The purpose of this study is to examine the celebrity endorsement effects in the political sector. This study mainly focuses on the likability factor of the celebrities to see their effectiveness in situations where the celebrity either endorses the political candidate or decides to speak against the candidate. Moreover, balance theory is also used in the study to provide support for the importance of factors.
Keywords: Celebrity endorsement, credibility, attractiveness, and balance theory.
In the recent era, people always have someone that they admire and follow. Social media and internet have become very popular which have helped celebrities in their fame. People always have actors, musicians, spokespeople, sportsmen etc. that they like and follow which is one of the reasons why celebrities are influential these days. Acelebrity can be defined as a person who is well known among the masses through the mass media or other activities. These activities can be acting, sports, music, modeling etc. In marketing communication, advertisers see celebrities as a great strategy to attract the attention of the people and increase the recall of the audience. Therefore, they use celebrities in endorsements by offering them contracts to endorse their products. However, product/services are not the only things the celebrities endorse. Many celebrities endorse causes like the global warming, rare animal safety, charitable causes etc.
Celebrity endorsement can be explained as a form of the marketing strategy used by brands and companies which involves celebrities or a well-known person using their fame to help promote a service, product or even raise awareness matters which are environmental or related to society (Business dictionary). Another important field that uses celebrity endorsement is that of politics. The focus of this study is to examine the factors that can improve the effectiveness of the celebrity endorsement in the political sector, mainly the elections between the candidates, and provide the solution for a good “fit” which can increase the effectiveness of the political celebrity endorsement as well as for the anti-endorsement.
Celebrity endorsers are very popular in advertisements (Erdogan, 1999; Silvera & Austad, 2004), but there are still some dangers that advertisers feel from it. Erdogan (1999) conducted a study which in which he explained that a celebrity endorsement is a growing phenomenon and a good strategy to use against the competitors in the market. However, it is a “double-edged sword” which means that it has its strengths (increased attention, polishing of image etc.) and weaknesses (overshadowing the brand, overexposure, expensive, vampire effect etc.).
The purpose of Erdogan’s study was to explore the existing literature for celebrity endorsements. Moreover, celebrity endorsement is not a recent strategy but rather an old one which is still strong. Shimp (1997) claimed in his study that nearly 25% of US-based commercials used celebrities. Whenever there is a debate on celebrity endorsement, non-celebrity endorsements are also mentioned because of their advantages i.e. they are cheap, easy to control and can be a good fit for the brand. Moreover, many authors like Tom et al. (1992) does not support the use of celebrities in the endorsement.
The authors of the study explain the importance of non-celebrity endorsements over celebrity endorsements by use of classical conditioning which explains that there is a strong linkage between the product and spokesperson when the spokesperson is created (non-celebrity) but, celebrity endorsers can change the attitude of audience positively and result in greater purchase intention. The study of Erdogan (1999) also talks about four models which are important in the celebrity endorsement:
Source Credibility Model (Ohanian, 1990; Ohanian, 1991)
According to this model, the effectiveness of a message depends on the expertise and trustworthiness of the endorser. Trustworthiness can be explained as the believability and honesty of the endorser and mainly depends on the perception of people. Source credibility of an endorser is also related to the trust. Expertise can be defined as the extent to which a celebrity has knowledge and skills for the endorsement because proper knowledge and skills can help in the persuasion of the audience towards the advertising message. To measure the source credibility model, there are many scales and one of them is mentioned in this study i.e. truth-of-consensus method in which the individuals rank an endorser on a high to low scale of credibility or attractiveness. Ohanian (1990) also constructed a scale for source credibility of celebrity endorsement.
Source Attractiveness Model
Attractiveness is one of the strongest traits a celebrity should have. Advertisers use celebrities mainly to benefit from their dual effect i.e. status and attractiveness (Singer, 1983). According to this model, the effectiveness of advertisement message depends on similarity (when the source and receiver of the message have a resemblance), familiarity (knowledge through exposure) and likability (feeling attracted or attached to a certain individual because it is possible that an individual can be attractive but not likable). Attractiveness is important because it attracts the attention of individuals, but another important thing which the attractiveness helps to generate is the purchase intention which can be increased by using the two-sided format of messages i.e. using the positive and negative statements in the advertisement. To measure the popularity of a celebrity, the researchers can use Performance Q (quotient) rating which is basically a survey to measure the popularity rating of a celebrity.
