Celebrity endorsers misfire, even when they behave

June 13, 2011

New data suggest brand marketers should move away from celebrity endorsement deals.

Celebrities and brands are a questionable mix at best, and potentially toxic at worst. Names that were once stellar can get sullied fast, and food brands or retailers associated with them can see the value of their endorsement deals plummet. An endorser’s halo can lose its shine in an instant.

We’ve seen this happen repeatedly at the highest levels of entertainment celebrity. It’s bound to happen more in an era of blogging, social media and television gossip shows, where missteps large and small are captured for the world to see.  

Now comes new evidence that celebrity endorsers may help bring attention to a brand, but they’re not especially effective at getting people to buy. A new consumer survey issued by Adweek and Harris Interactive found an overwhelming majority unmoved to make a purchase.

More than three-quarters of respondents (77%) say they are ‘no more or less likely to buy’ a celebrity-endorsed product. Another 14% are less likely to buy it. Just four percent are more likely to buy, and the rest aren’t sure. These findings are consistent across gender and age, with one exception – a higher percentage of Boomers age 55+ (19%) are less likely to buy. 

In our view, these findings suggest consumers are fed up with the high earnings, privileges and self-centeredness of many celebrities, while millions of American families struggle to eat well. We also feel people are jaded and rarely surprised by celebrity misbehavior. So why would they support any of this? And why should brands and stores seek out endorsers who don’t relate to their target audiences?