Images of celebrities

Celebrity endorsement should therefore be closely related to the cultural context in which the images of celebrities are formed and linked with particular products. Deciding on the appropriate celebrity endorser is inevitably an important but particularly difficult task for advertisers. In western countries practitioners agree that the celebrity attributes and the fit with the product are sufficient in selecting an endorser (Tag 2001: Shanklin 1994).

However as indicated earlier the perceived importance and actual use of selection criteria used may differ from country to country . Differences in the cultural environments may influence who and how celebrity endorsers are used. There are those who would argue that these differences are no longer pertinent as consumer tastes and preferences have become similar on a global scale. (Levitt 1983) They further postulate that if a celebrity with international recognition is used then the barriers of cultural differences can be overcome.

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(Kaikati: 1987, Erdogan) This is a difficult declaration to accept, after all as already revealed, even internationally iconic figures such as Beckham have failed to achieve the same success in the Asian or American markets . In China for example, Beckham has actively endorsed Addidas and Vodafone. Yet his endorsement deals are eclipsed by local athlete such as Liu Xiang (www. chinatoday. com). Such evidence naturally leads to the divergence or convergence debate in differing political , economic and cultural environments . (Hoofsted 1984 ).

What becomes apparent is that advertisers should not assume that the same adverting techniques can be used with equal effectiveness in different countries. In essence a clear understanding of how celebrity advertisement works should determine the need to standardise or adapt campaigns relating to different cultures . There is therefore a need to outline the effects of source credibility and attractiveness, match up hypothesis and meaning transfer. How advertising works Meaning movement and the endorsement process (McCracken 1989:315)

Celebrity endorsements are effective because of the meanings they carry and convey to the endorsed product, this transfer of meanings largely consists of 3 stages. STAGE 1 An advertiser decides on cultural meanings such gender, status and lifestyle that they need the product to express. They then select a person or object that can be associated with these cultural meanings and is able to transfer them to the audience. STAGE 2 Delivery of these meanings to the product through creative advertising execution. STAGE 3 The cultural meanings should now be automatically transferred from the product to the consumer.

Analysis of Meaning transfer McCracken explains that any person, celebrity or non-celebrity can transfer meanings to the products and to the consumers, however he emphasises that, ‘celebrities deliver meanings in extra subtlety, depth and power’. The transfer of meaning model is an opportunity to revisit or expand on how celebrity works in cross cultural context and how this can be improved. Although the first part of McCracken model is quite precise, the second part needs further expansion and the model misses essential ingredients necessary in the understanding of the transfer of meaning.

Creative strategy is important because it highlights how the endorser will be used tactically in the adverting campaign. Critical strategies such as humour, sex and fear all form crucial aspects of creative execution that need to be embraced. In this respect it is necessary to first look at the product and relate this to cultural aspirations and then ultimately adjust the endorser’s execution or presentation of the message to suit the national or cultural appeal. It would be folly for example to have endorsement in China based on the Beckham sex appeal as often seen in the U. K.

because of the more conservative Chinese culture which frowns upon open display of sexual images. In this regard Addidas appears to have paid particular attention to this as they not only designed two different football boots for the Chinese and U. K markets, but endorsed them with uniquely different creative strategy. The “predator” boots were creatively related to the Chinese Dragon which symbolizes power, excellence and vitality. It overcomes obstacles until success is his. It is energetic, decisive, optimistic, intelligent and ambitious. Its benevolence signifies greatness, goodness and blessings.

(www. press. adidas. com) such creative execution is intricately related to fundamental Confucian cultural values and has enabled the endorsement to enjoy great success throughout Asia. In contrast, the same boot, branded the “predator pulse” in the U. K targets inspirational footballers who strive to follow in the footsteps of their role model. It is a classy, sexy version of the Chinese brand and is supported by a compatible, creative and positioning strategy . Addidas launched the boot in Sedgwick, Beckham’s hometown. (www. addidaspressroom ) .

Rohjeck collaborates and agrees that celebrities humanise desire (Rojek: 2001). Williamson expands on the need to highlight creative execution by pointing out that, ‘meaning is transferred unconsciously, with the celebrity signifying deeply embedded associations’ (Williamson 2000). In theory MaCraken’s model is helpful in showing the transfer of meaning between the audience and the endorsers, it fails, however, to suggest clear ways on how this can be achieved and leaves the practitioner to his devices on how best to suit creative strategy with the endorser in vastly differing cultures.

Although Beckham has done this through Addidas in China, there are still many failures such as the Iranian debacle. This should be a point of focus for future research. Credibility There is a general consensus that an individual will accept a message if it is given from a source she believes to be well informed , intelligent and capable of transmitting valid massages (Hovland et al 1953:21). The same author identified two dimensions that represent the spokesperson’s credibility.

These are trustworthiness and integrity. Trustworthiness is considered along with honesty, integrity and believability of the endorser as perceived by the target audience ( Erdogan , Baker and Tagg, 2001). This theory offers a sound rule of thumb in how communication works. At a basic level this can be supported by people’s acceptance of news material on television and newspapers as facts because of the perceived integrity of the source. In celebrity endorsements, likewise, credibility is a major issue.

The use of celebrities such as Beckham to promote Addidas brands is heavily reliant on his credibility as a successful sportsperson who the audience perceive as knowledgeable and expert at his profession. In a cross cultural context however the issues change. Credibility is still affected by the basic essentials of trust and expertise, however this is not always linked to integrity as suggested and if it is, the measures of integrity are subjective and elusive. One wonders how Calvin brooks a. k. a “SNOOP DOGG” is able to feature in adverts such as DaimlerChrysler and whether such endorsements would work for the Chinese markets or even British markets .

After all, this is a self confessed gangster and pimp and who commands a massive following. His rap culture has violent and immoral undertones and yet he is one of the biggest endorsers in America and sells number one records throughout the world. (Hein: 2005) Snoop himself collaborates and notes that in America hip hop culture is a major part of music, sports and business. He adds, “I’m seeing hip-hop now in all the commercials because it’s what’s driving people to the store.

Even if you don’t like the product you’ll get it because Snoop represents that”(Hein :2005). Hovland’s findings have also been challenged by O’Mahony and Meenaghan who suggest that although both trustworthiness likeably, and attractiveness played an important role, it was expertise which had an impact on purchase decision. (O’mahony and Meenaghan 1997). On the contrary, (Friedman 1976) argued that despite credibility advertisements with endorsers have more effect on the believability and consumers intent to purchase than those without .

It is evidently clear that credibility plays an important role in the endorsers effectiveness because, as Shimp (2003) states, ‘ people who are trustworthy and perceived as knowledgeable about the product category are best able to convince others to undertake a particular course of action’. Many examples of celebrity endorsing products related to their profession support this claim. Beckham has been an ardent endorser of sports products and has enjoyed relative success although there are also many examples where he has endorsed many successful products such as Gillett or Vodafone which have very little to do with sport.

However, before even considering credibility it should also be highlighted that all adverts with endorsers have a positive effect on believability and on consumer intention to purchase – regardless of credibility or type of endorser (Friedman, et al 1976). Moreover those ads that used a high credibility source in comparative advertising campaigns had a positive impact on purchase intention. Nonetheless Natarajan and Chawla (1997) discovered that ads with celebrities were considered more credible that those without.

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