Celebrities may take the visual attention away from the brand and the product

Neurons HQ

November 15, 2017

Does it pay off to spend budget on celebrities for endorsing your product or brand? A new study performed by the university of Sao Paulo has attempted to reply this answer. And happy for us, they’ve cited the academic work of Neurons' CEO, Thomas Z. Ramsøy!

The celebrity endorser effect

So much of a company’s financial resources are spent on advertising campaigns since everyone is looking for a hack solution where one-size-fits-all and customers are always attracted to the brand or product. One of these solutions is celebrity endorsements.

Using celebrities with attractive qualities or who are admired by society in advertisements have been a proven facilitation to the positive response of potential and already existing customers. This is because there is a significant transfer from the celebrity to the advertised product and brand, meaning that endorsements from celebrities may exert positive impacts on important marketing metrics, such as recall and recognition, attitudes toward the ad and brand evaluations.

Inconclusive science

However, this issue may not be so simple.

Outside the USA celebrity endorsements have a significantly smaller influence on the target audience because of cultural differences.

Also, the characteristics of the celebrity need to be considered for the effectiveness of the endorsement for any particular product. To investigate this there have been some international studies which have used neurometric devices such as fMRI and eye-tracking, but because they did not manipulate the variables as is typically done in an experiment, their findings were inconclusive.

A big part of the problem is that due to human biopsychosocial nature, predicting our behavior is difficult. Therefore, it is important to study the unconscious consumer behavior, since a significant portion of our decisions are subject to much influence on non-rational aspects. The solution to this problem is the science of neuromarketing since its purpose is to understand the emotions and reactions that are beyond rationality.

How to utilize celebrity endorsements

There are some factors that you can take into account to get the best out of celebrity endorsements. First is the abstract level of the brand and what they sell. Concrete brands that sell a particular product like Coca Cola have low abstract levels, where inversely, more service-oriented companies like Bank of America, have very abstract products.

The other factor to consider is relatedness where the profile of the celebrity is important for matching with the product. An athlete with sports equipment is highly related, where a musician with cleaning products might be considered unrelated.

As you can see from the chart there are examples of all four combinations. Pairing Jennifer Garner with Capital One has low relatedness and the brand is abstract. Pairing Celine Dion with Mercedes is equally unrelated, however, the product is very concrete. Intel is a rather abstract company, but matching Jim Parsons is very related due to his acting profile. Matching Michael Jordan with Air Jordan shoes is both very related and not abstract meaning this pair is ideal.

Celebrity and product relationship chart.
Chart: Comparison between level of abstraction of the product and the relatedness of the celebrity endorsement. Capital One and Intel are two examples of highly abstract products. Intel and Air Jordan are two examples of campaigns where the celebrity is related to the product.

Enter neuromarketing

New technologies for the analysis of the human brain enable more accurate studies on responses and preferences. More specifically, neuromarketing allows the understanding of consumer behavior concerning the analysis of packaging, promotions, product placement, in addition to enabling the verification of print advertising and television commercials.

Therefore, a Brazilian study methodologically investigated the question of “Is there more visual attention of consumers in the “celebrity” stimulus in comparison to other stimuli?”. More specifically, they compared the visual attention of print media with celebrity endorsements to the attention to other variables such as logo, name, product and non-famous people.

A study of a celebrity endorser

12 print advertisements of 6 brands that Gisele Bundchen endorses with and without her picture were used to investigate areas of interest in the eye-tracking experiment. The results show that advertisements with celebrity images outperformed those with non-famous people. This means that:

People paid more attention to brands and products endorsed by the celebrity.

However, celebrities diverted attention from the brand and the product.​

A celebrity with a fogmap over it.
Fog map obtained with NeuroVision (Predict since 2021): an attention AI that predicts bottom-up human attention with 95% accuracy. The map shows only the areas that attract instinctive visual attention. This image is created by Neurons and has no relationship with the research.

That's the downside of using celebrities as compared to non-famous people. This issue needs to be considered by marketing managers assessing attention, emotion, and level of mental processing of the ads.

Either way, this corroborates the literature on the subject. It seems evident that if advertisers want their ads to receive more visual attention, a great way to do this is to include a well-liked or attractive celebrity in them.

Further reading

Celebrities may take the visual attention away from the brand and the product

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