Celebrity Endorsements: Theoretical Explanations of Meaning Transfer - and Schema-based-Models - Recent Developments

Seminar Paper, 2005

24 Pages, Grade: 1,3



List of Abbreviations

List of Figures

List of Tables

1 Preface

2 Celebrity Endorsement: the conceptual framework
2.1 Celebrities as Endorsers in the Communication Process
2.2 Effectiveness of Celebrity Endorsers
2.3 Schema Theory: Cognitive Structures in the Mind of Consumers

3 Models of Celebrity Endorsement
3.1 Source Attractiveness
3.2 Source Credibility
3.3 Match-Up Hypothesis
3.4 Meaning-Transfer Model

4 Conclusion


List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

List of Figures

Figure 1: Relationship between Endorser & Corporate Credibility and Reactions to Advertisement

Figure 2: Consequences of Endorser-Product Match

Figure 3: Meaning Movement and the Endorsement Process

List of Tables

Table 1: Source-Credibility Scale by Ohanian

1 Preface

Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Heidi Klum, Günther Jauch, Thomas Gottschalk, they have all something in common. They are famous due to their public appearance and achievements in sport, television, magazines etc. Additionally, all of them are promoting or endorsing products. The use of famous spokesperson or celebrities in marketing communications in the United States is growing since the late 1970’s and has reached a percentage of nearly 25% at the end of the 1990’s.[1] Statistics for the german market also suggest an increased use of famous testimonials, although their percentage relative to other communication strategies is seen as lower.[2] Some researchers contend a positive economic effect of celebrity endorsements despite they are very expensive.[3] Noticing that endorsement contracts with celebrities are expensive raises several questions. What makes them so interesting for companies? Why are marketeers using celebrities instead of “normal” people? For executive directors it may be useful to know how the “right” celebrity could be selected from the big crowd of popular persons. Furthermore, which are the factors predicting wether a celebrity is effective or not as an endorser? From a more scientific point of view, it is interesting to shed light to the processes through which consumers perceive advertisements with celebrities.

As the title of this study suggests, these questions are answered in a somehow theoretical way, but with some practical conclusions. Chapter 2 explains to which extent the celebrity may be part of the communication process and which effectiveness criteria exist. Having defined and classified the main concepts of this paper in chapter 2, which are celebrity endorsement and schemas, some models that are related to celebrity endorsements are explained. Research of celebrity endorsement has focused mainly on four different approaches. First, the characteristics of an endorser as a source of information, divided in attractiveness (3.1) and credibility (3.2). Additionally, Match-Up between product and endorser characteristics are examined (3.3). Finally, in a more comprehensive model, researchers investigated in transfer of meanings from celebrities to products and then to consumers (3.4). This study will end with some limitations and expectations to further research.

2 Celebrity Endorsement: the Conceptual Framework

2.1 Celebrities as Endorsers in the Communication Process

Communication policy is an important area of marketing policy. Various instruments are at the disposal of marketeers: such as the classical instruments of advertising, sponsoring, public relations and product placement, but also “new“ communication forms like events, fairs and particularly the internet. More and more popularity gains the use of endorsers (a person who gives a favorable opinion about something, for instance about a brand or a product).[4] This study will focus on celebrity endorsements in print advertising. Three types of endorsers are widely used in print advertising: the celebrity endorser, the professional expert and the typical consumer.[5] Giving a definition, “the celebrity endorser is defined as any individual who enjoys public recognition and who uses this recognition on behalf of a consumer good by appearing with it in an advertisement.“[6] The professional expert endorser is characterized as an individual “possessing superior knowledge regarding the product class endorsed” while the typical consumer is circumscribed as an ordinary person without special knowledge about the product class endorsed.[7]

Advertising with its character of direct communication leads to the consideration of Shannon and Weaver’s Communication Model as an underlying concept.[8] According to this model, a message arises at an information source, which encodes it to send it via a channel towards a receiver, who, in turn, has to decode it. During the message transition there could occur noise (sources of interference) that weakens the message content or makes it even undecodable.

