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Influence of Celebrity Endorsement on Purchase Intentions

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Published: 6th Dec 2019

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To what extent does the celebrity endorsement on social media influence the purchase intentions of young urban consumers in Vietnam?

Much research has been done on the topic of celebrity endorsement and consumer behaviour, however, it is impossible to review all of them in this chapter. Therefore, the researcher will focus on celebrity culture and some aspects of celebrity endorsement including celebrity endorsement in literature, models of celebrity endorsement, celebrity endorsement  influence on young consumers and celebrity endorsement on social media.

Celebrity Culture

According to De Backer (2012) and Cashmore (2014), celebrity culture has become a feature of social life, which even surrounds and manipulates people. The fact that today’s celebrities are promoted both as special and ordinary figures with problems that can be familiar with everyman lowers the barrier between celebrity status and the consumers of popular culture. Consequently, the celebrity is “drawn into the routine everyday experience” (De Backer, 2012: 494). Moreover, celebrity is no longer simply a well-known person but can be “manufactured” by the celebrity industry (Furedi, 2010; Driessens, 2013; Cashmore, 2014). The prosperity and deep intrigue of celebrity into society and culture are attributed to the media (De Backer, 2012; Driessens, 2013; Cashmore, 2014). According to Cashmore (2014: 8). “Media involvement” is the essence of the contemporary celebrity culture: consumers are persuaded that ordinary people “with no talent, no obvious gifts, nor any characteristic deserving of distinction were worthy of our serious attention just because they were in the media” and as long as the audience remains interest in them, those people remain celebrities.

Celebrities also possess power to persuade consumers to buy. According to Cashmore (2014:2), celebrity provides a solution for advertisers when there are many similar or even identical products to theirs on the market, which are being demonstrated in celebrity endorsement. Celebrities allow their names attached to a product and get paid to make compliments on that product in order to persuade consumers to buy (Cashmore, 2014: 14). The more credible the celebrity seems, the more likely the consumers is to take notice of the message (Cashmore, 2014: 173). Moreover, consumers tend to attribute more prestige to people who are known by many than who are known by fewer people (De Backer, 2012). Besides, media provide celebrities with visual present which is believed to add more credibility to the celebrities (De Backer, 2012: 147). Visuals not only brings audience a sense of authenticity that induces them to believe what they are seeing, but also create an illusion of encounters: they “meet” the stars so often that they start to think those celebrities are parts of their social network (De Backer, 2012: 148, 149).

Overview of celebrity endorsement literature

According to McCormick (2016), celebrities hold a “unique position in the advertising landscape” for their strong likeliness to catch public attention as well as being a well-respected figure. However, among extant research, the definition of celebrity is not frequently mentioned.  Most definitions of celebrity in literature agree that celebrity is well-known to the public for their achievements in some areas such as sports, entertainment and politics (Christina, 2003 cited in Mat Dom et al, 2016; Speck, Schumann & Thompson, 1988 cited in Muda et al, 2013; Friedman and Friedman, 1979 cited in Sonwalkar et al, 2011). However, according to Keel and Nataraajan (2012) (cited in Jain & Roy, 2016: 270), a celebrity is “more than being someone famous”. Celebrities are also people whose actions and words are noticed by a large share of a certain group of people, which brings them a “specific image” (Awasthi & Choraria, 2015). Besides, in some societies, celebrities are considered as model of success whose lifestyles and values are aspired by admirers (Muda et al, 2013). Admirers can even imitate celebrities’ fashion styles, communication styles and they are likely to choose the brands that celebrities choose (Muda et al, 2013). Therefore, many companies or brands have used celebrities in their marketing communication activities (Erdogan, 1999). Such companies and brands have a choice of utilising celebrity as testimonial (the celebrity personally uses and gives reviews on the products based on his experience), actor (the celebrity endorses the brand as part of character enactment), endorser (the celebrity appears in the brand’s advertising campaign and uses his name to promote the brand) or spokesperson (the celebrity represents and speak on behalf of the brand) (Erdogan, 1999; Gupta & Verma, 2013). Among these ways of celebrity utilisation in advertising, celebrity endorser catches most attention from researchers.