Product Match-up Hypothesis
The main concept behind this hypothesis is that there should be a good fit between the product and celebrity image for the advertisement message to be successful. Without a proper fit, celebrities can be a danger to the product as celebrity endorsement is a double-edged sword. Evans (1988) explained in his study that if there is not a distinct and specific relationship between the celebrity and their endorsed product, it could lead to the “vampire effect” which is when the “celebrities suck the life blood of the product dry” which means that the celebrities endorsing the product overshadow it and become more prominent in front of the targeted audience than the product itself.
Meaning Transfer Model
According to this model, meaning can be transferred from a product to a consumer. The meaning transfer has three stages which are the formation of the image of the celebrity, transferring the meaning from celebrity to product (creating product personality) and then transferring the meaning from product to the consumer.
In the end, the study by Erdogan (1990) identifies the factors that have been shown to be effective for celebrity endorsers like attractiveness, credibility, fit between celebrity and the product etc. So, celebrity endorsement, if used properly, can be a great weapon in the market to compete with competitors.
Another important study that focused on the effectiveness of celebrity endorsements was that of Silvera & Austad (2004). The main objective of their study was to focus on the factors that influence the celebrity endorsement effectiveness. This study can be considered a summary of some of the factors that can influence the celebrity effectiveness. The study starts off by explaining the double-edged nature of celebrity endorsement. A celebrity is a good resource to attract attention, but if the celebrities have a bad reputation it can affect the product negatively. Moreover, if the endorsement is needed to be effective, it also should consider correspondent inference which means that the audience believes that the celebrity likes the product after using it personally.
The results of the study also supported the notion that if there is a proper correspondent inference, it can provide a positive result for the celebrity endorsement. Among many factors that influence the celebrity endorsement, one such factor can be the cultural difference. Most of the celebrity studies have been done in US where the people and culture like the celebrities, but if these studies would have been conducted in a different culture like Norway, the results would have been different because the culture of Norway is bitter for celebrities as masses distrust the celebrities because they perceive that celebrities think of themselves as better than the normal man.
Another factor to which influences and can improve the celebrity effectiveness is the source credibility which is typically viewed as the function of trustworthiness and expertise. Moreover, source attractiveness is also important because of similarity, familiarity, and likability. S attractiveness is also important because of the match-up hypothesis which focuses on the “fit.” The results of the study suggest that the attitude of endorser was related to the attitude towards the product. Another interesting point was the influence of corresponding inference on the attitude towards the product was greater than the influence of attitude towards the celebrity endorser.
The studies mentioned above can be considered as a general summary of the how celebrity endorsement works and what are the factors that are important to them. Now the study will move towards the factors that important for the celebrity endorsements and explain how they work. Following are some of the factors which are important in celebrity endorsements:
According to Aristotle (Ohanian, 1991, p. 47), “Beauty is a greater letter of recommendation than any letter of introduction”. Attractiveness is a very important factor which, if used properly, can result in the success of celebrity endorsements. Marketers tend to use celebrities in advertisements based on their attractiveness to get maximum use of their status as a celebrity and their physical appeal (Singer, 1983). Friedman & Friedman (1979), in their study, explained that there are three types of endorsers that are widely used these days: a celebrity endorser is a person who is well known to the public as an entertainer, athlete, or actor etc. for his/her achievements as a celebrity. An expert endorser is a group or an individual who has upper-knowledge in any field i.e. a famous dentist will endorse toothpaste as they are viewed as an expert in the field of dentistry etc. Moreover, a consumer endorser is a person who has no special knowledge whatsoever but is used in advertisements to show how a normal person thinks about the product.
The main purpose of the study of Friedman & Freidman (1979) was to see the effectiveness of celebrity endorsements in different product types. Moreover, another purpose was to see that which one among the three endorsers (expert endorser, celebrity endorser and consumer endorser) are more effective and for this one must understand the importance of trustworthiness, expertise, similarity, familiarity, and likability. After this, the next important thing is to look at is the process of social influence which are applicable to endorsements i.e. identification and internalization:
When the audience starts to conform the attitude or behavior of the source (celebrity) is called identification. This occurs when the audience believe that they are similar to the source which can cause internal satisfaction for the audience (Friedman & Freidman, 1979).
This occurs because of the audience members’ own personal values. In internalization, an individual will conform to the attitude or behavior because of their belief in the substance of the new behavior or attitude (Friedman & Freidman, 1979).