2.2 Effectiveness of Celebrity Endorsers

However, celebrity endorsers could strenghten the communication message and are a direct determinant of the brand image or brand personality.[9] Therefore, the arrangement of the celebrity should be carefully considered in the planning process of the communication and the brand-equity management. Clear Objectives ought to be determined in order to observe the effectiveness of the endorsement deal. Besides the economic objectives of advertisement (e.g. increaseed total revenue or market share), there exist several psychological objectives. Namely, an increased awareness of the brand/ product name, a more differentiated knowledge of brand/product characteristics by consumers, enhanced attitude towards the ad (Aad), towards the brand (AB) and above all, increased purchase intentions (PI).[10]

2.3 Schema Theory: Cognitive Structures in the Mind of Consumers

The psychological point of view of this study and the former mentioned objectives of advertisement require a deeper understanding of the underlying psychological processes when consumers are exposed to the ad information/ the message. Several theories may explain the emotional and cognitive responses[11], while this study will concentrate on information process theories, namely the Schema Theory.

In research, neither exist a standardized definition of the notion “schema” nor could be referred to schema theory as a unitary theory. Originally, the idea “schema” accrues from the Grecian and connotes figure, gestalt or mindset.[12] For the purpose of this paper, schemas will be defined as cognitive structures representing one’s beliefs and expectations about objects, persons, events and situations based on prior knowledge.[13] Each schema has its attributes, which are also connected among one another. The beliefs and expectations of an individual include hypothesis about the values of these attributes and their importance weights.[14] In addition, schemas are organized hierarchically. When a schema is an element of another schema, it is called a subschema. These subschemas are more concrete than schemas on a higher level, which are more abstract. Furthermore, schemas are active structures, which are involved in the cognitive and affective processes of the individual thus are able to change their connotation.[15] New information, such as advertisements, could cause these modifications. Incoming information activates existing schemas, which, in turn, provoke certain expectations towards the new information. That schema will be activated, which is easiest and fastest available and could explain the information to a high degree (schema congruence).[16] Depending on the degree of congruence, new information is integrated into the existing schema structure through either assimilation or accommodation.

Assimilation occurs when incoming information is congruent to or moderately discrepant from the existing schema. Congruent elements are extracted from the new information and integrated into the present mental schema. For example, positioning a brand within the overall market as a differentiated product will activate consumer’s schema of the according product category. Such a differentiation strategy has to achieve that the new brand is perceived as sharing important attributes with other brands in the same product category and additionally being superior on the differentiating attributes. These separating attributes could be assimilated to the product category schema with the result that the new brand is now perceived as something supreme, distinguished or differentiated in comparison to other brands in the market (e.g. detergent with blue pearls vs. “only” white detergent).[17]

On the other hand, accomodation occurs when new information is highly incongruent with existing schemas. There is no schema obtainable which matchs even to a part the new information. Either the individual ignores the incongruent attributes and leaves the present schema at how it is. Alternatively, the individual might interpret the information as an exception of the existing schema and affiliate a new subschema to the existing schema. This process of “subtyping” has the effect that the present schema is left nearly unchanged. For instance, a marketing strategy attempts to position a new brand in a niche market or even wants to create this submarket. The differentiating attributes have to be used to create a demarcation separating the brand from others. “A key aspect of the subtyping strategy is that the brand is not perceived as a prototypical example of the overall market but rather as a specialized product, possibly appealing to a focused market.”[18] This special appeal of the brand offers a greater competitive advantage because it is less likely to be substituted by other brands (e.g. Porsche 911).[19]

3 Models of Celebrity Endorsement

3.1 Source Attractiveness

Physically attractive people and especially celebrities appear a lot in advertising. They are selected by advertisers due to the believe that their attractiveness could be more effective and persuasive than their unattractive counterparts.[20] McGuire contends that the effectiveness of a message depends on the perceived similarity, familiarity and likability of the source. In turn, the attractiveness of a celebrity depends on the degree to which these three characteristics could be fulfilled. As a result of similarity (e.g. similarities in lifestyle, interests, goals etc.), the receiver is more likely to be influenced by the message. Familiarity is seen as the knowledge of the source through exposure that might occur through television, advertisement, magazines, sport events etc. Whereas likabilty is reflected in the consumer’s affects for the endorser.[21]