The most common definition of celebrity endorser used in extant literature such is the definition of McCracker (1989: 310): ‘any individual who enjoys public recognition and who uses this recognition on behalf of a consumer good by appearing with it in an advertisement.’ (Sonwalkar et al, 2011; Muda et al, 2013; Jain & Roy, 2016; McCormick, 2016; Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016; Knoll et al, 2017). From McCracker’s definition of celebrity endorsers, researchers such as Muda et al (2013); Awasthi & Choraria (2015) and Knoll et al (2017) define celebrity endorsement as an “advertising technique” that employs the image and the status of the celebrities for the brand or product promotion, as well as brand differentiation, brand recognition, brand recall and so on. Besides, celebrity endorsement is also perceived by Sonwalkar et al (2011: 34) as a “channel of communication” where celebrities act as the brand spokesperson and “by extending their popularity and personality they certifies the brand’s claim and position”. However, according to Bergkvist & Zhou (2016), McCracker’s definition of celebrity endorser and celebrity endorsement definitions by other researchers seems to be outdated in the contemporary advertising industry. Nowadays, celebrity endorsement appears in many other modes of marketing communication other than just advertisement. Thus, Bergkvist & Zhou (2016: 644) proposed an updated definition: “a celebrity endorsement is an agreement between an individual who enjoys public recognition (a celebrity) and an entity (e.g., a brand) to use the celebrity for the purpose of promoting the entity”. This revised definition seems to be more relevant to the present-day landscape of advertising when celebrity endorsement is not only present on traditional advertisements but also on social media and networking sites. Moreover, this definition is applicable not only for consumer goods but also for services and non-commercial entities such as political parties and non-profit organizations (Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016).

Celebrity endorsement is widely recognized as a very popular advertising strategy (Erdogan, 1999; McCracken, 1989 cited in Malik & Guptha, 2014; Knoll et al, 2017). The history of celebrity endorsement dates back to the nineteenth century (Erdogan, 1999) and its development was accelerated by the arrival of television in the late 1960s when brands wanted to feature with media stars to attract consumers’ attention (Jain & Roy, 2016). Since its outset, celebrity endorsement has been heavily employed in marketing communication to make the advertisements stand out in the surrounding media clutter (Muda et al, 2013). Some research suggest that every fifth advertisement features celebrity, but the estimates vary across different countries US: 10% (Belch and Belch, 2013) or 25% (Stephens and Rice 1998) or 19% (Elberse & Verleun 2012); the United Kingdom, UK: 21% (Pringle and Binet 2005); Japan: 70% (Kilburn 1998) (Knoll et al, 2017). Therefore, it can be true that celebrity endorsement has become a “ubiquitous feature of modern day marketing” (McCracken, 1989 cited in Malik & Guptha, 2014: 129).

Literature in celebrity endorsement has suggested a number of reasons for its popularity among advertisers. One of the most important reasons is that celebrities help the advertisements stand out and constantly attract consumers’ attention in the clutter of environment due to the celebrities’ status and their physical appeal to the  public (Erdogan, 1999; Muda et al, 2013; Jain & Roy, 2016). Besides, according to Kelman (1961) and Ohanian (1990) (cited in Muda et al, 2013: 13), because celebrities are considered to be readily identifiable, as well as well-respected and believed to be trustworthy, consumers are more likely to “internalize the “things” they say about the endorsed products”. Hence, celebrity endorsement can generate high recall rates for the advertising message (Erdogan, 1999; Muda et al, 2013; Jain & Roy, 2016). According to Erdogan (1999), Popescu (2014), Malik & Guptha (2014), McCormick (2016), Mat Dom et al (2016), celebrity endorsers are more effective than non-celebrity endorsers in creating desirable outcomes such as positive attitudes towards the brand, higher purchase intentions and rise in actual sale. Celebrity endorsement can positively influence brand identification, brand recognition, brand position and brand reposition (Muda et al, 2013; Pradhan et al, 2014). In addition, according to Erdogan (1999), celebrity endorsers have qualities such as attractiveness and likability which can be transferred to the products or the brand through the marketing communication activities. Therefore, consumers can associate the endorsed products or the brands with the qualities of the celebrities. In terms of per consumer’ s perception, Clark & Horstman (2003) (cited in Malik & Guptha, 2014: 128) suggest that such consumers believe endorsed products “would have higher purchase value than its counterpart”, which can motivate consumers to the purchase decision.

