Upside of tapping celebrity endorsers

Philippine Daily Inquirer Business Features Section, April 2, 2004

ACTRESS and singer Sharon Cuneta was reportedly paid P20 million by Unilab to endorse pH Care. It sent the brand’s share skyrocketing from zero to 56 percent, cutting rival market share to less than half in six months.

This is no unique feat for Cuneta who has also been attributed with WG&A Superferry’s market leadership doubling passenger volume in three months to eventually become the dominant shipping brand.

Same with Selecta’s successful relaunch over 10 years ago where Cuneta with Aga Muhlach were shown sinfully enjoying the richness of Selecta ice cream, brining life to the lackluster brand.

Effective Ways

Below are some effective ways of using the celebrity endorsement marketing strategy.

Use celebrity endorsements to sell low involvement products or services. Largely viewed as commodity items, these products have absolutelyno differentiation in the minds of consumers. Relatively inexpensive, bought frequently as a matter of fact and day to day living rather than with resolve, and absolutely with no unique or compelling benefit, low endorsement products can capitalize on celebrity endorsements.

Use credible endorsers. To be effective, endorsers need to be seen as knowledgeable, skilled, experienced, believable and qualified to talk about the product or service they are endorsing. In 1984, despite a slipping performance due largely to Reebok’s aggressive inroad in the men’s sports shoe segment, Nike signed Michael Jordan to what was then a whopping $2.5 million contract, ridiculed by many financial analysts as unwise and ill-advised considering Nike’s financial woes at the time. On September 15, 1984, the first of the series of Air Jordan shoes was launched with an unprecedented two million pairs sold and a $55 million worth of backlog demand.

Locally, the phenomenal success and wide acceptance of the local brand ABS Bitter herbs charagen ampalaya capsules and tea stems not merely from a clearly defined positioning that helps manage diabetes but likewise from expert, honest and credible endorsements by broadcast journalist, Mike Enriquez and music entertainers Gary Valenciano and Nonoy Zuniga.

Capitalize on endorser’s similarity with target market. Consumers are likely to be more influenced by endorsers who they feel are a lot like them. If the consumer perceives that he shares a similar lifestyle and interest as the endorser, then the message coming from the brand is likely to be more accepted. There is greater empathy between the brand, endorser and consumer. For example, American basketball star Dennis Rodman, while not very appealing to the general adult American population is much liked by kids in the Far East and Europe. In a publicized interview in 1998, the executive vice president of marketing of Converse remarked, “Rodman was huge in these markets – Dennis does what kids admire: he speaks his mind, stays true to himself, does not care what others think, is not artificial and does not suck up. We adults classify him as a rebel, but I do not think out of the 1,000 kids, you would ever hear one of them call him that.”

Closely link endorser attractiveness and product message. Fashion, cosmetic, fitness and health brands benefit well from physically attractiveendorsers. Nonetheless, marketers must ascertain that overshadowing is prevented and consumer attention goes beyond the model and well into the product message.

A study made by Reid and Soley reveals that when links are not executed well, attractive models merely facilitate attention but do not enhance copy or brand recall or readership of advertising message.

Despite using an overwhelmingly popular celebrity endorser Dao Min Sih to endorse the Bench apparel, there was equal consumer attention made to both the brand and endorser, perfectly aided by the copy statement, Dao shall wear Bench.

1973 Miss Universe Margie Moran-Floirendo’s endorsement of C-Lium Fibre, enhances rather than distracts the consumer’s understanding of the brand as a fibre supplement made from one hundred percent psyllium husks that promote good digestion hence, preventing risks of obesity and high cholesterol. Consumers begin to understand with Moran’s testimony how, despite a not so young age, she manages to stay physically attractive, healthy and fit with C-Lium fibre supplement.

Capitalize on endorser’s likeability. Endorsers can strongly influence consumer feelings and attitude. For example, Aga Muhlach has reportedly an unmatched positive appeal among kids.

Facilitate global brand recognition. Using a world renowned celebrity endorser can help bring awareness for new brands entering a foreign market. Celebrities likely to enhance global marketing campaigns are world-renowned film stars, athletes in world sports, television stars with internationally marketed rograms and supermodels. Filipino global and regional marketers are not wanting of Filipino celebrities with Leah Salonga (music), Efren Bata Reyes (billiards), Paeng Nepomuceno (bowling), Manny Pacquiao (boxing), among others.

Managing risks

Despite the many upsides of using the celebrity endorsement strategy, marketers need to protect the brand from transgressions that may happen because of the use of an endorser i.e. bad publicity, misfit with the brand, ensuing controversies, etc. Among the safety nets include:

Celebrity life-screen. Marketer must do a meticulous screening of the celebrity endorser’s past and present lifestyle and life experience. Endorsers have their own brand identity and through endorsements, the celebrity’s meaning is transferred to the brand. Marketers must ensure that only meanings that are suitable to the brand are transferred.

Use moral clauses. A morals clause is a legal statement that allows the advertiser the option to terminate a contract with the celebrity where the latter pays or returns an equivalent partial or full amount of the talent fee in cases where there is a well-founded breach of contract.

Copy test. Marketing-oriented companies resort to copy testing to determine the celebrity’s true appeal and fit to the brand as well as immediately detect any overshadowing that may happen in the advertising execution.

Using celebrities to endorse a brand is like making a capital investment. The decision must proceed with due diligence matched with careful planning and execution.