Research that has been focused on physical attractiveness has revealed that higher physical attractiveness may result in greater social influence thus is more successful in changing beliefs and generating PI.[22] For instance, Caballero & Pride examined in a field study the effects of salesperson sex and attractiveness in direct mail advertisements. They found that the ad with an attractive female spokesperson produced a significantly greater sales volume than in the treatments with unattractive models.[23] As the three dimensions of McGuire suggest, attractiveness is not simply understood as physical attractiveness, despite research often cites that physical attractiveness is an important cue for initial judgements of another individual.[24] It includes the characteristics consumers might perceive in an endorser, such as intellectual skills or lifestyle.[25] For example, Petty and Cacioppo manipulated in a study the attractiveness of endorsers using either a celebrity (attractive due to the status) or a typical consumer. They altered also the involvement-level (high- versus low-involvement).[26] Low-involvement messages have less personal relevance or elicit less personal connections than high-involvement messages.[27] Findings suggest that attractive endorsers have a significant impact on AB and PI, additionally on brand name recall and recognition. Restrictively, these results depend on the level of involvement. For instance, an attractive endorser had only a significant impact on AB under low-involvement but not under high-involvment. Furthermore, the use of an attractive endorser improved brand name recognition whereas recognition under low-involvement was reduced.[28] In another study by Friedman & Friedman, a celebrity endorser elicited a higher overall attitude and greater PI than an expert or a typical consumer.[29]

However, attractiveness includes more characteristics than the physical appeal. Ohanian developed a valid measure scale of source credibility in which attractiveness was additionally incorporated as a dimension and contains five attributes: attractive, classy, handsome/ beautiful, elegant and sexy (see Table 1).[30] Considering these five items together, a more reliable approach could be made in selecting an appropriate endorser. In the next chapter the other source model, source credibility, is explained to broaden the view and to enrich the selection base of celebrity endorsers with more dimensions.

3.2 Source Credibility

A message depends on the perceived degree of expertness and trustworthiness in order to be effective.[31] “Expertness is defined as the perceived ability to make valid assertions. Trustworthiness is defined as the perceived willingness to make valid assertions.”[32] In other words, trustworthiness refers to the perceived degree of confidence in the source whereas expertness or expertise refers to the extent to which the audience realizes an endorser as knowledgable or experienced.[33] These types of information are processed through internalization.[34] When the receiver of a message accepts the information from a credible source, he internalizes the stated opinion and it becomes part of his own belief system. Even after the communicator’s public recognition is lost, this attitude may be maintained. To this extent, a credible source demonstrating expertise and trustworthiness can shape attitudes and behaviour, thus is more persuasive than a non-credible source.[35]

Credibility has been validated to be a predictor of effectiveness by several studies. Atkin and Block examined the effect of a print-advertisement for sangria wine accompanied by either a celebrity or a non-celebrity.[36] The celebrity ad achieved significant higher ratings of ad evaluation, attitudes towards the product and purchase intentions. In comparison to non-celebrities, celebrity endorsers were perceived as significantly more trustworthy and competent.[37] Ohanian investigated in an extensive study the influence of celebrity endorsers subject to the perceived credibility constructed as a combination of the three dimensions expertise, trustworthiness and attractiveness.[38] Her research leads to the construction of a valid Source-Credibility Scale presented in Table 1. Each of the three dimensions contains five items that are individually reliable and in sum explaining the associated domain to a high degree. A further experiment revealed the importance of expertise for the consumer’s PI, unlike trustworthiness and attractiveness, which seem to have less impact on PI.[39] Pornpitakpan replicated these findings in a recent study in Asia.[40] Using the fifteen validated items should enhance the value of measurement of source characteristics and therefore could help practitioners to obtain more reliable and valid decisions when selecting celebrities for communication strategies.


