45% of consumers respond to celebrities

take care with the double edge sword that is celebrity

Marketing is all about behaviour management – encouraging a target market to behave in preferred manner – for the first or last time, more often, or less often. Persuasion is often central to managing consumer behaviour. This is the fourth of five thoughts addressing five of the many persuasion tools in the marketer’s toolkit. Some might be obvious, but none is easy to engage effectively.

Despite often suggesting otherwise, human beings respond to authority. Despite viewing themselves as independent thinkers, human beings believe authorities. There are volumes of research suggesting the impact of:

  • Titles such as Doctor, Professor, and Chairman
  • Clothing such as lab coats, police blues, and business suits
  • Trappings such as prestige stationary, pens, watches, and cars
Consumers listen to people and heed the recommendations made by people they consider to be experts, successful, or both.

Research has highlighted time and again the impact of ‘authority’ recommendations on both offline and online purchase behaviour.

A category of authority frequently used in marketing is ‘celebrity’. Recent research found that 45% of consumer marketers view the use of celebrities in advertising as having a direct impact on:

  • Sales volumes
  • Achievable prices
At the same time, 55% of the sample saw a real risk in the use of celebrities who may subsequently behave in a way inconsistent with their brand. Examples cited include:
  • Paris Hilton
  • Britney Spears
Research also suggests that the impact of a celebrity recommendation will vary according to the:
  • The relevance of the celebrity to the brand and their perceived relevant knowledge
  • Age of the target market, with younger markets being more responsive
  • The segment of the market, noting differences between B2C and B2B
Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian are more effective in fashion categories than in promoting an accounting firm. Dr Karl is likely to be more effective in promoting a medical application than an item of fashion. We listen more closely to people who are authorities on the product category.

Younger audiences are far more likely to respond to celebrities, even those with less relevance to the product. Older people are more likely to require relevance and supporting facts.

Celebrities are almost always more effective in the B2C space and less so in the B2B space. In the B2B space, buyers are more likely to respond to colleagues and people they know and/or relate to on a personal level.

Authority is a powerful and persuasive tool when it is the right authority, used in the right way and for the right category of product. Using celebrities can also be a double-edged sword. I am not sure Pepsi Co would use Britney Spears again, or that Hertz rent a Car would use OJ Simpson again.

In 2018 – take care with the double edge sword that is celebrity.

Every year – put the facts ahead of intuition and guesswork.

Sources of core statisticsUpwork, Psychology Today, Social Media Examiner, Neuromarketing, HubSpot, Marketing Ideas 101, Direct Creative, Mashable Australia

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