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People don’t always fall for celebrity advertising

April 1, 2008

fairhandsome.jpgA high number of premium and not-so-premium products are being advocated by celebrities today…one would have thought that this is because it works for the marketers. Well, it may not be working… assuming that the research I am about to quote has some element of truth in it.

This recent Celebrity Endorsement Survey of 2019 people across 12 metros and small towns by IMRB (Indian Market Research Bureau) and the PR company IPAN, has revealed that although 86 percent of those surveyed said they remembered ads with celebrities in it, only 3 percent said that they actually bought a brand because of the celebrity. And only 22 percent of the people actually believed that the celebrities actually used the product they endorsed. IMRB has said that factors like quality, price, word of mouth and experience is what actually propels people to buy. That’s good news.

I for one have always believed that Indian consumers aren’t stupid and don’t spend their hard-earned money to buy a product just because their favourite celebrity uses it…well, not the majority anyway. And that is why I have been a little bewildered with the sheer volume of celebrity endorsements in the media today. Some film and sports stars endorse dozens of brands each!

So why do marketers continue to pay celebrities crores to endorse their brand? Well, it could be that marketers are not in tune with the pulse of ordinary people. However, the same survey also says that people do recall the brands endorsed by celebrities (brand recall surveys are a tool that ad agencies use to measure the success of their ad campaigns). Logically it should follow that Brand Recall leads to actual buying of the brand, but I do not believe that celebrity endorsement is the critical factor in most cases, well not in India anyway. I may find a brand familiar, say Lux, but may never buy that soap.

Celebrity endorsement could alter perception of quality…and reality?
A western research study on “Product Differentiation, Celebrity endorsements and the Consumer’s Perception of Quality”, the link to which I got from this blog, says that buyers do get influenced by celebrity endorsements:

It is believed that when an endorser is used in an ad, the indirect information inferred by the consumer becomes more credible and more relevant. The result is that the consumer has the perception of a higher quality for the advertised product. Since consumers prefer high quality over low quality, the endorsed product is more likely to be purchased.

What is important is that the study qualifies this conclusion by saying this is dependent not just on the popularity and attractiveness of the star but also on the specific traits of the endorser, say factors like expertise and knowledge of the product. In other words the celebrity needs to “match” the brand. Otherwise there could well be a negative effect on the brand. If one takes this in the context of India, then the Indian research which says that celebrities are falling flat on their face when it comes to delivering results for the brands they advertise, makes more sense.

I think most Indian celebrities aren’t matched very well to the brand they advertise and this makes their claims about the product sound hollow and incredible. If a sports star endorses a sports shoe it would be far more credible than him endorsing a hair oil. And Shah Rukh endorsing Fair and Handsome??!! He should instead endorse Botox! 🙂
Stars are also overused in advertisements and studies have shown that this negates the effect of brand recall as it confuses the consumer. Yet, marketers continue to overuse stars. At times I think the CEO of the company must be a big fan of the star… I can almost hear him saying: I want Katrina Kaif!!

Indian ads have far more celebrities than those in the western nations…it’s almost as if our marketers firmly believe that Indian consumers are a bunch of idiots who will believe that the already white Aishwarya uses Fair & Lovely and that they will ‘imitate’ Amitabh Bachchan and buy a Parker pen. Oh well, if the ad is only to induce brand recall, then I guess the marketers are getting their money’s worth, but are they really? If I just talk about myself then I would say whenever there is a celebrity in the ad, I always fail to recall the actual product.

(Photo from the bbc)

Related Reading: Kids are the ones who are impressed with celebrities
Models today need to know how to act
How advertisers fake food ads
Advertisers to self-regulate
Celebrities and politicians are both narcissistic!

15 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2008 9:48 am

    damn! ur right on the money there 😀 srk endorsing botox wud be as appropriate as Abishek endorsing flashy mediocrity!
    i doubt if any actors in Bollywood use anything Indian, except money.

  2. April 1, 2008 11:28 am

    @Aniche: What you talking man!

    Don’t you know SRK drives only Hyundai cars i.e Santro and i10 & Sachin only has 1 tvs bike and one Palio.


  3. April 1, 2008 12:14 pm

    Very rarely consumers buy a product based on celebrity advertisements. What is further surprising is that the advertisers recognize only cricket, tennis players as sports celebrities. Other sports are ignored. Also they don’t recognize professionals from other fields like science and technology as celebrities.

  4. April 1, 2008 12:22 pm

    I think we should have some disclaimer after the ad… lol like, the celeb saying, I really dont use it.. I am doing this because they paid me and asked me to.. use it on your own risk 😀

  5. April 1, 2008 12:35 pm

    Here’s another level of endorsement: Many people do buy tennis racquets or some sports equipment if some player is using them on court in tournaments. But, practically it is quite difficult for a player to change his or her equipment.

    So, what tennis or sports cos. do is, they do a custom paint job on their older racquets to make them look like the newer series etc. that players carry to tournaments and many new comers or recreational players buy with that in mind. So, they get a good boost of sales coz. of it.

    Also, its people like us, who aren’t impressed by SRK or AB using some hair oil etc., but much wider audience do buy stuff celebrities endorse, many kids do it, and many poor but people who can afford use it. I can’t explain who is the target audience but there is a good proportion of those people.

  6. Yuva permalink
    April 1, 2008 1:01 pm

    lack of creativity… although good Indian talent pool in ad agency but I guess most lack investment for genX and most of ad agencies in owned by foreign company.

    Creativity ad has for more reach then celebrity– surf excel…

  7. April 1, 2008 1:24 pm

    //If a sports star endorses a sports shoe it would be far more credible than him endorsing a hair oil. //
    U meant Sreesanth huh? hahaha.

