Reasons of celebrity advertising can be found in surplus in scientific literature. According to Belch & Belch (2001) the reasons companies spending enormous amounts of money to ensure celebrities appearance in their ads and endorse their products is only that celebrities possess stopping power. They snatch attention to advertisements and increase message recall frequency. Celebrities assist in recognition of brand names, form positive attitudes toward the brand and provide a personality to the endorsed brand. In addition, it is perceived that celebrities could favorably influence consumers’ mind-set, feelings and buying behavior.
There are three main theories which provide reasons to the celebrity endorsement advertising. These are as under:
1) The Meaning Transfer Model (McCracken, 1989)
2) The Elaboration Likelihood Model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1983)
3) The Three-order Hierarchy Model (Ray, 1977)
In the Meaning transfer model the reason for celebrity endorsement is based on the assumption that by this the endorser brings his/her own personality specific meanings to the brand. So such association will infuse the endorser’s specific meanings into the product image, eg. Sachin Tendulkar is endorsing Boost energy drink. By this endorsement, Boost has got an image of stamina increasing drink. Thus, the celebrities are considered the main “players” in the course of meaning transfer (Johansson & Sparredal, 2002). Referring this model, it is advised to use celebrity endorsement when the celebrity posses and able to transfer the particular features which the company wants for the product.
With an aim to explain the process of persuasive communication to influence the attitude, the Elaboration likelihood model (ELM) was developed (Johansson & Sparredal, 2002). Formation of attitude depends on the amount and nature of explanation of relevant information that happens in response to a influential message. So, the efficacy of a celebrity endorser in any advertisement depends on involvement level of the receiver. There exist empirical evidences of using a celebrity endorser when the receiver’s involvement is poor, because in that case the celebrity’s presence will affect attitudes more significantly.
The third model i.e. the Three-order hierarchy model, is quite complex. In this, there lies three response hierarchy stages. These stages are based on perceived product differentiation and product involvement. These different response hierarchies are the standard learning, attribution/ dissonance and low-involvement (Floyd, 1999). According to this theory, the celebrity endorsement is recommended when the consumers are unreceptive and unresponsive, because then the focus of the consumers may be on non-message essentials (Johansson & Sparredal, 2002).
In Indian context, as the involvement of the receiver is quite significant with the celebrities, the meaning transfer model for celebrity endorsement strategy is used. So such association will impart the endorser’s specific traits into the product image, eg. Saniya Mirza is endorsing Bornvita little champ daily health drink. By this endorsement, the product has got an image of stamina and smartness enhancing ads on to milk.
2.4 Threats of celebrity endorsement
Celebrity endorsement is not always successful. There exist lots of risks associated with it. In views of both Buck (1993) and Tripp et al. (1994), the significance of an elite accord with the celebrity and the added exclusivity is that the larger the pulling powers of the star, the bigger the risk. In support of this, Leventhal (1994) recommends that celebrity endorsements are always associated to a high-risk, high-reward state and there always remains a human element of which you are not aware of, and you are to evaluate the potential risks against the potential rewards. According to McCracken (1989) an endorsement is winning, when the features of the celebrity are adopted by the endorsed product. Though, the study carried out by Walker et al. (1992) supports the endorser having certain desired attributes for endorsing the product. Selection of an appropriate endorser for the product is a crucial and complicated task. While selecting a celebrity endorser, both the product attributes that are to be given and specific meanings associated with the endorser’s personality should be considered. Also, It is important that any prior promotional campaign by the endorser should not conflict with current endorsed product (Newsom et al., 2000). Holloway and Robinson (1995) opine that there is a threat with personality based advertising, as when a personality suffers with unfavorable public relations exposure, the credibility of the brand also suffers.
Just an insight in the utility of celebrity endorsement is not enough specially when seeking to make sure the effectiveness of an advertisement. The effectiveness of celebrity endorsement in advertisement depends on the degree of association between the brand and the celebrity, but the formation of such a link is synchronized with the risk (Till, 1998). The threats underlying the celebrity endorsement can be segregated into three broad classes:
Risk or exposure of each kind is based on different assumptions.
The first risk entails the peril of negative advertising concerning the celebrity (White, Goddard and Wilbur, 2009). It is due to the strong relation of brand with the celebrity. Incidence of a negative publicity about the celebrity may brim over the brand image. Also there is a risk of moral danger. That means, some mall practices of celebrities may damage or alter their images. Such alteration in image can harmfully affect the meanings actually the advertisers wish to convey to their brands by the endorsement (Tellis, 1998). The celebrity related risk also involves extinction (Johansson & Sparredal, 2002). Say for example, an sportsperson who wins a gold medal in the Olympics, proved to be a very good endorser for a specific brand. Unfortunately, the athlete gets injured or facing a lower swing of career then company must shift to the other celebrity.
The second risk is of overshadowing the brand. It is the situation where the attention of the consumers remains only on the celebrity not on the brand being endorsed (Erdogan, 1999; Belch & Belch, 2001; Ericsson & Hakansson, 2005). Overexposure as well as confusion also increases the risk (Ericsson & Hakansson, 2005).
According to Tandon & Melhrotra (2005), financial risk is also involved in celebrity endorsement. Celebrity endorsement contracts with famous entertainment and sports celebrities are very expensive. Being rational, it is important for company to consider if the celebrity endorser is worth the investment. All these hazards should be addressed in the procedure of celebrity’s selection for advertising.
So, before execution of the strategy, aggregate of all symbolic meanings of the endorser’s personality should be given a bull eye. However, theoretically it is fine to investigate symbolic meanings associated to any celebrity but its practical implementation is quite complex because of the complexity of cultural values and meanings inherent in his/her personality (Walker et al., 1992). Company’s control over the celebrity’s public persona is sheer because a celebrity has created its own persona over the years. Therefore, it will be significant for the marketing manager to perform with great analytical skills allowing him or her to decipher information from several sources prior to selecting the appropriate attributes of the celebrity for the endorsed product.
Over-exposure of any celebrity may have a ill effect. The customer begins losing the focus and also the communication message gets blurred. The consumer feels unable to attach with any brand (Gahlaut, 2010). Just like what happened in the case of Amitabh Bachchan, the Bollywood image appeared in 2 campaigns running at the same time on TV those days. In one of them, he was promoting his forthcoming reality quiz show KBC (Kaun Banega Crorepati); in the other, he was endorsing the Challengers Trophy cricket, which was expected to begin the coming week in South Africa. Both were so similar in their styles that the message would be lost if someone doesn't watch the full advertisement.
The fundamental objective under celebrity endorsement is to transmit the values associated with the celebrity to the brand or product and thus establish the brand by use of that alliance, which obtains immediate recognition, superior attention and therefore higher sales revenues. However, there too exist darker sides of celebrity endorsement, since a brand can anytime fall down in the consumers’ mind as quickly as it stirred up. There are a lot of examples of brand failure in spite of being endorsed by most appreciated celebrities. For example, Rani Mukherjee failed in endorsing a cycle brand where she is used only due to her popularity without looking for Brand-celebrity fit.
2.4.1 Pros and Cons of celebrity brand endorsement
After having an in-depth insight over the celebrity endorsement strategy, its clear that this strategy has its own benefits and drawbacks. Considering the advantages and risks at the platform will enable a marketing manager to plan the strategy in a better way. Below table provides a quick overview of the pros and cons of celebrity endorsement.