespeople is increasing. However celebrities that are rated effective and popular one year are often dethroned the next. The purpose of this paper is to explore several factors that may influence the effectiveness of celebrity spokespeople.



Citation:

Bridgette M. Braig, Marion Bergmann, and Alice M. Tybout (1995) ,"Popularity, Product Relevance, and the Effectiveness of Celebrity Spokespeople", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, eds. Flemming Hansen, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 44.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, 1995      Page 44

POPULARITY, PRODUCT RELEVANCE, AND THE EFFECTIVENESS OF CELEBRITY SPOKESPEOPLE

Bridgette M. Braig, Northwestern University

Marion Bergmann, Nordic Track

Alice M. Tybout, Northwestern University

ABSTRACT -

The current business press documents that the use of celebrity spokespeople is increasing. However celebrities that are rated effective and popular one year are often dethroned the next. The purpose of this paper is to explore several factors that may influence the effectiveness of celebrity spokespeople.

It is hypothesized that the effectiveness of celebrity spokespeople is a function of the celebrity's popularity and the celebrity's relevance to the product category, and that the relative impact of these factors will be a function of the age of the target audience. Specifically, when the target audience is young, the popularity of the celebrity is reasoned to be the primary determinant of effectiveness. This is anticipated to occur because younger audiences are characterized as media savvy and cynical about advertising and, therefore, must be motivated in order to consider advertising information seriously. The presence of a spokesperson that they like and trust may overcome their natural cynicism and result greater receptivity to the ad information. The celebrity also may serve as an additional, positive feature associated with the product (i.e., evidence of who uses the product), and younger individuals are generally considered to be more sensitive to the opinions of others. Although younger audiences may pride themselves on their "alternative" views relative to societal norms, there exists strong within-group homogeneity. Hence, identification with celebrities and self-expression through product use may be more important for younger audiences than for older audiences.

By contrast, when the target audience is older, the product-relevance of the spokesperson is anticipated to be the primary determinant of effectiveness. This is expected because older audiences may be more receptive toward advertising as a source of information. If older audiences are more reluctant to dismiss advertising as inherently untrustworthy, then they are likely to base their evaluations on information given by the ad rather than their attitude toward the spokesperson. Their evaluations of celebrity effectiveness are guided by the appropriateness or expertise of the spokesperson in the context of the product advertised. Older audiences may not necessarily process ad information in greater detail than younger audiences, but age may reduce reliance on identification with celebrities and lead them to focus more on how the spokesperson fits with the category rather than focusing on popularity per se. As consumers age, they may become more comfortable with their place in their own age cohort as well as their role in greater society. This relatively greater self-confidence may cause older audiences to elaborate on the celebrity as a more objective attribute of the product, rather than a direct source of affect. Therefore expert or trustworthy celebrities that are relevant to the product category are likely to be more effective than spokespeople for whom there is no compelling rationale that ties them to the product.

A study was conducted to test these hypotheses. The results provide preliminary support for the importance of popularity and product relevance for younger and older audiences respectively. The findings are related to the more general source credibility literature, which has focused on dimensions of trustworthiness and expertise. Results are also discussed in terms of the nature of the processing that is likely to underlie the relative reliance on popularity vs. relevance in determining celebrity effectiveness in advertising.

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Authors

Bridgette M. Braig, Northwestern University
Marion Bergmann, Nordic Track
Alice M. Tybout, Northwestern University



Volume

E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2 | 1995



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