From beer to banking, celebrity endorsements are a major component of many marketing campaigns. Do they have the same weight in social media? Two experts make their cases
Managing director, Fathom Communications
More than 20 years’ entertainment marketing experience
Yes. We all listen when celebrities speak. Why? They are famous, rich and most often attractive, so they must know what they’re talking about. That’s how they got famous in the first place, right?
The truth is that paid celebrity endorsements are proven marketing vehicles. Even though we all know the spokesperson took a nice check for the ad, it somehow still resonates with many consumers.
With the growth of social media, everyone has a soapbox. All you need is a laptop. We can now get instant product reviews and opinions on just about anything. However, it’s not necessarily the case that we trust the opinion of nonpaid consumers more than we trust celebrities. Younger consumers, especially teens, are still heavily influenced by names they know and love, and they are by far the most frequent users of social media.
Celebrities always catch our attention first. Therefore, they by default have more reach and are becoming very savvy in promoting brands organically, so we actually believe they wear that watch or drink that beer. Social media has made celebrities seem even more authentic and accessible, making them an even surer bet to marketers. Consumers who read their “personal” Tweets or Facebook posts, as opposed to a print ad they know someone paid for, perceive that celebs are the real deal and people they can connect with.
In the end, they still have the voice and influence, and we continue to listen.
Senior planner, Young & Rubicam
Six years of marketing technology experience
No. Social media’s greatest strength is its ability to establish authentic connections. The greatest strength of celebrities are their capacity to establish legitimacy. You may think that celebrity plus social media equals a match made in heaven, but it doesn’t.
Celebrities simply don’t have the personal bandwidth to maintain authentic connections. How could they? As Malcolm Gladwell uncovered in The Tipping Point, any given person can maintain just 150 stable social connections at most.
Social media creates too much demand for too little celebrity attention. The inevitable result is a series of dropped connections. These dropped connections create significant risk for a brand. Bad news travels fast, and today’s tools and incentives disseminate disdain quickly and vastly. Celebrities can activate the other strength of social media, virality, but a brand can also be intertwined with fans’ disappointment.
Ultimately, whether or not a celebrity makes a better endorser in the social media space is a matter of risk versus reward. The reward for using celebrities who promote something through social media does not compensate for the risk that the celebrity could generate negative feelings towards a brand.
Want to use a celebrity? Keep them on a one-way medium where their legitimacy offers comfort, a positive association. Keep social media with your true fans, some of whom may even be celebrities. Such fans emerge organically and want your brand to succeed.
Marketers live in a world of seemingly ubiquitous celebrity news and gossip – and a large percentage of that is not positive for the celebrities themselves. A recent case in point is brands dropping Tiger Woods as a spokesman. While it’s possible for brands to effectively use celebrities, they should also be aware of the substantial risks.
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