Are consumers swayed by celebrity endorsements ?

I've said it before. Am sayin' it gain.

Most research results must be taken with a pinch of salt. Like the new survey conducted by research agency IMRB and public relations outfit IPAN. Their 'Celebrity Endorsement Survey' conducted over 2019 respondents across 12 metros and small towns in India , claims that 86% of the respondents say the most prominent ad that they remember has a celebrity in it, but only 3% feel that celebrity endorser of a brand affects their buying decision.

Is this survey claim valid?

Now I am no fan of celebrity endorsements. Yes, at times its a lot of money down the drain. I still remember Kabir Mulchandani and Akai ripping apart the use of Amitabh Bachchan as an endorser of Television brands, communicated to the consumer through their own advertisement, where they claimed their lower prices were due to them not using any celebrities as endorsers. How cheeky was that!

The IMRB-IPAN survey results show that celebrity endorsements lead to brand recall but in no way affect consumer attitudes (read, intention to purchase) towards that very same brand. I am not too sure how many people would like admitting to being swayed by a celebrity when it comes to their purchases. Kinda makes them look stupid. Again what kind of products are we talking about? High involvement or low involvement ones? Remember the purchase risk of high involvement products is high (read, financial risk, in most cases) thus turning consumers more rational than at times when the product in question is a low involvement one.

Also consider this thesis by Michael Busler titled, 'Product Differentiation, Celebrity endorsements and the Consumer's Perception of Quality'.

It concludes, 'The conclusions from this study can be used to explain why basketball shoes endorsed by Michael Jordan, a known expert basketball player, will be priced at a level up to 100% higher than similar shoes sold at the same location. It also explains why name brand products are priced at a large premium above the generic brands which are physically the same. The consumers perceive the endorsed or name brand to be of higher quality and are therefore willing to pay more.

It appears that the selection of an endorser who is viewed positively by consumers and who is known to possess attributes which match up with the attributes of the product, is critical in order for the indirect information to significantly impact the consumer's perception. Mismatched endorsers or endorsers who are not viewed positively will have a much smaller impact on consumers.

On the other hand, an endorser who may not match up perfectly with the product, but who is viewed positively may still have an effect on the consumer, although the effect will probably be smaller than with a properly matched endorser. Well liked endorsers can have positive effects on consumer perceptions even if they don't not match up well with the product.'

Most consumer issues are not easily explained. Not even by research. Its important to know which surveys to respond to and which ones to discard. Helps in bettering marketing decision making.


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