By looking at these two processes carefully, it can be understood that identification happens because of attractiveness, similarity, and likability of a celebrity, whereas internalization occurs because of an expert or persuasion of the source. A consumer endorser falls in between two as they use the aspect of similarity in identification.
Another interesting study related was conducted by Ohanian which was related to attractiveness. She conducted two studies which focused on different topics. In 1991, she gave a study which focused on the importance of attractiveness and trustworthiness. Attractiveness is considered important because, in print advertisements, the attractiveness could capture the attention of the viewer and deliver the message. In other words, the best way for a communicator to influence the audience is through of combination of all three i.e. expertise, attractiveness, and trustworthiness. However, the results of the study of Ohanian (1991) suggest that even though attractiveness and trustworthiness are important factors in persuasion, they had less impact in this study.
Ohanian explained these results by explaining that the attractiveness was already present in the celebrities which is why it was not a strong factor to see the decisions of customers. Moreover, consumers do not have high-level of trust for people who are paid to appear in the advertisement as a famous spokesperson because they believe they have less trust level if they are paid to speak about the product. If we see the study of Silvera & Austad (2004) which is mentioned above, there is a contradiction as the study suggests that most of the studies related to celebrities are done in U.S, but if they were done in Norway then the results would have been different because the culture of Norway is bitter for celebrities because of the perception of the people. However, Ohanian (1990) suggests from her results that people do not have a negative attitude towards all celebrities but towards those who are paid to speak for the products they are endorsing.
Now if we look at the studies mentioned above, Erdogan (1999) explains in his study that in the product context, attractiveness not only attracts the attention of the people but can also increase the purchase intention by using two-sided messages i.e. positive and negative statements about a certain product. Moreover, Ohanian (1991) suggested in her study that a combination of attractiveness, expertise and trustworthiness is required for the endorsement to be successful because celebrities are already attractive which is why it is not a strong factor to see the decision of the customers in commercial perspective. This shows that attractiveness can attract attention, but it needs other factors like right message type (two-sided), expertise etc. for it to be successful in celebrity endorsement.
Now it can be understood that the proper fit between the product and celebrity image is important. However, another important thing is how the message is delivered to the receiver (audience) from the source (celebrity endorser). Over the years, advertisers have looked at new ways of getting the attention of the audience and to distinguish their products/services from that of the competitor. One good way to do that is through the celebrity endorsement. The study of Kamins at el. (1989) focused on two different formats of statements that are used by celebrities. These two formats are:
In this format, the celebrity uses both positive and negative statement for the product during the advertisement. This format can result in the better credibility of the celebrity because when a person only explains the good side of one thing, the people might not believe him/her that much because it is always believed that there are two sides of every coin. Moreover, if there is an attempt to weaken the significance of the negative claims made in the advertisement, then it is called two-sided refutation, whereas if there is no such attempt then it is called non-refutational.
In this format, the celebrity only uses positive statement for the product being advertised.
The main purpose of the study of Kamins at el. (1989) was to use two-sided format to increase the credibility of the spokesperson. However, the studies it reviewed suggested that product type had a mediating effect. For example, products that were of high-risk needed this format as it increased the believability of the audience and consumers. Moreover, the results of this study also suggest that two-sided format was useful in creating the credibility against one-sided format which shows that for the advertisement to be successful, there should be a good fit between celebrity and product and the way the advertisement message is delivered is also important.
Ohanian (1990) did a study which focused on developing a scale to measure the celebrity endorsers’ perceived expertise, attractiveness, and trustworthiness. Finding the right celebrity for the right product has been a tough job for advertisers because finding a celebrity with right credibility, trustworthiness and attractiveness is tough. Ohanian (1990) explained source credibility as the positive characteristics of the communicator (celebrity) can affect the receiver’s acceptance of the message. Research done on the topic of celebrity endorsement rests on two models: the source credibility model (trustworthiness and expertise) and the source attractiveness model (familiarity, similarity, likeability, and attractiveness). This study contributed to the research by developing a reliable and valid scale for source credibility. After source credibility was introduced in the research (source credibility model was discovered by Hovland et al., 1953), it was used in psychology but now the scale can be used in multiple fields like politics, candidate’s credibility and to assess the manipulations made in an experimental study.
