Tarun Mahani

Curator, TEDx

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The Danger of Celebrity Endorsements of Brands

Paying celebrities to endorse a brand is dangerous territory. This isn’t a new revelation, but brands still shell out massive amounts of money to have the “it” celebrity of the moment appear in ads and say how great the brand is.

The latest celebrity brand endorsement gone wrong story (Lance Armstrong admitting to Oprah Winfrey that he used doping to win all of his Tour de France titles) reminds us once again how risky it is to pay to attach a celebrity name to a brand name.

The list of celebrity endorsements of brands that have gone terribly wrong for the brands is long. Here are a few:

Tiger Woods and multiple brands
Madonna and Pepsi
Kobe Bryant and McDonald’s and Coca-Cola
Michael Vick and Nike
Michael Phelps and Kellogg’s
Kate Moss and Chanel and H&M
O.J. Simpson and Hertz

  • Mar 17 2013: Professor Robert Cialdini wrote two books on influence. They should be easy to find in a library. References show up every now on the internet. The one that got me was a take-away. At least we know that the celebs are getting paid. There was a TED talk recently where a Rapper portrays a character who killed someone for a pair of Air Jordans. I am not sure if your use of danger is the right word, but salesman are very aware of manipulation techniques.
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      Mar 17 2013: thanks GL , sir , i am really looking forward to get these 2 books by Professor Robert Cialdini ..
      and can you please send me link to the Ted talk that you are talking about ..
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    Mar 16 2013: honestly, i could not care less if a corporation loses some sales. why would i care about that? i think there are two stupids in this situations. one stupid is of course corporations not caring about the future, and taking too much risk focusing their ad campaigns on stars that tend to end up in jail, detox or morgue after taking one too many dose of some drug. but as i said, for all i care, they can go bankrupt, and i won't even bother reading the article about it.