However, recent research have shown that there is a substantial decline in the celebrity utilization in advertising over the past decade (Schimmelpfennig & Hollensen, 2016). Celebrities are less likely to be perceived as role models for consumers, hence, celebrity endorsement is considered no longer more effective than advertisements using other marketing techniques (Schimmelpfennig & Hollensen, 2016). The research by Schimmelpfennig and Hollensen (2016:15) also suggested that besides the good celebrity/product fit, in order to make the celebrity endorsement effective, it is important that the advertisement can tell a compelling endorser story to “add substance to the brand personality”. Individuals with genuine talent and real passion for their profession might be better to serve as role models for consumers than expensive celebrities who have endorsed multiple products and are fed up by consumers (Schimmelpfennig & Hollensen, 2016).

Models in celebrity endorsement 

According to Erdogan (1999), the literature on celebrity endorsement consists of four main streams of research: The Source Credibility Model, The Source Attractiveness Model, The Congruence or Match-up Model and The Meaning Transfer Model. Besides, other models such as the ‘Hierarchy of Effects Model’ (Lavidge and Steiner (1961) (cited in Pradhan et al, 2014) and Elaboration Likelihood Model (Chaubey et al, 2013) also appear in research on celebrity endorsement.

The Source Credibility Model and The Source Attractive Model can be sorted in the same category under the generic name The Source Models (Amos et al, 2008; Erdogan, 1999). The Source Credibility Model analyses the factors that leads consumers to think the communicator is credible (Hovland et al, 1953 cited in Amos et al, 2008). This model says that the credibility of the endorsers depends on the perceived level of expertise and trustworthiness that consumers have in the endorsers (Amos et al, 2008; Erdogan, 1999; Chaubey et al, 2013). Expertise refers to the knowledge, experience or skills of the endorsers (Erdogan, 1999). Expert sources are very likely to affect the perception of consumers about the endorsed products’ quality (Erdogan, 1999; Chaubey at al, 2013). According to Ohanian (1990) (cited in Amos et al, 2008), consumers are inclined to agree with recommendations from the source perceived as high expertise than those from low expertise source.  The other factor of The Source Credibility Model is the trustworthiness of the endorsers. The trustworthiness involves the level of confidence that consumers have in the endorsers, whether the endorsers are believable, honest and reliable (Erdogan, 1999; Amos et al, 2008; Chaubey et al, 2013). According to Chao et al (2005) (cited in Amos et al, 2008), the trustworthiness of endorsers is regarded to bring positive effect to the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement.

The Source Attractiveness Model says that the effectiveness of the message depends on the similarity, familiarity and liking of the endorsers (Erdogan, 1999; Amos et al, 2008).  If a consumer finds the celebrity endorser familiar and similar to her and she likes the celebrity, she is more likely to perceive the endorser attractive. According to Erdogan (1999), attractive communicators are more successful in changing belief and generating purchase intentions than the unattractive counterpart. Celebrity endorsers do not only attract consumers by their physical attractiveness but they can also appeal consumers by virtual attractiveness such as lifestyles and intellectual skills (Erdogan, 1999). However, the influence from the attractiveness of the endorsers on consumers’ purchase intention seems to be ambiguous (Erdogan, 1999). On the other hand, Baker and Churchill (1977) (cited in Amos et al, 2008) claim that although the attractiveness of the endorsers helps increase the positive advertisement evaluations, it does not help in stimulating stronger purchase intentions.