Nataraajan & Chawla (1997) conducted a research which was focused on the fitness aspect of advertising. Over the years, many types of research related to celebrity endorsements have focused on different aspects and models like source credibility model, source attractiveness model etc. In this study, endorser credibility is considered as a manifest variable (measurement is directly through a single item measure) and the purpose of this study was to see the perception of viewers on fitness advertisements endorsed by celebrities and then using these perceptions to choose either celebrity or non-celebrity for fitness related products. The results of this study support the notion that celebrity endorsement has more credibility. However, there is still some more research needed in this field as the only focus of this study was the celebrity or non-celebrity endorsement for fitness marketing.
There are many articles focusing on the celebrity credibility and ways to improve it, but the study of Goldsmith et al (2000) focuses on a different type of credibility which is also important for the success of the product. This credibility is called corporate credibility which is the reputation of a whole company for expertise and honesty. The purpose of this study was to assess attitude towards advertisement, brand and purchase intention. Credibility is one of the most discussed topics in the endorsement, but the context in which the credibility is explained with the corporation is different. In the corporate sector, credibility is the degree to which investors, consumers and other people trust a company to be expert and trustworthy. Unlike celebrity credibility, corporate credibility is given less attention, but it is still an important thing. The results of the study showed that corporate credibility does influence attitude towards advertisement, brand, and purchase intention. Moreover, the results also showed that there was an asymmetrical relationship between celebrity and corporate endorsement.
Celebrity Influence through attachment
Identification is an important factor for the celebrity endorsement to be effective. Moreover, the identification of a celebrity can result in attachment with the celebrity. An example of this statement can be seen in “Magic” Johnson’s case (Basil & Brown, 1995) in which the disclosure of Johnson to have HIV was successful at creating awareness among the masses about HIV because the people knew who the “Magic” Johnson was (identification) and because the people were emotionally attached to him. Soon after the announcement of “Magic” Johnson, there was a significant increase in the calls to know more about HIV/AIDS and what were the causes of this infection.
In the year 2001, Boon et al. presented their study whose purpose was to investigate young adults to see how much their identity and self-worth are influenced by their attachment to a celebrity. Adolescents start following celebrities and become attached to them which then plays an important part in their development towards maturity. This leads to the main goal of the study which was to investigate whether the qualities of the relationship between celebrity and an admirer explain the degree of celebrity influence these young adults perceive?
According to Caughey (1985) celebrities frequently serve as role models and idolized self-image for their admirers because they possess the characteristics and qualities that admirers would like to develop in themselves. To support his claim, Caughey described how participants in his study even decided to change their values, abilities, and physical appearance to be closer to their role model. Such an attachment, even though it might be imaginary, can shape both the identity admirers choose and how they feel about themselves. From the finding of Caughey, it can be concluded that celebrities can guide identity development and in doing so shape the attitude, value, and behavior of the admirer. Moreover, any celebrity model we use in this situation is incomplete unless it includes measures that assess the young adults’ input in a relationship and their belief regarding the degree to which their relationship is intimate.
In Caughey’s research, it can also be seen that unless a minimum threshold is passed, the individual will be simply “attracted” to a celebrity. When the minimum threshold is passed, the individual gets “attached” with the celebrity and starts seeing him/her as a role model/idol. As the individuals become attached, it fuels their desire to bring a change in their life to increase the degree of correspondence between his character and that of his idol’s. The contributions the study of Boon et al. (2001) made to the literature on identity formation and celebrity influence are that it provided the descriptive data concerning the kinds of celebrities that young adults identify as idols and the extent to which these idols are viewed as an “influential force” when it comes to their self and feelings of self-worth.
The Political Context of Celebrity Endorsements
There have been a lot of studies that have worked on the effectiveness of celebrity endorsements and celebrity endorsements for commercial products, and some of them have been mentioned above in the “celebrity endorsement” literature. The three factors mentioned above are considered very important in the celebrity endorsement process. However, commercial products are not the only thing that is being endorsed by celebrities. Another major sector that uses celebrity endorsement is politics. In 2008, Garthwaite and Moore presented their study on the role of celebrities in politics which explained that the political endorsement is not a recent phenomenon but has a long history. John F. Kennedy used it when he got the support of the “Rat Pack,” a famous supergroup of entertainers in the 1950s and 1960s. The oldest endorsement that was found by the historians was in 1920’s presidential campaign of Warren Harding who got the support of various movie stars. When political candidates get the support of celebrities, they send the news to the press who let the masses know about the endorsement and then the celebrities make schedules to appear alongside the candidate on their political campaigns.
