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The Source of Consumer Temptation: Celebrity Endorsements

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The practice of using celebrity endorsement of a product by advertisement agencies to increase a product’s sales is rampant in almost every society in the world. It seems like every commercial has some celebrity confessing how a medication saved his life, or how she could not live without a certain type of shampoo.

Advertisers have coined this practice as the source attractiveness model, which according to H. C. Kelman is that how a celebrity looks, “affects the effectiveness of persuasive communication through identification, which occurs when information from an attractive source is accepted as a result of desire to identify with such endorsers,” which implies that the consumer/audience is subconsciously drawn to a product simply because she saw the product make Cameron Diaz’s hair shine, or he saw that a certain machine made Brad Pitt’s abs rock hard (as cited in Um, n. d).

Advertisers have been using this tactic of celebrity endorsement to persuade the audience to buy their products, and this endorsement takes three shapes: trustworthiness, attractiveness, and expertise. In a study done by Chanthika Pornpitakpan, it was found that “all three credibility dimensions positively relate to purchase intention,” which means that when an endorser looks attractive, the audience feels like they can trust the endorser, or if the endorser claims to be an expert on the product the audience is much more likely to buy the product (Pornpitakapan 2004).

For example take the Subway spokesman, Jared, who claims to have lost an enormous amount of weight from eating nothing but subway sandwiches. When Subway stopped airing Jared’s commercials in 2005, their profits fell dramatically, and subsequently put him back on all Subway commercials. The American society is telling Subway that if they don’t keep someone on their commercials that they can trust, they do not see the value in the food. These types of endorsements are good and bad for everyone. Good for corporation’s profits, but the corporation is not in control of who can endorse the product.

Good for the consumer because she feels like she can relate to the celebrity if she buys the product, but is the consumer being tricked? Grant McCracken, in his article, “Who is the Celebrity Endorser? Cultural Foundations of the Endorsement Process” states that “the received wisdom of the celebrity endorsement is modest and imperfect,” which is true if one considers that Paris Hilton’s dog has her own apparel line, and people buy the dog clothes simply because it is endorsed by Paris Hilton’s dog (McCracken 1989).

The use of nonhuman endorsers like pets, 3D avatars and cartoon characters depicts fun and cool perception of the products being endorsed. These nonhuman endorsers are effective promoters of otherwise boring or dull products. The only drawback in this kind of advertising occurs when the celebrity gets involved in negative publicity. Consumers tend to shy away from products that are endorsed by celebrities with negative image.

The advertisers as a result pull out these commercials and immediately replace their endorsers by more trustworthy ones. It seems there is an apparent and static effect of source attractiveness on a consumer’s shopping habits. Not only is this fact used by our advertisement agencies to boost profits, but the consumers in a society perpetuate the use of celebrity endorsements by not buying the product without one.

Does the product the consumer is buying truly work the way it is advertised, or will the consumer be disappointed when the product does not exceed the expectations? The probable answer is the latter, but it does not appear that consumer habits are about to change anytime in the near future. The responsible thing for the consumer to do is to do her own research about a product instead of taking the celebrity’s endorsement.

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