    the second stupid is the customer. if you buy a product because of some celebrity appeared in a tv spot, you are as dumb as it gets. if you are not grown up enough to make decisions for yourself, you are hopeless, and deserve to buy crap. but this is important. we are all affected by this stupid consumer behavior, so it does worth calling attention to it.
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      Mar 17 2013: hey , KP , sir what i think is that , if such is the case then , brands should take celebs of good social image , and at the same time it makes sense , as in cricket goods should have cricket players as their brand face , it happens when it does not make sense , cricket player endrosing football goods company ..
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        Mar 17 2013: "should" in the sense that this is your recommendation. not in the sense that this is the absolute right thing to do, and especially not in the sense that it is moral. choosing britney spears as your celeb icon is a risk, and if a company is willing to take that risk, in the worst case, it is an error. error is okay.
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    Mar 16 2013: A good alternative to this kind of advertising campaigns , can be introducing the use of the product, look at Apple ads or Surface ads for example. it's about the product not who famous using it.
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      Mar 16 2013: definitely thumbs up for you , if the product is high quality , then it will speak for itself , it also does not need advertisement , and it does not matter who is endrosing the brand , as it does not matter anymore but my friend , apple is a too big brand , what about the new brands that no one knows , it definitely needs fame , and has to work a lot , to become a word of mouth , and it is here endrosements by big personality helps ..
  • Mar 16 2013: Professor Robert Cialdini tells us that this is a technique that can be very helpful in selling our products. He is often discussed in introductory psychology courses. This pscychologist has written two books for the public.
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      Mar 16 2013: GL , sir can you please ellaborate the psychological points or tell more the books ...
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    Mar 16 2013: Tarun, I tend to think celebrity endorsements are not terribly risky for big companies. I think when an individual celebrity does something bad, we don't blame the corporation, we blame the individual celebrity. For example, when Kobe was accused of rape, I did not blame McDonalds or CocaCola, after all, it would have been very difficult for them to know that would happen. None of us foresaw that.
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      Mar 16 2013: hey , GD , i completely agree that big companies are always on the safe side , and to them publicity does not matter , even if they don't advertise , thier products will be sold coz they have earned people's heart and that is why they are big brands and also the celebs personal life does not have any effect on the comapanies sales or image ..
  • Mar 15 2013: I am from the Caribbean, a colonised island meaning what I have to say is from a colonial perspective with all the policies including education administered by the sons and daughters indentured labourers and slaves.
    The colonial masters were the bosses living in complete luxary profitably.
    Why would you buy tinned meat from when fresh meat is available?
    Why would you buy Canadian sardines when you buy fresh sardines caught in Caribbean waters.
    Why would you wear 100% wollen garments when cotton is grown in the Caribbean.
    Why did the Hindu indentured labourers tried to intrroduch the caste system in the Caribbean?
    Why would you buy bleaching cream to apply on you skin when living in a tropical country?
    Why straighten your hair when you are born with natural curley hair?
    Why the sons and daughters of the labourers brought to the Caribbean are now the ruling class living in complete luxary and their fellow comrades are living in poverty?
    Why do the influential labourers steal and the money to send it to the colonial masters country?
    Why do the politicians preach the "Master Day is Over" but move millions to the Masters banks all over Europe including Canada?
    Do you know of any school teching "how to use money science" like domestic science?
    Do you know of any school teaching "how to buy stocks and shares" at a elementry level?
    Do you know how to trade gold and diamonds?
    The poor aspire for it to prove what?
    Where the source of poverty starts, it is within your grasp today to rectify poverty.
    Not during my time.
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      Mar 16 2013: Super likes , sir , the questions that you have put forward , these are actually the core of the whole idea , means if the people are educated enough and if they think in this regard , there will be no need to have brands or endrosements either and the price of goods will become less on its own ..
  • Mar 15 2013: I managed first hand experience of a major sneakers company manufacturing in a poor country exhibiting its merchandise in New York and finally selling back to the poor, must have mentality.
    Schools do not teach children how to use money, merchandising is simply there to make you spend not save, and some schools are there to prepare children to know their place. I attended one of them, my teacher is now deceased, his name was Madhosingh, and the assistant Phekoo.
    These people help programme some children to be inferior although we were all colonials and the sons and daughters of indentured labourers and slaves.
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      Mar 16 2013: MD , thank you sir , for your valueable info , its really gonna help , i cannot believe its still happening in india , as in schools teaching the ethics of rich and poor , can you please , where do you live and which schools have you attended so far ..
  • Mar 15 2013: This situation took a long time to be programmed especially for the poor, the main consumers of expensive attachments.
    It is the poor who created poverty, the rich who was once poor understood poverty and did evolve in complete secrecy.
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      Mar 15 2013: Hey , MD , sir , hereby i want to state that why would the poor be the consumers of expensive brands , and why is it so that poor create poverty , it was hard for me to digest , and how did the rich who were poor earlier evolved , could you please elaborate ..
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    Mar 15 2013: People shouldn't idealize celebrities
    Once they didn't appreciate celebrities themselves and appreciate their works instead, This problem will be solved automatically.
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      Mar 15 2013: hey , FSN , but generally it is seen that big brands are endrosed by big stars and people tend to follow them , actually people idealize the celebs , that why the brand owners pay huge sum to them , and it is tested and proved that if big names are involved with your brand , its sales is surely gonna inc. Generally the people trust their idols and mix their work with their social personality ..
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        Mar 15 2013: Therefore, I think we should move from this kind of behavior and people need to think of them as one of them not their idols.
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          Mar 16 2013: FSN , look sir , its not about me or you , look at the companies point of view , still people are influenced by the stars , so they have to pay them a huge sum , inorder to compensate sales , so what could be other alternates , as in sales should not suffer ..
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    Mar 15 2013: So what is your debate? Are you saying companies shouldn't pay celebrities to endorse brands? Perhaps they are willing to take the risk, maybe it works out more often than not.
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      Mar 15 2013: hey , GD , actually the debate is regarding " is the celebrity endrosement risky for the brands owners " , means does it favours the brands or goes against them ..
  • Mar 15 2013: Cialdini tells us why we would pay for celebrity endorsements of our products. As consumers we might want to read his books and watch out for people using certain sales techniques.
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      Mar 15 2013: hey , GL , did you meant that coz that person is famous for his books or acting , he could like actually help in improving the image of brand he endroses or inc the sales ..
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    Mar 15 2013: I'll just take one as a example. Tiger Woods. It has been proven beyond a doubt that Tiger Woods has no morals, ethics, or honor, but that does not make the product he endorsed either good or bad ...

    Kobe Bryant did all of the same unethical dishonable things that Tiger did but yet Mac D and Coke want him to be the face of their product ... Poor choice ... on a personal level .. probally. On a corporate level .... the only question is ... Did sales go up or down ... did we get our moneys worth in hiring him?

