How celebrity endorsements work – source-effect models

The role of perceived endorser credibility in influencing the audience’s attitudes towards the ad and the brand, and their purchasing intentions is thus highly evident. In most research it is agreed that the endorser’s perceived credibility significantly affects audience’s attitudes towards advertisement and brand and their purchasing intentions (Erdogan, 1999; Goldsmith, Lafferty & Newell, 2000; Ferle & Choi, 2005; Amos, et al. 2008; Gaied & Rached, 2010). In the Gaied and Rached (2010) study it is found out that the more the credible the endorser is perceived to be by the audience the more favourable attitudes s/he generate towards the advertisement and the brand and the more s/he generates buying intentions in the audience. One explanation that however provides an exception to the credibility model was provided by Karlins and Abelson (1970) on the basis of cognitive response theory. In this theory it is hypothesized that a positive initial perception of the message could override the endorsers credibility where the audience would be more influenced even by an endorser who lacks credibility if they feel that their point of view is being adequately embodied (Erdogan, 1999). Where the initial perception of the message however is negative, a more credible source is argued to be better placed to transform the audience’s beliefs on the message (Erdogan, 1999).

In realizing the importance of credibility research has evaluated ways of its measurement. One such method has been dubbed ‘Truth-of-Consensus’ where an “individual’s judgement of attractiveness and credibility are naturally subjective but … shaped through Gestalt principles of person perception principles rather than a single characteristic” (Erdogan, 1999, p. 298). Thus an endorser’s level of attractiveness and credibility for research purposes is taken to be in accordance with the level rated by a statistically significant number of the research participants (Erdogan, 1999). In this aspect Ohanian (1990) constructed one of the commonly used credibility measure where credibility is a complex of three constituents – attractiveness, trustworthiness and expertise (cited in Erdogan, 1999; see appendix for the scale).

Apart from celebrity credibility; celebrity performance could also influence an endorser’s effectiveness. In one study it was for instance noted that where a celebrity performance fails the expectations of consumers, his effectiveness as an endorser tends to decrease (Agrawal & Kamakura, 1995). Building on such findings Farrell, Karels, Monfort, and McClatchey (2000) find the firm’s returns to increase with favourable celebrity performance. The effects of celebrity performance on the endorser’s effectiveness are however noted to be minimal in comparison to other source characteristics (Amos, et al., 2008). Go to part 7 here.

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