Endorsements and authenticity

Slightly technical, but compelling research from Nielsen’s ratings regarding celebrity endorsements and advertisements.

Rethinking Celebrity Endorsements: Authenticity And Fit Are Key

While consumers are influenced by celebrities, they are also savvy enough to know when things are out of sync and an endorsement isn’t authentic.  Our research has shown that authenticity is most important among the very desirable youth market (ages 12-29).  Being able to tell whether the individual is a good fit for the proposed endorsement is an important piece of the puzzle to consider, before talking details of a deal, not after.  Fit can be measured in many ways – does the individual resonate with the target audience?  Do they reflect the attributes that brand is trying to present? Do consumers think they are a good fit for the category or brand?  Do consumers think the celebrity even uses the product they are endorsing?


Although Liam Neeson tops the N-Score rankings, if a deeper layer of research is applied, one that includes data on his purchase influence and social media footprint, the results are likely to be quite different.  According to Fanatomy 1, despite his high recognition (89%) and familiarity (73%) Neeson exerts only average purchase influence (30%) among those aware of him but has lower category fit – Automotive 51%, Alcohol Brands 41% and Financial Brands 34%.

In other words, consumers, particularly in the younger generation, aren’t very compelled by a celebrity endorsing a product because they can see through it. Unfortunately, MediaPost Communications (and likely other marketing/advertising companies) misses the forest for the trees (likely because they’re pushing such services to their clients),

Choosing the right person to endorse or promote your brand is vitally important.  There are numerous examples of brand / celebrity partnerships that are incompatible from the outset.  Take Brad Pitt and Chanel No.5 – although his fan base is likely to include females who use perfume, he himself is unlikely to be a frequent user.  Consequently, the partnership could be perceived as inauthentic.

Sometimes a celebrity may make sense. But if you’re thinking about celebrity endorsements before thinking about what it is you’re selling and why, you’re doing it wrong. The youth aren’t the only ones sensitive to inauthenticity, everyone is. It’s likely that younger demographics are less forgiving of it, as they’ve never lived in a world where consumerism wasn’t the modus operandi.

This is exactly the reason why marketing and advertising gets such a bad rap. The industry is more concerned with pushing product than with creating a lasting, meaningful relationship with their customers, built upon trust. There are good companies in this world selling quality products and services that make people’s lives better. You only need someone famous to convince us to use your product if your product doesn’t speak for itself. Let’s hope media types will accept that truth at some point.

  1. Fanatomy is PMK•BNC’s proprietary research study focused on consumer perceptions of celebrities and their potential fit and impact on brands and various product categories.

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