Celebrities and Credibility in PromotionHiring a celebrity to endorse a product is a popular promotional option for many marketers especially in the consumer market.  Each year leading consumer companies offer millions of dollars to celebrities to endorse their products.  Many marketers are eager to spend their promotional money on celebrities because they believe a strong celebrity can quickly heighten awareness for a brand.  However, such promotional techniques also pose risks if something negative happens to the celebrity.

The selection of celebrities to serve as endorsers seems like a fairly straightforward exercise.  All the marketer has to do is look at media outlets and determine which celebrities are most popular.  Once a list of top celebrities is assembled the marketer targets the most attractive options and begins to negotiate a deal.  While targeting high-end celebrities may work for well-financed companies who sell products to a broad market, it may not be a realistic method for smaller firms who market niche products.  For these companies, assistance in identifying and selecting celebrities is often needed.  One source many look to for guidance for evaluating celebrities is the Q-Scores rating.

RATING CELEBRITIES

Q-Scores are used by marketers for several purposes including determining advertising placement and assessing consumer attitudes toward brands.  Additionally, many celebrities in the entertainment industry and sports world are evaluated based on their Q-Scores.  These scores help marketers assess the potential value a celebrity may have if hired to endorse or in other ways be associated with the marketer’s product.

According to Marketing Evaluations, the factors affecting a celebrity’s Q-Score relate to measures of familiarity and appeal.  Thus, higher Q-Scores are generally associated with more likeable celebrities.

On the surface, it would seem marketers seeking celebrity endorsers would gravitate toward those with high Q-Scores.  However, while likeability is an important consideration for marketers looking for a celebrity spokesperson, it is only one of several considerations when selecting the celebrity.  In instances where a marketer is looking for a celebrity endorser to present the image of someone who is a user or has strong knowledge of a product, a more important measure is one of source credibility.

SOURCE CREDIBILITY

Source credibility has a long history of research in the communication field.  While there are several theories that measure it in different ways, the most accepted measure was originally developed by Yale researchers Hovland, Janis and Kelly in the 1950s.  It suggests two major components – expertise (i.e., perception the person is a source of valid statements) and trustworthiness (i.e., perception the person is objective and virtuous) are key to source credibility.

While it is probably a necessary first step in many endorsement situations, according to source credibility research a person’s Q-Score is not enough to suggest the source is credible.  For instance, an actor with a high Q-Score who plays a fumbling owner of a small motel in a television sitcom would probably not be viewed as a credible source for endorsing anti-virus software since there may be little in the role played by the actor or anything in this person’s background to suggest they possess the expertise (and possibly trustworthiness) to represent the product.  On the other hand, an actor, who plays the role on a television drama of a police officer whose character is regularly involved with investigating high-tech crime, may be an ideal choice even though this actor’s Q-Score may be lower than the actor in the sitcom.  This is because some viewers may perceive the actor playing the police officer possesses computer expertise based on the character the actor plays.

For marketers looking to hire a celebrity who can help increase product sales, likeability may come second to credibility.  While the Q-Score is a strong marketing tool, it should only be one of several factors that marketers consider when selecting a celebrity endorser.

Image by Derek Purdy