With so much information coming at us from so many different directions we tend to tune out don’t we? But it can be pretty hard to resist when we see a celebrity we like. I recently saw a news article about Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Melbourne Grand Prix, again, like last year, and it got me wondering about celebrity endorsements and why it works.
The Science; how it works and why it is effective.
So what is actually going on when we see a celebrity and how can this help marketers? Research has shown that when a product is viewed with a celebrity the areas of the brain that deal with recalling explicit memories and associating pieces of information are activated as are the reward centres (Stallen et al 2010, pp. 807-809) . This did not happen when non-celebrities were used or when a celebrity was viewed without a product.
Neuroscience tells us that memories are strengthened when connections are made between different pieces of information. The more pieces of information that are connected the stronger the memory. It makes sense that connecting the memories of a celebrity and your experiences around that celebrity, for example watching a movie with friends, would help to make your product recall stronger and the study does show this; participants did have an improved recall of products when celebrities were used compared to non-celebrities (Stallen et al 2010, pp. 807-809).
It also explains the phenomenon of transference of positive feelings about a celebrity to products. Sometimes we just find celebrities entertaining but they can also be aspirational figures and it is easy to see how connecting the product to the positive associations we have with the celebrity can facilitate the transfer of our positive feelings onto the products as suggested by McGuire (cited in Hung 2014, p2). The study found that participants were also were more positive about products when celebrities were used compared to non-celebrities Stallen et al (2010, pp. 807-809).
When celebrity endorsements don’t go so well
Celebrity endorsements can cost a fortune . For a company to get bang for their buck the celebrities need to suit the brand and goal of the marketers. The celebrity also needs to appear credible which isn’t always easy to do consistently. Note Oprah’s ‘whoops’ moment.
Things could be much worse. Sometimes celebrities seriously damage their own brand through their own behaviour, like Tiger Woods or Lance Armstrong. One might imagine that if consumers can be influenced by celebrities positively the opposite can also be true. Research by Miller and Washington (2013, p. 482) has shown that while scandal affects 1 in 5 consumers negatively it has no impact on around three quarters of consumers. Meanwhile over 1 in 10 of the 18 to 34 age group and 1 in 20 of the 35 to 44 age group actually felt better about the brand! Who would have thought?
Celebrity endorsements do get our attention, improve product recall, and can help to promote positive feelings about a product and while there is risk that the arrangement could go pear shaped the downside to consumers perceptions isn’t as bad as you might think.
Is Arnold Schwarzenegger a marketing genius?
Getting back to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appearance at the Melbourne Grand Prix two years in a row. It turns out that Arnold’s fee for hosting the post race interviews last year was a tray of burgers and a bottle of water (Cram, 2015). Incredible value for race organizers but what was in it for Arnold? It turns out that Arnold was in Melbourne for the Arnold Classic Australia body building competition which is held in Melbourne each year at the same time as the Melbourne Grand Prix, one of many Arnold Classics held around the world each year. The Grand Prix appearance certainly did provide plenty of free and world wide news coverage for his event last year and again this year, linking in people’s memories his own celebrity, the Grand Prix event and the Arnold Classic, and also reminding people that the Melbourne Grand Prix weekend is also the weekend of Arnold Classic every year.
jennygregory2016, Student ID 215024115
Cram, M 2015, You won’t believe what it cost to get Arnold Schwarzenegger interviewing Lewis Hamilton, 3AW 16 March 2015, retrieved March 25 2016, <http://www.3aw.com.au/news/you-wont-believe-what-it-cost-to-get-arnold-schwarzenegger-interviewing-lewis-hamilton-20150316-1lzzj8.html>
Hung, K 2014 Why Celebrity Sells: A Dual Entertainment Path Model of Brand Endorsement, Journal of Marketing, 43(2) 155-166.
Miller R and Washington K, 2013, Consumer Behaviour, Richard K Miller & Associates, Miami FL, p. 483
TheRichest 2015, 10 Of The Highest Paid Celebrity Endorsement Deals, TheRichest, 2 February 2015, retrieved 3 April 2016, http://www.therichest.com/expensive-lifestyle/money/10-of-the-highest-paid-celebrity-endorsement-deals/
Stallen, M, Smidts, A, Rijpkema, M, Smit, G, Klucharet V, Fernandez, G, 2010, Celebrities and shoes on the female brain: The neural correlates of product evaluation in the context of fame, Journal of Economic Psychology, 31 pp. 802-811