The Match-up Model suggests that there should be a perfect match between the celebrity image with the product message (Erdogan, 1999; Chaubey et al, 2013, Amos et al, 2008). This match involves the fit between the celebrity personal characteristics and the brand attributes (Erdogan, 1999). The lack of connection between the celebrities and the brand can lead consumers to understand that the company or the brand have paid an amount of money to the celebrity for the endorsement. As a result, the proper celebrity/product fit are of great importance for companies when choosing celebrity for the endorsement or the advertisement (Chaubey et al, 2013).

The Meaning Transfer Model involves the process in which celebrity’s symbolic meanings go beyond that person and transfer into the endorsed brand or product (Erdogan, 1999). McCracken (1989) (cited in Chaubey et al, 2013; Knoll at all, 2017) describes the meaning transfer process in three stages. In the first stage, consumers associate a particular celebrity with meanings such as personality, lifestyles and attitudes (Chaubey et al, 2013).  In the endorsement process, those properties of the celebrity can be transferred into the brand or the product through the advertisements featuring with the celebrity (Chaubey et al, 2013). Eventually, consumers acquire the brand meaning through the consumption (Chaubey et al, 2013). At this point, the meanings of the celebrity endorsers are transferred to the brand or the product and reside in the consumers’ mind (Chaubey et al, 2013). According to Knoll et al (2017), The Meaning Transfer Model goes along with The Match-up Model. When there is a match between the product (or the brand) and the celebrity endorser, it is easier for the meanings of the celebrity to be integrated in the endorsed product (or brand) (Lynch & Schuler, 1994 cited in Knoll et al, 2017).

Influence of celebrity endorsement on young consumers’ attitudes and purchase intentions

Literature about celebrity endorsement’s influence on young consumers have one assumption in common which is the fact that young consumers are more susceptible to celebrity endorsement than the older counterparts (Bailey, 2007; Jorge, 2011; Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016; Knoll et al, 2017). According to a research by Atkin and Block (1983) (cited in Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016), celebrity endorsement effects were more significant on younger (13-17 years) than older (18-77 years) consumers. Similar finding was revealed in the research by Knoll et al (2017): celebrity endorsement produced strongest effects on adolescents. However, researchers such as Freiden (1984) and Ohanian (1991) failed to find any differences in responses of consumers at different age to celebrity endorsement  (Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016). Besides, according to Knoll et al (2017), celebrity endorsement becomes less influential on young consumers when their age increased. Nevertheless, brand experience was believed to be the factor which can moderate the effect of consumer’s age, which means when consumers had greater brand experience, there could be no difference in the meaning transfer effects due to their age (Knoll et al, 2017).

A study by Bailey (2007) investigated the responses of young consumers to positive/neutral/negative information about celebrity endorsers. The research result indicated that both positive and negative information about celebrity endorsers made young consumers skeptical about the brand (Bailey, 2007). While they might not turn off a brand by negative information about celebrity endorsers as long as their scandals or controversy were not strongly linked with the brand, they do not entirely trust the positive information about endorsers (Bailey, 2007: 86). The research finding suggested that the neutral information about celebrity endorsers could be beneficial for the brand when the targeted audience is young consumers (Bailey, 2007).

Research about celebrity endorsement effects also reveals that celebrity endorsement is a powerful tool in advertising when young consumers are targeted. Bailey (2007) suggests that young consumers are the primary targets of celebrity endorsement.  According to Jorge (2011: 53), celebrities’ private lives and affluent lifestyles are greatly interested by young people as they symbolize a dream of success seemingly within everyone’s reach in a society that talents are paid off with great economic capacity. Moreover, the products that one consumes can be associated with his self-identity and his material possessions can express how important he is in a particular group or in a society (Belk, 1985 cited in Knoll et al, 2017). Therefore, celebrity endorsement adds some meanings into the products or the brand, which makes the products more appealing and prominent, as a result, young consumers try to communicate a statement about themselves through their consumption (Knoll et al, 2017). Knoll et al (2017) also implies that young consumers are constantly seeking for products that reflect their self-perception, thus, the celebrity in advertisement matches their self-image, and they are more likely to purchase an endorsed product.

