The pros and cons of celebrity endorsements

Latest posts by Craig Lomas (see all)

Celebrity endorsements have been around for many years. Think of Cheryl Cole for l’Oreal, or even Katy Perry for Eylure, or even Kerry Katona and Pete Andre for Iceland – all prime cases of celebrities throwing their weight behind a brand. It’s big business.

Celebrity endorsements don’t just take the form of adverts – celebs are often paid to tweet about products, with companies generously supplying them with goodies. Now of course as a consumer myself, in not only the fashion but also the beauty industry, I can see both the pros and cons of celebrity endoresements on a company’s profile.

Let’s look most recently at the oiled up Justin Bieber – reminding us that he’s not just an irritating popstar, but is also rather hot – for the classic CK underwear campaign. It has emerged since then that the photos were heavily doctored – as they usually are in these campaigns – to achieve the desired and lusted after final look. As I am aware, Calvin Klein hasn’t commented on this matter, but in a day where we know not everything is as it appears, such fiascos do cast some doubt on the intentions of a brand’s ethos. Are they wanting us to chase after an unattainable Photoshopped image or buy into their products through honesty and integrity?

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I mean, look at the size of everything in the second picture? His arms, his back, his pecs, his neck, his shoulders and even his bulge are all bigger. The deepening of the shadows accentuates his musculature. His face, cast more deeply in shadow and apparently widened, makes him look far less like a boy and more like a man.

The truth is: this ideal isn’t honest. So what are the benefits and drawbacks, then, of celebrity endorsements such as this?

Pros

A huge positive in using the stars of our generation is they have great impact in connecting with consumers on a larger scale. A lot of this is through a consumer’s sense of aspiration. As a supremely competitive culture, influenced by rugged individualism and consumer capitalism, we all aspire to be better than the next person. We often conflate success with fame, meaning the use of celebrities gives consumers a benchmark to meaure themselves against, and the implicit promise that you too can access this lifestyle by buying the same products as the stars. It’s a fetishistic approach – coming from the traditional meaning of the word ‘fetish’, as an object that holds power, and which is carried to confer those powers to the holder.

With Twitter and Facebook fan pages generating a colossal amount of hits, likes and follows a day, this is really beneficial for boosting a company’s presence in the market place. Celebrities have access to thousands – and in some cases millions – of followers, so it’s easy to see how lucrative one retweet or the odd tweet about an endorsed company, can do for their business.

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Cons

Now it’s become so popular to see our favourite stars ‘tweeting’ and raving about new products, that it’s become hard to stop the cynicism from kicking in. It’s become less about respectfully empowering a product and more about knocking out a generic tweet about something they have never tried, nor have the intention of trying.

Careful selection about who to use for a brand is also key to its success. In some instances, this has been slightly mocked – such as the aforementioned Peter Andre Iceland adverts. Had I bothered to count the amount of negative tweets I read about this decision, I would probably feel like Einstein sorting an equation.

Celebrity endorsement can be very damaging to the credibility of an advertising campaign, especially if a star goes on a TV show and says to another star something along the lines of: ‘I wouldn’t be embarrassed, I’ve done an Iceland ad for god’s sake!’ Celebrities are human and can, therefore, undermine a very expensive advertising campaign with a simple, off-the-cuff comment. Celebs aren’t always known for their discretion, after all.

Another case of bad taste in the mouth was the use of Kim Kardashian and Kanye in the recent Balmain campaign. This hugely successful and timeless fashion house has chosen to use a frequently ridiculed reality star and an often controversial singer to promote their brand. Granted, I can see how this is hugely lucrative – with millions of fans keen to adore what their stars are doing next – and for Balmain I see the benefits. However, in my opinion it makes a mockery of a brand that prides itself on taste and class when their stars don’t have any – well, none that money can buy anyway.

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