    So here it is ... according to Bob. If you buy the product because of the face on the carton then you deserve what you get. If the product is good and you know it then the face on the ad makes no difference.

    The danger as I see it is that companies / politicians can sell you the koolade and you develop a taste for it. If you are a sheeple incapable of thought .... you will ignore this and vote and buy the way someone else tells you.

    Time to put on your big boy pants and think for yourself.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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      Mar 15 2013: hey , RW , so you say that it does not matter that celebrity is good or bad , companies are only concerned about their dividents and social personality of celeb does not effects the brands or products he is endrosing ..
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        Mar 15 2013: Yep, Say they put my photo on a box of a popular cereal. They will not change the formula for making the cereal ... it is good and people still buy it.

        A new perfume comes out and they put a picture of Gaga on the box ... Gaga fans buy it up ... it stinks .... sales will go down.

        Say you love XYZ chocolate and they put a photo of John on the wrapper ... You hate John but love the brand ... do you stop buying it. Probally not.

        Just because you wear Air Jordan's will not make you a all pro player. Stand in the garage all day you are still not a car.

        You know what you like and what works .... did the face make you buy it .... no! You bought it because of the quality and cost ... the consumers bottom line.

        All the best. Bob.
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          Mar 16 2013: Rb , but sir you quoted in your second example of lady gaga , that if we put the picture on a box , then fans will buy , no matter it stinks , so actually this example goes against the whole concept of the cost or quality , its is in favour of celebrity endrosements and proves it right for the brands to give them money ..
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        Mar 16 2013: True if you consider a one time buy by her fans a marketing success. One spike in declining sales is not success by any measurement.
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          Mar 16 2013: ok , i also think the same that your idol can make you buy something once , and if the quality is not up to the mark , you will not definitely not buy it again .
          i have a point to raise , that there are 2 products , 1 is with good quality and 2 is a litlte less quality but is advertised by your favourite celeb , which one you will buy , if the prices are same ..
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        Mar 16 2013: The picture on the box does not influence me .... I buy based on Taste, quality, and cost. I f one product is 12 cents per ounce and another is 14 cents per ounce I will almost always go for the 12 if I know the quality is close.

        Asperine is a good example. It is either asperine or not it is either buffered or not to pay a lot for a brand name is silly. Buy the generic every time .... in this case buying for the picture would be really dumb.
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          Mar 17 2013: hmm , RW , sir in that case , i think that there is a need to increase awareness from the brand itself , about their product and quality , rather than paying money for advertisement , so now the product would be cheaper as less money is put into add campaign , and that money is now used to improve quality further , but still there is a point , of how practically , make this less advertised product popular among masses , so you get what i am trying to say ..
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        Mar 17 2013: Tarun, Say I come to Chandigarh for the Rose Festival and ask where to eat ... you may say Baithak Kalagram or Pomodoro ( but you should have reservations). I might say no I want food from the South and you tell me Sundarams is the best in town.

        If I say who has the best Aaloo Paratha you would smile and say I will take you .... because we cannot deny the favorite of the people of Northern India.

        My point is. We find the very best by asking someone. The best advertisement of a product is by word of mouth.

        Do you go to a resturant because a big picture of Rajesh Khanna said to? Nope.

        I wish you well. Bob
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    Apr 11 2013: Interesting. I am writing a dissertation on Celebrity Activism: Who ultimately benefits the celebrity or the cause? What are your thoughts on celebrities being affiliated with cause related organisations or campaigns? I feel that there is more 'danger' there as these organisations do not have the funds or the resources to do the same kind of crisis management that a corporation would if the celebrity that it is associated with take a wrong step.
  • Mar 17 2013: I am from the West Indies, not well educated because the East Indians from India assisted the British by being the middlle administrators.
    The Canadian Mission helped educate the majority of us to a secondary level in special schools, however the East Indians with the resources managed to use the poor sent their kids to college and duing my time to England.
    Their children returned and were the new masters when the British left and is in control today.
    The African man introduced an easier way to gain higher education in my country, the majority of East Indians grabbed the oppurtuinty.
    Do not get fooled my acedemics, since knowledge gained through the intellect is not always knowledge of true reality.
    In India today you have child labour, and a fully functional caste system steep in disrespect for women. East Indians leaving India tried to introduce the caste system in the country I came from, fortunately some African men and women proved them wrong.
    The low caste Hindus of yesterday and now the multi TT dollar holders today.