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In today’s business environment, advertisements are a part of our everyday lives as business aim to gain a competitive advantage over their competitors. Advertisements appear in any conceivable legally acceptable place as organizations aim to capture the attention of their prospective clients. TV programs are punctuated by commercial breaks which increase in intensity at the time of day when advertisers concede that there is maximum viewership and towering billboards continue to litter our highways.
Advertising as a marketing medium for business promotion is here to stay owing to the huge successes it yields to the organizations which employ the means. Advertisements have evolved in complexity and creativity throughout the years as a result of numerous research efforts undertaken in advertisements.
In the recent past there has been the prevalence in the use of celebrities by organizations in advertisements. The fashion industry in particular has been notorious for its usage of celebrities to endorse its products. This begs the question as to whether employing celebrities to front fashion marketing campaigns results to greater gains for a particular organization.
To answer this question, this paper shall set out to discuss the significant advantages and disadvantages that may come about as a result of using celebrities in marketing campaigns. An analysis of the merits and demerits of celebrity advertisement in the fashion industry shall enable the paper to authoritatively state if these means of advertisement is worthwhile for the industry.
Advertisement and Celebrities
There is no universally accepted definition of the term “advertising” but the legal and statutory definition puts it as “a paid form of message disseminated by businesses… specifically and systematically designed to influence the attitudes and decisions of individuals in relation to their consumption of goods and their use of services” (AGCM 2010).
As such, advertising is always aimed at biasing the attitudes of the market to be favourably disposed to the company’s product. Despite the lack of a universal definition, the core function of advertising remains the say: to sell a good, service or product to a targeted audience (MacRury 2009, p.1). One can therefore infer that good advertisement is that which results in the increase in sales of goods or services to the targeted audience.
The fashion industry stands out for its use of celebrity endorsement as a major marketing communications strategy. A celebrity is a well-known personality who is famous to the public for his or her accomplishments in some area e.g. acting, entertainment or athletes. Celebrity endorsement is generally defined as “any individual who enjoys public recognition and who uses this recognition on behalf of a consumer good by appearing with it in an advertisement” (McCracken 1989, p.310, cited in Wong 2009, p.1).
A report by Cooper (2010) indicates that the reason that celebrities are so prevalent in fashion marketing strategies is as a result of the acknowledgement by marketing executives that celebrities actively influence the public’s taste.
Advantages of Celebrity Advertisements
For a product to sell there must be some positive regard to the product by the consumers. If the consumers can perceive the product as being of a superior quality to other similar products by differing companies in the market, the consumers are more likely to purchase the alleged quality product.
Celebrity advertisements are very effective in creating this perception of quality in the eyes of the consumer. This allusion of quality as a result of the products being used by the celebrities springs from the fact that the public assumes that being a celebrity is synonymous with having a taste for quality products. A case in point is the Nike “Just Do It” campaign in the early 1990s which made use of a number of celebrity sport figures including Michael Jordon and Bo Jackson.
The Center for Applied Research (2000, p.2) asserts that the use of celebrity sports figures was very effective in reassuring consumers that the brands they picked (Nike in this case) was a quality brand. As a result of the celebrity endorsement, Nike rose to become the leading sports apparel company in the world. This goes on to demonstrate the power of celebrities to showcase a product as being of high quality hence leading to increased sales.
The core goal of any advertisement efforts is to expand the consumer base of a product and ensure that the current consumer base is maintained. Celebrity endorsement enables an organization to tap into the fan base of a particular star (Elberse 2009). This is especially significant if the organization desires to reach a certain group of consumers who are known to make up a significant presentation of a celebrity’s fans base.
Devoted fans of a celebrity have been known to don the product that the particular star vouches for regardless of their prior like/dislike for the same. Contrasting this with non-celebrity advertisement personalities who have no fan base and are unknown to the public, one can see why an organization would prefer to use celebrity advertisers whose mere endorsement of the products represents an intrinsic increase in the products consumer base.
One of the defining attributes of using celebrities in advertisements is that they are generally very expensive. However, celebrity endorsements are in most cases regarded as worthwhile investments in advertising since the company makes up for the costs incurred through the positive stock returns and increased sales.
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This may be because a product always has a higher likelihood of being successful if it is well known to the consumers and the use of celebrities invariably leads to the generation of a lot of publicity and attention by the public to the product in question.