In the presidential elections of 2008, Barak Obama was endorsed by the famous talk show host Oprah Winfrey, and the results of this study suggested that in the elections of 2008, there was a significant increase in the votes that Obama received after Oprah endorsed him. Oprah is a very influential woman as she is on the list of Times Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. Moreover, she has also a great influence on the success or failure of a product; a negative comment made by her can damage the success of a product which qualifies her as a strong influential celebrity endorser. The results of this study suggest that in the Presidential elections of 2008, the endorsement of Oprah Winfrey had a great significance, both statistically and politically, on the outcome of the elections. Moreover, the effectiveness of a celebrity depends on the potential effects of the celebrity involved in the endorsement process.
Credibility, likability, and attractiveness are very important factors in the celebrity endorsement process. However, the study of Miciak & Shanklin (1994) suggests that the respondents from different advertisement agencies identified credibility to be the most important factor for selecting the celebrity endorsers. The experts from different agencies agreed that trustworthiness and expertise have great persuasion to purchase a product. After credibility, likability is considered as the second most important factor as it is useful in creating brand awareness. In our study, we already know the importance of credibility as a factor but the politicians that will be involved in our study’s experiment as stimuli will have low awareness which explains why likability is the most important factor for our study. Another reason to focus only on the likability is that we already know that credibility will increase the likelihood to vote (dependent variable of the study) but likability is still something that is to be tested. Now the study will move towards the factors which are the focus of our study:
As mentioned in the “celebrity endorsement” literature, likability is an important factor even in the product perspective. When individuals become attached to a celebrity after identifying them, they start changing their values and physical appearance to get closer to their role model (Caughey, 1985). Now if we look at the political context of likability, it has the same importance. Austin et al. (2008) conducted a study whose main objective was to attract the targeted audience towards politics as nowadays youth seems to be distant from politics and public affairs.
The focus of this study was to find and explain factors that could influence young voters not only in short-term but also in long-term towards politics. Mostly, people blame the negative political campaigns and media for the lower turnout rate of voters. Another reason for this can be that the new generation is more “cynical” than the other generations. To overcome this, the study looked at promotions which involved celebrities to reach young people.
It is well known that celebrities are famous and are considered a role model for most of the people which makes them persuasive, trusted, and likable by the masses. Moreover, celebrities can also influence the lives of others by use of mass media and if that is the case, then the celebrities can be used to motivate youth to increase their involvement in politics. A great example mentioned by Austin et al. (2008) was that of Christina Aguilera who joined her fans and voters in 2004 for the online voter registration drive.
As explained by Caughey’s research (1985), when an individual identifies a celebrity, they first become attracted and then attached to the celebrity which results in the individual adopting the behavior and attitude of the celebrity as their own. This will result in the people adopting the behavior and attitude of the celebrities as their own. The results of the study of Austin et al. (2008) suggested that the promotions having endorsed celebrities had positively affected the self-efficacy of the voters. Moreover, the openness to the celebrity-based promotions associated with involvement and higher levels of self-efficacy had a strong positive association with the increased levels of self-efficacy. Therefore, it is suggested that celebrity-based promotions hold promise for increasing situational involvement (Situational involvement is a short-term state of arousal directed towards attaching relevance to a person/object/situation).
The results also suggest that fans become motivated from the celebrity-endorsed promotions which can lead to them becoming more aware of personally relevant issues and using media to learn more about such issues which then leads to self-efficacy. Overall, the results of the study explain that celebrity endorsed promotion of civic engagement has positive effects in the short-term and long-term.
Another study that focused on the topic of using celebrities to motivate the young voters was that of Inthorn & Street (2011) who conducted a study to look at the factors that might mediate the responses of citizens towards celebrity politics. The culture of politics is changing as the political candidates have the celebrities endorsing them. Young adults seemed to be disconnected from participation in politics, but these young adults are strongly connected to media culture which can become a strong resource to motivate them to participate in politics. According to Ofcom (2009, as cited in Inthron & Street, 2011), around 93% of young adults (age 16-24) in the UK watch television and 71% of them listen to music regularly. These young adults have role models who they are attached to and according to Caughey’s research (1985), this results in the individual adopting the behavior and attitude of the celebrity as their own.