    U are right when u say that the consumers are not a bunch of idiots to buy a product just because a celebrity is on its ad.
    But like you said when we see a product, we know which celebrity is endorsing it. And that is helping the companies to boost sales.
    We wont go for even a soap or anyting for that matter if we havent heard about it. We would hopefully take the one next to it which we have heard about.
    Bingo is in the market for some time now, trying to get the market share that lays and pringles are enjoying.
    They are showing ad like crazy (without celbrities), I bought that once coz i have seen the ad on the TV.

    I know acer = Hrithik, lenovo = saif, Compaq = SRK.
    They dont need the celbrities to endorse those products. They still do that, may be bcoz they think that if one of them dont have a celebrity, they mite be feel low.
    🙂 or may be coz the ads will be interesting to watch.
    Videocon came back to the market with SRK. How do i remember that? Coz they have a large picture of SRK in b.w some refrigerators and televisions.
    I dont really see any need to have celebrities in ads, but then its entertaining.

  8. April 1, 2008 3:29 pm

    just because their favourite celebrity uses it…

    Well do the celebs really use indian sutff ?, they wear imported branded garments n stuff bought in london europe and swiss, do u think they use the brands they promote in India?

    They do have a demonstrative effect , with people of lower classes and nouveau rich agriculturists but they also learn over time, as a friends servant said 2 years i used fair and lovely … and still im not fair – they are all cheats.

    Well sensible discounts work much better –that too when unbranded goods sell at a 20 to 50% discount
    and with this inflation

    I know acer = Hrithik, lenovo = saif, Compaq = SRK.
    yr right they do give brands recognition but will people buy?
    well most people dont buy branded computers
    do u know what it costs in maintainance after warrrenty life?
    Videocon also revamped its products in terms of quality
    esp fridges – as their quality was bad .

  9. April 1, 2008 4:29 pm

    aniche, yeah, these people live on imported stuff!

    Dinsan, they could have a celebrity selling a product and a bubble telling is real thoughts! Anshul, hope you are listening as this is meat for your cartoons!

    Anshul, I agree that some people to get taken in by ads, but as Prax says they may not have the money to buy what the star endorses. And those who have the money may not get fooled! 🙂 I mean, sure, some may, but not for long.
    It is also a possibility that no one wants to admit that they buy a product because a celebrity is endorsing it, as it sounds dumb. So perhaps this would influence the results of any survey. I am not sure.

    OldSailor, I guess these other achievers are not known to the public because their work is not in the public eye. The sports and film stars perforce perform in public and therefore they get their fame…

    Prax, I agree, you cannot fool all the people all the time. To my mind these celebrities are being used because ad agencies do ad recall surveys to prove to the client that the ad has been effective. I used to work in advertising and that is the main thing they do to prove the effectiveness of the ad. But ad recall may not result in sales.

    Yuva, you are bang on about creativity. In fact I wish I had mentioned that in my post! Using a celebrity makes the work much easier.

    Xylene, yep I meant Sreesanth. Overall though you have an amazing recall of what brands are endorsed by whom. I agree that the celebrity ads are interesting to watch, but somehow I never seem to recall which brand they are advertising as I am more curious to see that the celebrity is doing!

  10. April 1, 2008 7:50 pm

    Hi Nita,

    I think I can add a comment here.

    I’ve seen and liked Nima Rose ad, but I can’t say who the girl is. So, when we talk of creating an ad that people would like, there’s always an alternative to the celebrity.

    Liking an ad is one thing, buying a product is yet another. Nonetheless ad by celebrity works in case of teenagers who are in their impressionable age.



  11. April 1, 2008 7:52 pm

    I love watching ads with celebrities especially when its funny. (the latest wtih Ranbir, Deepika and SRK) and in another where SRK is called an ‘uncle’. But then i love some ads coz if the music, like the closeup ad ‘Ros naya closeup karthe hai’

    I think like me there wud be others who follow ads on TV. May be not buy the products they endorse, but it may be on my shopping list for sometime in future.

  12. April 1, 2008 7:57 pm


    This blog is one of the best I have come across with India theme.

    Keep posting.

    PS. Popular Posts block on left column, is most likely to keep same post on it, since reader will check those first, and same cycle will get repeated. So other posts which are good and also widely read may not feature in popular posts block. See if you can solve this.


    Thanks Shailesh. 🙂 About the Popular Posts widget, yes I too find it irritating that the same post keeps staying there but unfortunately there is nothing I can do except remove that widget. To counter the effect of this problem I have included a greater number of posts, but even then some posts lose out. I wish I had a solution to this but at present there doesn’t seem to be as popular posts are counted by the number of hits and that too by WordPress. – Nita.

  13. April 2, 2008 3:47 am

    do u know some people tune to superball for the adds…

    food for thought xlene

  14. Josel permalink
    April 11, 2008 6:50 pm

    Actually it discourages me to think that a celebrity is endorsing a product I need.

  15. rantingraj permalink
    September 11, 2008 2:16 am

    Well, the truth is that such surveys are useless because people often are unable to actually determine what they think or rather why they think that way. If you ask all of the millions of Indians why they drink pepsi, is it because shahrukh endorses it? most will say no and tell you that they like pepsi because of its better taste (as compared to other colas perhaps but the truth is that there is hardly any difference in the way coke, pepsi or thumsup taste, at least for me 🙂 its just a question of which of these brands they like) They’ll always want to be intelligent and will tell you tht they do the thinking for themselves but they don’t. Most of their buying decisions n even other decisions such as who to vote for are made for them subconsciously by their brains. Now, these decisions can and often are based on preconceived notions, bias’s and other most trivial of factors. And most people just blindly follow this intuition and that is why celeb endorsements work very very well and are not going to end in a hundred years from now…

    You should probably read ‘Blink’ — a great book on this subject.

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