While the high cost may be seen as undesirable since it cuts into the company’s bottom line and the success of the celebrity endorsement is not always guaranteed, Elberse (2009) reports that a survey she conducted indicated that use of celebrity endorsements mostly led to the increase in a firm’s stocks. It can therefore be reasonably argued that despite the high cost for celebrity endorsements, an organization gains more than it losses in advertisement costs.
Today’s market is saturated with multiple products serving the same purpose but made by varying manufacturers. This is especially the case in the fashion industry where the there may exist multiple dresses, hand bags and shoes to name but a few, all made by different designers. In such a case, celebrity endorsement can achieve the invaluable task of differentiating the organization’s products from those of its competitors (Elberse 2009).
In an attempt to differentiate its products from those of other organizations, a company will have to invest a lot of time and money into ensuring that its products remain visible to the public. As a matter of fact, celebrities are more exposed to mainstream media than anonymous models (Bergstom & Skarfstad 2004). Celebrity endorsement will therefore bring a great amount of attention to the organization’s unique product therefore differentiating it from the others in the market.
Celebrities can be used to bring about credibility to a particular brand. If a celebrity is perceived as being trustworthy and respectful, the audience to the advertisement will see the celebrity as believable and hence take his/her word for it in relation to the product that he/she is endorsing.
Credibility is given high value in the fashion industry since some of the products sold are especially expensive and as such, consumers need to be convinced before parting with a small fortune to purchase the product.
Elbers (2009) suggest that while “consumers cannot easily assess the true quality of products… seeing a celebrity attaching his or her name to a product may help alleviate some of the uncertainty.” The consumers trust will therefore be built as a result of this celebrity connection leading to higher sales for the organization.
Disadvantages of celebrity Advertisements
A significant disadvantage of using celebrities in advertisements is that if a company repetitively uses the same celebrity, consumers may subconsciously begin to link the brand to the celebrity. For example, Till 1998 (cited in Bergstom & Skarfstad 2004, p.2) notes that the consistent use of Michael Jordan in Nike’s advertisements encouraged customers to think about Nike whenever they thought of Jordan and vice versa.
This may be detrimental to a company’s goals should the celebrity endorser fall out of grace with the public. This is a very real danger as can be demonstrated by the product endorser giant, Tiger Woods. Until 2009, Tiger Woods was one of the most popular celebrity endorser earning up to $100 million from his endorsement deals with multiple companies (Shimp 2008, p. 250).
Nike in particular made use of this athletic star to endorse some of its products. The negative publicity that came about as a result of Tiger Woods infidelity cases which were over publicized by main stream media resulted in a bludgeoning of his image and by extension, a negative perception for the products he endorsed.
Another demerit of celebrity advertisement comes from the fact that fitting a celebrity endorser with a product may be a hard task and if it is not done correctly, an organization may end up spending millions on advertisement costs and not reap any benefits from it. A research by Bergstom & Skarfstad (2004) indicates that most companies do not employee a clear strategy when they are selecting celebrities to use in their advertisements.
As such, the companies rely more on intuitions and feelings in the selection process. For example, the sports apparel company, Gap, enlisted the high-fashion celebrity Ms. Parker (the star in Sex and the City) to market its sportswear (Ferla 2005). This was a mismatch which had disastrous results for Gap as its consumers could not identify the celebrity with the product. The organization therefore ended up spending millions of dollars in celebrity advertisement despite it not reaping any significant gain as the sales decreased.
This paper set out to highlight the significant advantages of employing celebrities by an organization to front its marketing campaigns. To this end, this paper has discussed some of the advantages as well as disadvantages that are apparent in celebrity endorsements.
From the discussions presented herein, it is evident that the main aim of using celebrities is to obtain as much media coverage for the organization as possible which results in the generation of more sales. The facts presented in this paper demonstrate that this is a role that celebrities play successfully.
It can therefore be authoritatively stated that the use of celebrities in advertisements is more advantageous to a company. Celebrity advertising should therefore be employed wherever possible by organizations in the fashion industry. However, care should be taken to ensure that the celebrities chosen to endorse a product are well fitted for the role and fairly predictable to avoid the losses that can be incurred by the organization should the celebrity fall out of favour with the public.
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Center for Applied Research (CFAR) 2000, Mini-case Study: Nike’s “Just Do It” Advertising Campaign,.
Cooper, R. 2010, Celebrity Fashion: Terms of Interest to the Fashion Industry. Web.
Elberse, A. 2009, Risks and Rewards of Celebrity Endorsements. Web.
Ferla, R. L. 2005, The Celebrity Endorsement Game. Web.
MacRury, I. 2009, Advertising. Illustrated. Routledge.
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