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?
I found a doctoral dissertation on the subject:
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS AND ADVERTISING EFFECTIVENESS:
THE IMPORTANCE OF VALUE CONGRUENCE
I don’t know what it is, but I have to admit that I just bought that very same printer.
Celebrity endorsements can swing both ways. OJ used to shill for Hertz and Cosby used to do ads for Jello. But no company would touch them now. I would like to know how much sales of Aviation gin went up after Ryan Reynolds started doing ads for them. And how much they would drop if he was embroiled in a scandal.
How is that a mystery? If it doesn’t sell, you mandate it like a gene therapy against the flu that DOD handles and you don’t have to prove efficacy or safety because you are at war or something…
BTW: I’m glad you are doing way better keiths… Remember, life has many dimensions we don’t appreciate unless we are about to lose it… Capish?
Haha. Do you think Shaq might have tipped the balance?
Adidas sure learned that painful lesson:
Adidas says dropping Kanye West could cost it more than $1 billion in sales
Another category of celebrity endorsements involves makeup or other beauty products. An attractive celebrity is shown applying Maybelline mascara or some such product, and then we see images of her looking ravishing in various settings. The implication is that the product is what makes her look so good, and that the consumer can look ravishing too if she buys the product.
A variation is the attractive older celebrity hawking an anti-wrinkle cream or some other youth-preserving product. The product isn’t what made her beautiful, but the implication is that it’s what keeps her looking beautiful.
When these advertisements work, the interesting question to me is how much of the influence is conscious vs unconscious.
There’s no mystery. It’s marketing. One side of marketing is advertising. Advertising provides “brand recognition”. When somebody needs a printer and needs to look for one, he will more likely start looking for one whose ads he has seen. Non-advertising brands are unknown so nobody will be looking for them.
The other side of marketing is supply. Drown good salesplaces with your products, thus leaving less space for competing products. When people enter a store, they can only buy what is there. It is very hard to buy what is not there.
As to reasoning a la “this celebrity endorsed a printer, therefore I must now buy a printer,” it may work in a society where people don’t need to think about how they use money or where they compete with their neighbour buying stuff. For thinking people, advertising only works with regard to things they need. I don’t need a printer, so I don’t have it and I won’t buy it. Maybe I will get a printer if I get paid for having it.
Why didn’t I think of that?
True, advertising can create brand recognition, but it’s far more than that. Epson had achieved excellent brand recognition long before it hired Shaq. A celebrity spokesman was what they thought they needed to give their recognized brand an edge over the other recognized brands. My questions in the OP concern the psychological reasons that hiring Shaq was a good business decision. What specific psychological processes occur in consumers’ minds, having seen the Shaq ads, that wouldn’t occur if Epson had hired, say, Erik as their spokesman?
Manufacturers can’t force their products on retailers. Stores aren’t obligated to put products on their shelves. Products have to earn shelf space, and the ones that earn shelf space are the ones that are in demand. Epson expected their large investment in Shaq to generate more than enough additional demand to compensate for the outlay.
I suspect Shaq’s influence extends to people who are already going to buy a printer for other reasons.
Been to a supermarket recently?
Brands pay for space.
Big difference between being forced to do something and being paid to do it. You can bet those supermarkets did their homework and didn’t accept payments for shelf space until they knew that the payments would more than compensate for any lost profits due to the displacement of better-selling items.
I see why marketing is a complete mystery to you. It is a complete mystery to everyone whose idea of capitalism is limited to supply and demand. A more complete picture of capitalism includes predatory pricing, market saturation, regional monopolies, manufactured scarcity etc. etc. What matters here is not just these actions, but also the perception of these actions. With “good PR” (i.e. deception) the market agent can spin all hostile actions to something tolerable or legal.
You have some interesting quirks. Out of curiosity, where did you get the idea that I think capitalism is limited to supply and demand?
In actual reality, in the Western civilisation that we live in, the fact that people get paid for their corporate employment does little to reduce the forced nature of the employment. Unless you or your parents are filthy rich, there is no option to avoid employment for monetary remuneration in order to get your bills paid. The fact that there is no other option means that the option that is left is FORCED. Even though we get paid being employees, it is still forced.
The same applies wider between weaker and stronger market agents. Your local grocery store does not have a free choice of what to sell. The options are limited and forced, mostly by the major suppliers. The grocery store may be subjected to a hostile takeover, which is an instance of getting bought out of business. The mere fact that they get paid does not make it voluntary, justified or good. The mere fact that they get paid does not mean it’s the right thing to do or the right amount.
Maybe this does not strictly mean that your idea of capitalism is limited to supply and demand, but it definitely means that you are all-in in the neoliberal theory of economics where supply and demand are the “invisible hand” that makes everything downstream morally justified. I am into alternative theories where supply and demand must follow the principles of common good and fixed resources like land, water and biosphere, i.e. ecology and culture are prior to economy.