[1] cf. Erdogan (1999), p. 292

[2] cf. Haase (2000), p. 56

[3] cf. Agrawal, Kamakura (1995), p. 60; Mathur, Mathur, Rangan (1997), p. 72; Farrell et al. (2000), p. 11

[4] e.g. Knott, James (2004), p. 87; Silvera, Austad (2004), p. 1509; Daneshvary, Schwer (2000), p. 203

[5] cf. Friedman, Friedman (1979), p. 63

[6] cf. McCracken (1989), p. 310

[7] cf. Friedman, Friedman (1979), p. 63

[8] cf. Meffert (1991), p. 447

[9] cf. Mäder (2005), p. 39; for some (negative) effects when a celebrity endorses more than one product see Tripp, Jensen, Carlson (1994)

[10] cf. Mayer (1990), p. 23; for a systematization of criterias: ibid., pp. 40 ff.

[11] for an overview: Wiswede (1995), p. 58 ff.; also Till, Busler (2000), p. 1; for Associative Learning Theory: Till (1998), p. 401; Till, Shimp (1998)

[12] cf. Mäder (2005), p. 121

[13] cf. Kuperman (2003), p. 122; Sujan, Bettman (1989), p. 455; Speck, Schumann, Thompson (1988), p. 70; McDaniel (1999), p. 168

[14] cf. Sujan, Bettman (1989), p. 455

[15] cf. Mäder (2005), p. 124

[16] cf. Wiswede (1995), p. 92; Mäder (2005), p. 126

[17] cf. Sujan, Bettman (1989), pp. 454 ff.; Mäder (2005), p. 128

[18] cf. Sujan, Bettman (1989), p. 454

[19] cf. Mäder (2005), pp. 129ff.; Sujan, Bettman (1989), pp. 454 ff.

[20] cf. Erdogan, Baker, Tagg (2001), p.40

[21] cf. Erdogan (1999), p.299

[22] cf. Friedman, Friedman (1979), p. 68; CeE48; Baker, Churchill (1977); Kahle, Homer (1985)

[23] cf. Caballero, Pride (1984), p. 99

[24] cf. Baker, Churchill (1977); Kahle, Homer (1985)

[25] cf. Erdogan (1999), p. 299

[26] cf. Petty, Cacioppo, Schumann (1983)

[27] cf. Petty, Cacioppo, Schumann (1983), p. 136

[28] cf. Petty, Cacioppo, Schumann (1983), p. 142

[29] cf. Friedman, Friedman (1979), p. 68

[30] cf. Ohanian (1990), p.47

[31] cf. McCracken (1989), p. 310 and Erdogan (1999), p. 297

[32] cf. McCracken (1989), p. 311

[33] cf. Erdogan (1999), p. 297

[34] cf. Friedman, Friedman (1979), p. 64

[35] cf. Ohanian (1990), p.41 for an overview of articles, Friedman, Friedman (1979), p. 68

[36] cf. Atkin, Block (1983), p. 58-59

[37] cf. Atkin, Block (1983), p. 60

[38] cf. Ohanian (1990)

[39] cf. Ohanian (1991), p. 51

[40] cf. Pornpitakpan (2003)

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Celebrity Endorsements: Theoretical Explanations of Meaning Transfer - and Schema-based-Models - Recent Developments
Technical University of Chemnitz
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This paper explains the issue of "Celebrity Endorsements" from a psychological point of view. Not like many other papers from Germany, this texts cites almost exclusive international marketing and psychology literature (America, Asia). Due to this the results and insights of this work are broader than in other papers.
Celebrity, Endorsements, Theoretical, Explanations, Meaning, Transfer, Schema-based-Models, Recent, Developments, Seminar
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Matthias Röderstein (Author), 2005, Celebrity Endorsements: Theoretical Explanations of Meaning Transfer - and Schema-based-Models - Recent Developments, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/47992


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