Celebrity Gaffe and Their Effect on Brands

By Geoffrey Sirumba – March 05, 2018

Celebrities have always been the easiest way to attract customers because of their mass appeal. Celebrity endorsements do influence the target audience and make them loyal towards the brands. They help advertisements stand out from the surrounding clutter, thus improving their communicative ability.

Celebrities or celebs as they are popular known are used in advertisements in a variety of forms: Testimonials where the celebrity attests to quality of a product or service or endorsements whereby the celebrity lends his or her name, and appears on behalf of a product or service in which they may not be experts in and they represent the product over a period of time.

Celebrities have particular configurations of meanings that are drawn from the roles they assume in their careers. In other words, for a message to be effective, it depends on the existence of a link and a fit between the endorsing celebrity and the endorsed brand.

The attractiveness of a celebrity (similarity, familiarity, and likeability) is one of the main reasons use of celebs is so successful. The advertiser hopes to transfer that same attractiveness to their brand. To enhance the brand’s image, the right associations have to be transferred from the celebrity to the brand, more specifically that the right message is sent and interpreted in the mind of the consumer. When a consumer is other- directed or socially-directed, and looks towards others for social approval, he will generally conform to the advice given by members of his reference groups and in this case a celebrity the consumer will want to be identified with them.

When a celeb influence is powerful, and regarded as credible and trustworthy, there is greater probability of it being able to influence people. The reverse is also true whereby a situation known as “vampire effect”, where there is no congruency between the brand and the celebrity, then the audience remembers the celebrity and not the product where the celebrity sucks the life-blood of the product, drying it. Furthermore, if the audience perceives that absence of connection, consumers may believe that the celebrity has been handsomely paid to endorse the product or service and the meaning of the message that is transferred to the consumer may not be effective an example is the golf player Tiger Woods, although being well recognized if he endorses basketball shoes, his attractiveness would not be expected to enhance the value of the shoes and generate purchasing intentions.

The Internet has further amplified the visibility of celebrities with the formation of websites and blogs solely dedicated to covering celebrity gossip. The proliferation of social media has compelled celebrities to create a personal connection with their fans, and this visibility creates a need for celebrities to protect their image.

Celebrity endorsement does not itself guarantee sales. It can create a buzz and make a consumer feel better about the product, which in turn has to come to expectation of customers as real star by delivering the promise.

Using celebrities is risky, as celebrity scandals can create negative attitudes toward the brand, thus effecting sales and resulting in the fall of sales. For instance, when Tiger Woods and Armstrong were found cheating on their wives, consumers felt offended. They advocated boycotting Nike as a response to the cheating. US celebrities show up in more than 15 % of advertisements, and the number is far higher in markets, such as India (24 %) and Taiwan (45 %).

Considering the conservative nature of Kenyans will the Eric Omondi nudity video have any effects on the brands he has endorsed? Food for thought!

Geoffrey Sirumba is Marketing Consultant in Nairobi. He can be reached via