The findings of this study suggest that young adults who were involved in the sample had tension in their attitude towards celebrity politics. They did respond positively to the idea of celebrity endorsement, and the way celebrities were viewed by the respondents in the focus group interviews was striking as none of the politicians were expressed in such a way. An explanation for this can be that the private lives of the celebrities have a major advantage over that of politicians. The results also suggest that young adults look for authentic politics and for that use the private image of the political actor to look at their authenticity and commitment. However, even though there are some political actors that might be good for leadership but, not all celebrities were perceived as capable of political leadership.
The study of Pease and Brewer (2008) examined politics and celebrity endorsement and conducted a study which talked about the presidential election of 2008 in which presidential candidate Barak Obama was endorsed by the famous talk show hostess Oprah Winfrey. According to CNN Politics data, American voters are big fans of Oprah Winfrey and she is very likable (Struyk, 2018). She hosted many events in support of Obama which really helped him as a candidate for president in the elections of 2008. However, she was not the only celebrity to endorse a presidential candidate.
Famous action movies hero Chuck Norris also endorsed Mike Huckabee, a Republican nominee for the President. Oprah Winfrey was not considered as a normal celebrity because of her strong position in media and minds of masses. However, many surveys and polls suggested that the endorsement of Oprah would not influence the voting preference of the people. Hence, the polls and surveys suggested that there would not be an “Oprah factor,” but the authors of the article suggest one to be careful about interpreting the surveys.
Popkin (1991) argues that people do not spend a lot of effort on the information about political campaigns, rather they use shortcuts i.e. use daily life choices to make political ones. Moreover, they also consider the chances of a political candidate to win before voting. This explanation can help in explaining the influence Oprah Winfrey would have on people as she was the host of an entertainment television show “The Oprah Winfrey show”. From the experiment conducted for this study, the results of it suggested that the exposure of news about the endorsement of Oprah Winfrey for Obama did not influence the opinion of people towards Obama. However, this endorsement did let people think that Obama had more chances to win because of the endorsement of Oprah and they would likely vote for him, but this effect is dependent on the opinion of people towards Oprah Winfrey.
So it can be suggested from the results that the news about the endorsement had the potential to change the public’s opinion about Obama winning the nomination of President, but this depends on the influence of celebrity on the people. Overall, the results highlight the influence celebrity endorsements have on political campaigns. Moreover, as explained by Popkin (1991) celebrity endorsement can also be considered as a shortcut through which people can decide for whom to vote. Likability of a celebrity is important in political celebrity endorsements because even though some celebrities are attractive, they might have a notorious reputation or are hated by the public. For example, according to National Enquirer’s survey of America’s 25 Most Hated Celebrities, celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Shia LaBeouf and Rosie O’Donnell etc. have notorious reputations which can lead to a disaster in the endorsement process.
Celebrity endorsement and anti-endorsement: Balance theory approach
There have been many theories and models that have been used to understand and explain the effectiveness of celebrity endorsements such as the meaning transfer model (McCracken, 1989). MacCracken (1989) supported the “fit” by explaining it through meaning transfer model that how the celebrities have different traits which are transferred to the product giving the product its personality which cannot be explained by the source models. In our study, we will be using Balance theory (introduced by Heider, 1958) which focuses on the triadic relationships between an individual, a comparison person, and an object.
Balance theory has been previously used to understand the effectiveness of celebrity endorsements in commercial products, but not from the political perspective. According to balance theory, individuals seek to achieve psychological balance which can be achieved by either having a positive attitude or negative attitude towards other triadic relationships. For example, if an individual likes a certain person and that person likes to do an activity (for example jogging), then to achieve psychological balance, the individual will have to have a positive attitude towards jogging.
There are certain relations between these entities (individuals, a certain person and an object) called sentiment relations which refer to an attitudinal evaluation and they possess the positive and negative signs. The other relation is called unit relation where it is perceived that two elements are associated or belong to each other (Feather, 1964). To understand the concept of balance theory more easily, Cartwright & Harary (1956) gave athematic signs of positive (+) and negative (-) to the relationship between entities to understand them more easily. To understand the triadic relationships and balance better, P-O-X model will be used where:
P: An individual who analyzes
O: A comparison person
X: Can be a thing or a person
Positive sign in the triadic relationship means that there is a positive attitude towards that component and negative sign means negative attitude.
