Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A case of brains over beauty… eventually

It is everywhere; celebrities parroting their love for products they have probably never used. Despite its expense to companies, celebrity endorsement is commonplace because research (and sales figures) support that it works! The presence of a celebrity increases our positivity towards the product and our likelihood of buying it. Research suggests that two reasons for this are; celebrity attractiveness and expertise (Amos et al., 2008).

The first, attractiveness, works through the mode of liking. It is known as the ‘halo effect’. People attractive to us, we expect to have other positive attributes as well (Cialdini, 1984). Therefore we view products associated with them as more positive too. Secondly, research suggests that expertise of the celebrity also exerts an effect, this time by increasing the credibility of the source and therefore making us more accepting of their message (Maddux & Rogers, 1980). Attractiveness exerts its effect through an affective decision making process; we like them therefore we like it. Whereas expertise works in a more systematic and cognitive way; we respect their knowledge therefore we process their message.

The problem is, previous studies into celebrity endorsement only look at the immediate effects. That means, participants rate product desirability immediately after watching the advert. This is unrealistic! We don’t immediately dash out of the house to buy all advertised products. Likelihood is, we will be confronted with a choice to buy the product a week later in the supermarket. This is what Eisend and Langner (2010) set out to investigate, the effect of celebrity endorsement over time. How would this differ from more immediate ratings?

To create the stimuli needed, they ran an independent pre-test where participants had to rate a range of models on attractiveness. Rated the most attractive was Heidi Klum and least attractive was Tatjana Gsell. They were then asked to score for 12 products, how knowledgeable each model would be about each product. Both were rated most knowledgeable about champagne (the ‘expert’ product) and least knowledgeable for brandy (the ‘non-expert’ product).

Heidi Klum and Tatjana Gsell, rated the most and least attractive respectively in the pre-test.

The two models and products were combined to make poster adverts in the following 4 combinations;
  • Attractive and expert = Heidi Klum selling champagne
  • Attractive and non-expert = Heidi Klum selling brandy
  • Unattractive and expert = Tatjana Gsell selling champagne
  • Unattractive and non-expert = Tatjana Gsell selling brandy

Each participant saw one of these four posters. Added to this Eisend and Langner (2010) tested product liking both immediately after seeing the advert and in a follow up 3 days later (measuring both immediate and delayed effects).

Product liking was measured using questionnaires which tested both cognition-based attitudes (thought to be related to expertise) and affect-based attitudes (thought to be related to attractiveness). The following variables were tested;
Cognition = uniqueness, competence and quality.
Affect = appeal, desirability and likeability.

Figure 1: Graphs showing the effects of attractiveness, expertise and interval on affect-based and cognition-based attitudes towards products.

What Eisend and Langner (2010) found was that the effects of attractiveness and expertise did differ after a delay. Attractiveness had an immediate positive effect whereas expertise had a more positive effect after a delay. This fits with the idea that expert endorsement is processed more cognitively than affectively because those opinions are longer lasting. The two also worked in interaction, the delayed effects of expertise were the most effective when the celebrity was attractive as well.  An unattractive celebrity with little expertise actually worsened attitudes for the product over time.

So, this research suggests that having both expertise and attractiveness in your celebrity endorser is still the best combination but if you want longevity of your product image, brains trumps beauty!

By Robyn Wootton

Amos, C., Holmes, G., & Strutton, D. (2008). Exploring the relationship between celebrity endorser effects and advertising effectiveness. International Journal of Advertising27, 209-234.

Cialdini, R. B. (1984). Influence: The psychology of persuasion. New York: William Morrow.

Eisend, M., & Langner, T. (2010). Immediate and delayed advertising effects of celebrity endorsers' attractiveness and expertise. International Journal of Advertising: The Quarterly Review of Marketing Communications, 29, 527-546.

Maddux, J. E., & Rogers, R. W. (1980). Effects of source expertness, physical attractiveness, and supporting arguments on persuasion: A case of brains over beauty. Journal of personality and social psychology39, 235.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think this research is simple to talk about, but you have written the piece very accessibly, well done Robyn.


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