In addition, gender of consumers can be a potential factor that influences celebrity endorsement effect but not many research have done on this topic (Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016). A study by Bush, Martin, and Bush (2004) (cited in Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016) showed that a celebrity role model had more significant influence for female teenagers than male.  In terms of consumers’ response to celebrity endorsement,  Liu and Brock (2011) (cited in Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016) revealed that male consumers tend to be more responsive to female celebrity than their counterpart. Although male and female consumers react differently to celebrity endorsement, with regards to brand evaluations, there can be no difference between genders in evaluating a brand/product endorsed by celebrities (Ohanian, 1991; Freiden, 1984 cited in Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016). Therefore, there are still rooms for research into the interactions between consumers’ gender and celebrity endorsers’ gender (Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016).

Celebrity endorsement on social media

The emergence of social media has drastically changed the advertising landscape and has become an important advertising channel (Um, 2016; Knoll et al, 2017). Since celebrity endorsement has long been employed in traditional media and proved its high potential to bring positive attention to brands, it is likely to be effective on social media (Um, 2016). In fact, celebrity endorsement has come into non-advertising forms such as postings on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram (Cunningham & Bright, 2012; Um, 2016; Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016). Celebrities make their appearance on social media not only to connect with their fans, promote their own activities but also to promote the brands they endorse (Cunningham & Bright, 2012; Um, 2016).

Although social media is fast growing and become a new advertising channel, academic research on celebrity endorsement on social media is limited (Djafarova & Rushworth, 2017). In his study on the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement on Facebook, Um (2016) found that the more likely the consumers were to identify the celebrity endorser, the greater effect of the endorsement was to encourage purchase intention. His study also revealed a close positive relationship between the consumers’ need for social affiliation and their purchase intention. Another research on the celebrity endorsement on social media focusing on Instagram was conducted Djafarova & Rushworth (2017).  The research findings showed that purchasing the products endorsed by celebrities enhances consumers’ self-esteem and consumers aspire to the lifestyles of celebrities, hence, they are likely to copy or follow the choices made by celebrities (Djafarova & Rushworth, 2017). Besides, Djafarova & Rushworth (2017) also found consumers might be aware that celebrities were approached by brands to do the endorsement but their decisions to purchase were not likely to be affected by celebrity’s motive for economic gain because they believed celebrities would not want to ruin their reputation by deceptive reviews. Both research mentioned the term “electronic word of mouth” as an influential and persuasive source of information on social media (Um, 2016; Djafarova & Rushworth, 2017). Electronic word of mouth refers to the any statement of potential, actual or former consumers of a brand or a company on the Internet (Hennig-Thurau, Gwinner, Walsh, & Gremler, 2004 cited in Um,, 2016). The influence of electronic word of mouth, to some extent, depends on the communicators (Erkan & Evans, 2016; Reichelt, Sievert, & Jacob, 2014 cited in Djafarova & Rushworth, 2017).

Due to the frequent use of young consumers, celebrity endorsement on social media would be effective when the young consumers are targeted (Knoll et al, 2017). According to Knoll et al (2017), nowadays young consumers, or millennials are not easy to be manipulated but when they follow a celebrity on social media, they are more likely to pay attention to the products or brands that celebrity endorses. In terms of gender, female consumers are more prone to buy a product introduced by their favorite celebrities than male consumers (Khan & Dhar, 2006; Wilcox & Stephen, 2013; Wilcox et al., 2011 cited in Knoll et al, 2017). Besides, when consumers’ self-esteem level is high and they feel positive, celebrity endorsement on social media is likely to lead consumers to purchase for indulgence, hedonic purchase or impulse purchase rather rational purchase (Wilcox & Stephen, 2013 cited in Knoll et al, 2017).


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