There are 4 sets that are usually balanced:
- P+O, P+X, O+X
- P-O, P-X, O+X
- P-O, P+X, O-X
- P+O, P-X, O-X
In other words, either all the relationships are positive or two are negative. Now to see the four sets which are imbalanced:
- P+O, P-X, O+X
- P+O, P+X, O-X
- P-O, P+X, O+X
- P-O, P-X, O-X
In other words, all are negative, or two relationships are positive. This can be better understood by using an example for both balanced and imbalanced:
Balanced: P+O, P+X, O+X
Jimmy likes Albert (P+O)
Jimmy likes skiing (P+X)
Albert also likes skiing (O+X)
Unbalanced: P+O, P-X, O+X
Smith likes Lilly (P+O)
Smith does not like skiing (P-X)
Lilly loves skiing (O+X)
In case of imbalance (if we assume two positive and one negative attitude i.e. P+O, P-X, O+X) in the relationship between entities, cognitive dissonance (mental stress/discomfort which is caused because of having contradictory ideas or beliefs) occurs which will then motivate the individual to strive for balance. In order to move from imbalance state to balanced state, an individual can: decide that X is not bad; decide O is not a good person or that O does not likes X. This will result in psychological balance for the individual who has imbalance.
There have been studies done on the balance theory and commercial celebrity endorsements like that of John C. Mowen’s (1980) study whose purpose was to overcome the gap of an integrated approach to understand the impact of endorsements on customers’ perception of products, using balance theory as a lens. Balance theory (Heider, 1946, 1958) was developed to aid in understanding the psychological balance and relationships between individuals and entities. However, Mowen (1980) altered the balance theory model to measure endorser effectiveness. This new version uses C-P-E (customer-product-endorser) triads which considers a consumer ( C) who is receiving the information from the endorser (E) for a product or service (P). Even though it was a triad function, Feather (1964) extended the basic triad balance by introducing a fourth entity called message (M) i.e. C-P-M-E. The picture below shows the new balance theory model:
In this figure, the arrow indicates the sentiment relation and the double-line show unit relation.
The consumer and endorser relation are considered very important because the results depend on their relationship. Roy et al. (2012) presented their study according to which the celebrity endorsement is becoming a very popular phenomenon; however, the researches done on various aspects of celebrity endorsement have not been able to get consistent results which is a huge problem because the marketers need research to decide on celebrity endorsement as it costs a lot of money. The purpose of the study of Roy et al. (2012) was to develop a theoretical model for celebrity endorsement using balance theory (Heider, 1946; Mowen, 1980), source credibility and match-up hypothesis.
The above-mentioned studies focus on the balance theory from commercial perspective. Now to see the balance theory from political celebrity endorsement perspective. If we take an example of one of the balanced P-O-X, then:
Oprah Winfrey Barak Obama
There has been a lot of studies which have focused on the celebrity endorsement of Oprah Winfrey for Obama in the Presidential elections of 2008 (O’ Regan, 2012; Pease & Brewer 2008; Garthwaite and Moore, 2008) and if we take that example and apply it here, then according to balance theory if an individual likes Oprah Winfrey (P+O) and Oprah endorsed Obama for the elections, then the balance theory suggests that the individual would “like” Obama to maintain the psychological balance i.e. (+) x (+) x (+) = (+). Now let us take another example but this time for an unbalanced P-O-X:
John Myer Barak Obama
If an individual does not like John Myer, but he endorsed Obama then the individual will not like the politician that the celebrity has endorsed to keep the psychological balance i.e. (-) x (-) x (+) = (-). Therefore, the right celebrity should be selected to maintain harmony and balance.
Another body that is going to support likability in the endorsement is the Balance Theory (Heider, 1958). As mentioned earlier, individuals seek to achieve a psychological balance which can be achieved by either having a positive attitude or negative attitude towards other triadic relationships. Now if we bring “likability” to the same example mentioned above then according to balance theory, if an individual finds Oprah Winfrey extremely likable (+) and she has endorsed Obama for the Presidential elections (+), then it will increase the likelihood of vote for Obama as the individual will also have positive attitude towards the politician that was endorsed by the likable celebrity i.e. If two independent variables (endorsement & likability) are positive, then the third variable will also be positive to maintain balance. This leads to the hypotheses of the study which suggests:
H1: An individual who perceives a celebrity to be highly likable will also have a likable attitude towards a politician being endorsed by that celebrity and will result in increase in likelihood to vote for the endorsed candidate.
