In the photo above, you can see the famous basketball player Shaquille O’Neal endorsing Epson printers. He was undoubtedly paid a lot of money for that, because Epson believed that the increase in profits would more than offset the large expenditure. Companies pay big bucks for celebrity endorsements, so they’re obviously convinced that these endorsements are effective.
But how does this work, exactly? Do people shopping for printers actually think “I like Shaq, and he likes Epson, so I’m gonna buy an Epson, out of solidarity with Shaq?” Do they feel that they’re cool if they buy an Epson, since Shaq endorses Epson and Shaq is cool? Does the association with Shaq simply move the brand “Epson” to the front of the “printer manufacturers” file in their brain, thus increasing the odds that they will buy Epson versus some other brand? Is there something unconscious going on? Do they think that since Shaq was an awesome basketball player, his knowledge of printers must also be awesome?
I can see how someone might be swayed by Rafael Nadal endorsing a certain brand of tennis racket, since Nadal presumably knows his rackets. But I’ve seen nothing to indicate that Shaq is unusually knowledgeable about printers.
As far as I can tell, celebrity endorsements don’t work on me — at least not consciously. I have a favorable impression of Shaq, but it hasn’t changed my opinion of Epson. Granted, the people I tend to admire aren’t your typical celebrities, but would I be influenced to buy a Steven Pinker Happy Meal, for instance? I don’t think so. (OK, I’ll admit that I would definitely buy a Steven Pinker Happy Meal, but only for the novelty value, not because Pinker’s endorsement would change my low regard for Happy Meals.)
I am unversed in this area of psychology. Are there any marketing psychologists reading this who can explain how the psychology works? And if there are any readers out there who would be more likely to buy an Epson printer based on Shaq’s endorsement, could you explain why?