Does celebrity still sell? Part 1

A few months back, I attended a conference in the Philippines and one of the speakers presented on the power of word of mouth marketing. I am a big fan of that but the speaker went on to share how he believed that “celebrity endorsement does not work!”.

This is a question a lot of marketers ask. There are also many thoughts around this question.

In a New York Times article, the journalist wrote about “How nothing sells like celebrity

Using celebrities for promotion is hardly new. Film stars in the 1940s posed for cigarette companies, and Bob Hope pitched American Express in the late 1950s. Joe Namath slipped into Hanes pantyhose in the 1970s, and Bill Cosby jiggled for Jell-O for three decades. Sports icons like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods elevated the practice, often scoring more in endorsement and licensing dollars than from their actual sports earnings.

The speaker at the event showed a bus ad of Rain (a popular korean singer) endorsing a hair product and he went on to ask the audience, “how many of you believe that Rain actually use this product?” It is a valid question. I am not sure if I believed Rain does.

I asked my girlfriends (who are in marcomm and PR) what they think over coffee, and as usual, we all have very different views. The thoughts ranged from “depending on who the celebrity is” to “depending on whether the celebrity and the product are ‘believable’. My ex-colleague believes in celebrity slimming campaigns if she can see the before and after results. And interestingly enough, my best friend, Yen who is currently doing her Master degree in Marketing Communications also thinks that celebrity slimming endorsement works for her.

Jonathan, my other half thinks that celebrity endorsement works only for certain brands, mostly for awareness building, for example Maria Sharapova endorsing the the Canon Powershot cameras caught his attention. posted the top 10 celebrity gadget endorsements that works and created awareness but not necessary resulted in purchase.

For me, while I agree with the speaker at the conference about the lack of credibility of Rain using the cheap hair care product he endorses, I disagree that celebrity endorsement doesn’t work. I think it does. It depends on the objectives. Objectives of the campaign, the image and message the brand or product needs to communicate and what exactly does the celebrity has to do

My good friend, Walter Lim blogged about similar topic some while back – on VISA’s celebrity ad for the Olympic. Walter’s post was looking at effective ads and the celebrity they used. The ad was effective for VISA because it is a good ad or was it because it has Jackie Chan’s endorsement? Maybe both.

For me? It is about association. If i can associate a brand with the celebrity, it works for me. Kiera Knightley as the face for Chanel caught my attention and i could associate the product, brand and the celebrity together.

I am going to leave other thoughts to next post. Anyone believes celebrity endorsement is completely a waste of marketing/ PR dollars?


9 thoughts on “Does celebrity still sell? Part 1

  1. I agree with the point that the objective of the campaign is important. With a good celebrity which can carry off the same values the brands wants to carry out, it’s a perfect match.

    However, I feel celebrity endorsements shouldn’t be a one off to make it effective. Building a relationship between your brand endorser and your brand is essential. Jordan and Nike are a classic example of doing it right. Pepsi’s ‘grab any celeb which is popular because it appeals to the the masses’ hasn’t proven to be a long lasting success. Think Britney and M.Jackson.

    I believe celebs still can sell products, after all, who doesn’t want to be associated with them? 🙂

  2. I’ve had thoughts on this that I’ve mentioned about the Eva Longoria/Magnum ad. Based on the very very small convenience sample of people who read the blog post, I’d say the effects of celebrity endorsements aren’t completely gone.

    A recent example of celebrity endorsement (albeit not in a commercial setting) is that of and other artists putting together a mashup of an Obama speech and putting it on youtube to millions of views.

    Let’s not forget Oprah’s book club, where any book that makes it on that list, instantly becomes a bestseller.

    I believe depending on the context and who the person is, the call to action can be very strong.

  3. Daryl, the reason i put a (part 1) to this post is, there are simply too many things I want to share that are related to this topic. You raised an example of a “viral campaign” with the use of celebrity and that is interesting.

    And you are so right about Oprah! That is the reason how I ended up with the title- Hundred years of solitude (bought a day after Oprah said it’s good on her show!) but I never really finish reading.

    what are your thoughts on “celebrity” bloggers? Does that work too for brands they endorse? That’s probably one of the topics in next post…

  4. hello.. i was just browsing the site when i came across ur article. I posted a similar article about product endorsements here. With this, I would like to invite u to view my site and I urgently need ur opinion/comments about.

    U see, our company is planning to get this artist since he/she already did series of advertisements for our competitor. But since, his/her contract ended, our company is planning to get them for consistency. Do u think this is a smart move? won’t it confuse our target market since they’ve already set the market’s minds that they’ve been endorsing this competitor of ours.

    Looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks..

  5. Hi Stephanie,

    Sorry for late response as work and travel are both eating up all my time to blog.

    Anyway, my personal opinion to your question – i do think it can be confusion for audience. If i already recognise a particular celebrity, associating him or her to a particular brand/ product, it’ll be confusing for me if he/she suddenly endorse another competing brand

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