In the age of social media, it is very common for brands to work with people who have many Instagram followers in order to promote their products. Typically, this involves an Instagram influencer taking a photo of themselves using the product or showing the before and after achieved by using the product and posting it online for their millions of followers to see. Research has shown that having a celebrity endorse a product can result in the advert being viewed more favourably (Dean & Biswas, 2001) and result in increased financial gains for the company (Erdogan et al., 2001). According to Freiden (1984) celebrity endorsement is typically more effective than other forms, as celebrities tend to be viewed as likeable and trustworthy.
The other day, I noticed this photo as I was scrolling through my feed.
Here, Kourtney Kardashian is promoting a brand called Flat Tummy Co. which sells milkshake powder aimed to help you get over cravings for unhealthy food and lose weight. With 61.7 million followers, Kourtney is the 22nd most followed person on Instagram, so the ad is reaching a huge number of people. The influence Kourtney has can be seen by the number of likes on this post (1,256,950) compared to the non-celebrity-endorsed posts on Flat Tummy Co.’s own page which receive on average around 2000 likes.
So what about this ad makes it so effective?
The influential power of celebrities largely comes from the fact that people see them as role models (Raven et al., 1998), and in Kourtney’s case, the people who look up to her are usually young girls. This links in with the Social-Learning Theory (Bandura and Walters, 1977). Young girls are able to relate Kourtney in some ways as they are female and may be interested in their physical appearance etc. but they can see that she is of a higher status than them and so imitate her behaviour (using the products that she promotes) in order to gain this higher status.
Another significant contributing factor to this ad’s effectiveness is that Kourtney is widely perceived to be attractive (Chan, Ng & Luk, 2013). To many people, the body shape that Kourtney has is seen as ideal, so there is a congruency between what product supposedly achieves and what the potential customers want to achieve, increasing the persuasiveness of the advert (Choi & Rifon, 2012).
Kourtney’s attractiveness may also contribute to the Halo Effect (Thorndike, 1920) where attractive people are assumed to have other positive qualities such as intelligence and trustworthiness. This links in with the findings of Atkin and Block (1983) where it was found that consumers often believe that celebrities promote products because they genuinely do like them, rather than because they are being paid for their promotion.
So next time you come across a celebrity-endorsed product online, try to imagine the same advert but with a normal person in place of the celebrity. Would it still be as persuasive? Would you still buy the product?
Atkin, C., & Block, M. (1983). Effectiveness of celebrity endorsers. Journal of Advertising Research, 23(1), 57-61.
Bandura, A., & Walters, R. H. (1977). Social learning theory (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-hall.
Chan, K., Leung Ng, Y., & Luk, E. K. (2013). Impact of celebrity endorsement in advertising on brand image among Chinese adolescents. Young Consumers, 14(2), 167-179.
Choi, S. M., & Rifon, N. J. (2012). It is a match: The impact of congruence between celebrity image and consumer ideal self on endorsement effectiveness. Psychology & Marketing, 29(9), 639-650.
Dean, D. H., & Biswas, A. (2001). Third-party organization endorsement of products: An advertising cue affecting consumer prepurchase evaluation of goods and services. Journal of advertising, 30(4), 41-57.
Erdogan, B. Z., Baker, M. J., & Tagg, S. (2001). Selecting celebrity endorsers: The practitioner's perspective. Journal of advertising research, 41(3), 39-48.
Freiden, J. B. (1984). Advertising spokesperson effects-An examination of endorser type and gender on 2 audiences. Journal of advertising research, 24(5), 33-41.
Raven, B.H., Schwarzwald, J. and Koslowsky, M. (1998), “Conceptualizing and measuring a power/interaction model of interpersonal influence”. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28, 307-32.
Thorndike, E.L. (1920). "A constant error in psychological ratings", Journal of Applied Psychology, 4 (1), 25–29