It has been an age-long practice to use faces of celebrities to promote a brand. This is because of the influence and glamour believed to be associated with this category of people. The thinking, and usually so, is that famous faces attract consumers to the brand.
Celebrity endorsement is simply a marketing communication channel through which a celebrity becomes the spokesman by using his or her personality, popularity, status in the society or expertise in his field to promote a brand.
Factors like values, appeals, large followership on social media platforms, popularity, and ethics are critical considerations for brands while choosing an ambassador. The ultimate aim is to appeal to the targeted audience.
Such strategy, to a large extent, has kept the brand it represents in good perception of the consumer. And immediately, they are attracted or motivated to buy. For instance, a popular toilet soap from the stable of a multinational, UNILEVER, in its Indeed, several practitioners in the world of advertising have acknowledged the use of celebrities as a technique for enhancing trade. Advertisers and managers spend huge budget on celebrities to enhance their products in the market and especially to keep it ahead of competition because owing to the influence they command in their society, some consumers would love to patronise goods and services endorsed by their favourite celebrity.
In the Nigerian space, these celebrities are usually chosen from musicians, Nollywood stars, comedians or a public figure, because they are perceived as potential marketing tool to reach a targeted audience.
Experts are convinced that with the attention they command, celebrity endorsement can be a way of enhancing credibility, gaining visibility for brands and expanding market access.
For instance Holliandia Evap Milk recently chose a Nollywood actress, Mercy Johnson-Okojie as new brand ambassador. In considering her for the position, the brand owners submitted that “she is an accomplished actress, wife and mother which perfectly embodies the milk brand’s all-rounder proposition.”
“Through her versatility, the actress would bring her lifestyle choices and influence to bear to fully relate the nutritious benefits of the milk to every member of the family,” the brand owners said in a statement.
Chi Limited’s Managing Director, Mr. Deepanjan Roy, agreed that Johnson-Okojie’s truly embodies the ideal qualities that the brand wants to be associated with.
“We chose Mercy Johnson-Okojie to be the face of the Hollandia Evap Milk brand as we believe she will inspire a much larger audience to understand and adopt Hollandia Evap Milk for its quality nutritional benefits, convenience and value for money. We are thrilled to have her as our Hollandia Evap Milk Brand Ambassador,” he said.
In recent years, the market has seen a tremendous shift in consumers’ behaviour. It has become more complex and the reason can be attributed to technological advancement. Unlike in the past, consumers are now well informed, have access to information and even dictate the tone in which products place more emphasis on satisfying the consumers needs in order to remain relevant in the market.
Consumers now have higher expectations from brands and with various platforms including social media, thus making it easier for consumers to lodge complaints against any brands perceived to fall short of its expected value.
With these high expectations from brands to deliver value, can celebrity endorsement influence consumers to purchase a product?
Some of the consumers The Nation spoke with said celebrity brand ambassadors do not motivate their buying habit let alone ignite their loyalty to a product.
A consumer and housewife, Mrs Ijeoma Dimude said: “gone are those days I see celebrities advertising a product as big deal. Then I used to think that if I used that product, I am also using the same thing a big star uses, mostly in the cosmetic products. Then it makes me feel like, I can actually have the same smooth skin projected in the advert. But with the exposure I have gotten, it’s just a fad to me”.
Another consumer, Dickson Aruwajaye, noted that such deployment of celebrities as brand ambassadors have become overused strategy that its value is decreasing.
“In this time and age, how can I be influenced to buy a product just because of a celebrity? I think this method has been overused might not be having the same effect as it used to in the past. Some weeks ago, I saw a brand of phone being advertised by some popular musicians in the industry. I went to the market to check out. I noticed that some of the phone’s features are not up to what I would like to have let alone being advertised by a popular musician. The hype is just too much,” he said.
For others, it is just the fun of watching the funny adverts of most of the brands where they use celebrities to pass across their message in their commercials. While they enjoy the entertainment associated with this, yet, it has not lured them to opt for such products if it is of lower quality.
For a supermarket operator in Ikeja, Jason Chukwuemeka, the use of celebrity is not a determinant but the value he gets from a brand. He added that so long as a product or brand does not appeal to a consumer, it cannot be sold.
“A good product sells itself. It needs little or no celebrity endorsement. However, a good celebrity advert content that is well integrated with the target market characteristics and other marketing mix elements such as product design, packaging, pricing and branding can be effective on consumers. Also brands need to understand that such venture is capital intensive and in some cases, do not achieve it’s intended objectives,” Chukwuemeka explained.
A consumer analyst, Benjamin Adegoke, explained that today’s consumers are more influenced by their social network than a celebrity connection, stating they have become more informed and difficult to impress. Rather, they are only influenced by adverts that are relevant and provide information.
A research conducted by Daha Tijjani, Acheampong Owusu, Bakare Akeem Soladoye and K. Ramanatha published in the Asian Journal of Scientific Research to determine the effectiveness of celebrities on the buying habit of consumers, mostly the youth showed that the expertise of a celebrity does not influence the youth to purchase an endorsed product.
The research also noted that the marketing strategy has little or no impact on the targeted audience , an outcome that could be partly influenced by the numerous odd publicity associated with the brand’s chosen endorsers. It also noted the costly strategy which is highly embraced by telecommunication marketing managers and advertisers in Nigeria is not yielding meaningful result as expected.
However, for some consumers, celebrities influence by celebrities to purchase an item. For Tayo, the status of a celebrity can authenticate a brand as a celebrity who knows his worth would not want to associate with a brand that is substandard.
Likewise for Mrs Charity Oni, the love she has for some of her selected celebrities can motivate her to purchase products which they advertise.
The Group Chief Executive of MediaCraft Associates, John Ehiguese, said the marketing strategy is a double-edged sword. He said it is essential for profiling and to pass strategic messages to a target audience especially when there is a coincidence between the followership the celebrity has and the target audience of a brand.
“These people (celebrities) have a lot of followership and can add value to a brand especially when you have a specific message you want to pass across. So the idea is to use them to reach their communities or followers especially on social media. So they have some value. But the drawback is that should they suffer a reputational damage, it automatically affects the brand. So there is a collateral risk attached to this kind of arrangement,” Ehiguese explained.
The Chief Executive Officer Eat’N’Go, the franchisee for Domino Pizza, Cold Stone Creamery and Pinkberry Frozen, Yoghurt, Patrick Micheal, said though he does not use celebrity to promote his brand, but the use of brand ambassadors is still relevant in businesses. However, it is campaign and product dependent. In relation to profitability, it depends on the brand sales’ projection in relation to the cost.
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