H2: Whenan individual perceives a celebrity, who is endorsing a politician to be less likable, the individual will have a negative attitude towards the politician who is being endorsed which will result in decrease in likelihood to vote for that candidate.
In the recent era, it is not very rare for the celebrities to appear on the television shows and make statements about politics and political candidates. One recent example is the soundtrack of Eminem, a famous rapper, which was directed towards President Trump. Another famous example is that of Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes Awards. Celebrities can be considered one way of providing the information to the public. Therefore, the public opinion provided by the celebrities can either be accepted by the public or rejected or both (Fizzell, 2011). However, public opinion provided by the celebrities still act as a cue for the public to simplify the huge flow of information (Down, 1957). Fizzell (2011) also suggests in his study that the effectiveness of public opinion provided by the celebrity is dependent on how the celebrity is viewed by the public. If the celebrity providing the opinion is knowledgeable and trustworthy, the public will use their information with ease to simplify a large amount of information. Just as the right celebrity is important for a “fit” in product endorsement, a right celebrity is also important in providing a public opinion for it to be accepted by the public (Dholakia & Sternthal, 1977).
As explained earlier, it is not very rare for the celebrities to appear on the television shows and make statements about politics and political candidates. Celebrities are considered as one way to provide information to the public and their opinions can influence people. However, the right “fit” is important for maximum effectiveness (Dholakia & Sternthal, 1977). If a celebrity is likable, it leads to people accepting their public opinion. The study of Pease & Brewer (2008) also explains the importance of likability by giving the example of Oprah’s endorsement of Obama. This leads us towards the next hypotheses of the study:
H3: An individual who perceives a celebrity to be highly likable, but that celebrity has negative attitude towards a politician will result in the individual to have a negative attitude towards the politician which will decrease the likelihood to vote for that political candidate.
H4: An individual who perceives a celebrity to be less likable and that celebrity has negative attitude towards a politician, it will result in individual having a positive attitude towards the politician which will increase the likelihood to vote for the celebrity.
Independent variables in an experimental study are those which are manipulated to see its effect on the dependent variables. The independent variables of this study are likability of the celebrity endorser and endorsement of the celebrity. The “endorsement” variable has two ends i.e. endorsement and anti-endorsement of the celebrity.
The dependent variables are used to measure the effect of the change in independent variables. The dependent variable of this study is the likelihood to vote for a political candidate. The independent variables (credibility, likability, and endorsement) will be manipulated to see their effects on the dependent variable (likelihood to vote).
A pre-test will be conducted to measure likability of 25 celebrities. Moreover, paragraphs will also be pre-tested to see which ones explain the endorsement and likability situations properly.
The stimuli of pre-test will include the pictures of 25 celebrities. These are the celebrities which are well known among the masses and many of them have even been included in the list of 100 Most Influential Celebrities of the Time Magazine. The participants of pre-test will have a picture of the celebrity on a single page along with the questions to answer about them which will provide the data to measure attractiveness, likability, expertise and trustworthiness. Some of these celebrities include Dwyane Johnson, Rihanna, Oprah Winfrey, and Ellen DeGeneres. Moreover, a descriptive text will be used to measure the credibility. The descriptive texts will include a description of the political background of the celebrity. Appendix A of the study include the pictures and names of all 25 celebrities that are going to be used in the pre-test. Appendix B of the study includes the descriptive texts that will be used to measure the credibility.
To measure likability, the scales given by Reysen (2005) will be used. This pre-test will help us find out which celebrities are on the high end and which celebrities are on the low end (i.e. high likability, low likability etc.) which will then be used in the experiment of the study. The scale used are 7-point Likert scale (strongly disagree—strongly agree) where strongly disagree will be assigned the value of 1 whereas strongly agree will be assigned the value of 7. Appendix B includes the questions/ scales which are going to be used to measure the factors of the study along with headings explaining which questions/items are measuring which factor.
A sample size of 100 participants will be used to gather data for measuring the factors. The data from the participants will be collected from mTurk, a data gathering Amazon website and the demographic location of the sample will be the U.S. The data will be collected by using a survey type questionnaire format having pictures of 25 celebrities with questions to measure the factors mentioned above. Moreover, participants will be rewarded $0.35 for their involvement in the pre-test survey.
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