The Impact of Celebrity Endorsements on
Consumer Brand Preferences


Vivek Joshi
Supreet Ahluwalia
Senior Lecturers
Department of Business
Manipal University Dubai Campus
Block #7 International Academic City Dubai
United Arab Emirates

The crescendo of celebrities endorsing brands has been steadily increasing over the past 20 years or so. Marketers overtly acknowledge the power of celebrity in influencing buyer's purchase decision. They have firm believe that likeability or a favorable attitude towards a brand is created by the use of a celebrity. The crore of rupees spent per year on celebrity endorsement contracts show that celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Sharukh khan and Sachin Tendulkar play an important role for the advertising industry. It is an established fact that celebrity endorsement can bestow unique features or special attributes upon a product that it may have lacked otherwise.

In India from late 1970's and early 80's the new trend in advertising started. Brands started being endorsed by celebrities. Hindi film and TV stars as well as sportspersons were roped in to endorse prominent brands. Advertisements featuring stars like Late Jalal Agha (Pan Parag), Tabassum (Prestige cookers), Sunil Gavaskar for Dinesh Suiting, Ravi Shastri and Vivian Richards (Vimal), Persis Khambhata and Kapil Dev (Palmolive Shaving cream) became common.

Though marketers should remember that celebrities are mere living beings like us and if they can highlight the benefits or advantages of a brand they can also have some uncanny negative impact. Theory and practice suggests that the use of stars and their unleashing power in advertising generate a lot of publicity and attention from the public but the underline questions are, do these stars really help a brand by increasing its sales? On the other hand, can they really have an Impact on the person's consumption pattern, thereby changing his brand preference? How an advertisement featuring a celebrity can influence consumers buying decision and can create an association between a brand and a common man.

To answer these questions, the article will examine the relationship between celebrity endorsements and brands, and the impact of celebrity endorsement on consumer's buying behaviour as well as how consumer makes brand preferences.

We will apply a wide range of accepted principles of how consumers brand attitudes and preferences can be influenced, how buyer's behavior can be influenced, how buyer's behavior can be molded. We will use the principles of credibility of source and attractiveness, the match-up hypothesis, the consumer decision-making model and the communication model to understand this phenomenon.

Brand- A layman perspective

Brand is the proprietary visual, emotional, rational and cultural image that you can associate with a company or the product. Few examples will bring home the meaning i.e. Amul - utterly butterly delicious; Coke thanda matlab coca-cola; Pepsi Yeh dil mange more; Kurkure- Masti bole to kurkure and Daewoo ka India.

These examples convey one message that when people watch advertisement a connect is being created and result is that people go for experience of buying. People feel by using the brand they will portray certain traits or characteristics that otherwise they do not have. This generates a certain level of emotional affiliation and a sense of fulfillment. It is this emotional relationship with brands that make them so powerful.

Advertisements enforces what exactly the brand stands for and what to expect by its consumption and above all what factors, features and attributes makes it better from competition. Advertisements along with other marketing efforts generate expectations and feelings in a customer and force them to think when they see or hear the brand name. This Thinking process and emotional bonding gets more mature and relevant when a celebrity endorses the brand. The subjective intangible feelings of a customer become objective and tangible in the form of celebrity and the level of expectations will rise.  The customer will start to perceive himself in the reference frame of the celebrity after the brand or the advertised product has been purchased or consumed by him.


Celebrities are people who enjoy public recognition and mostly they are the experts of their respective fields having wider influence in public life and societal domain. Attributes like attractiveness, extraordinary life style or special skills, larger than life image and demigod status can be associated with them.

It is safe to deduce that within a corresponding social group celebrities generally differ from the social norm and enjoy high degree of public awareness.

Celebrities appear in public in different ways. To start, they appear in public when fulfilling their professional commitments example: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who played cricket in front of an audience in Twenty-Twenty World Cup. Furthermore, celebrities appear in public by attending special celebrity events, example: the movie award nights; special screening; world premiers of movies or for social causes. These celebrities have universal presence and appeal, they are present everywhere, in news, fashion shows and magazines, tabloids and above all advertisements.

Celebrity and a Brand

Star power in India can be gauged by the successful endorsements done by Sharukh Khan (Pepsi, Hyundai Santro, Sunfeast, and Navratan etc.), Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Hrithik Roshan and the others. The inevitable question is, if and how the lively interest of the public in the rich and famous can be efficiently and effectively used by companies to promote their brands and consequently to increase their sales revenues.

This fact can be brought out by using certain examples i.e. Mr. Amitabh Bachchan promoting Cadbury chocolates after the fiasco of infestation when the image of Cadbury India went very low in the eyes of people. Soon the company found a perfect fit and a reliable celebrity to transmit the correct message and help regenerating the lost trust. The fit between the product and celebrity is evident as Mr. Bachchan and Cadbury chocolates both have tested troubled times and still they stand tall and the love and trust they both share with the people all across India. This is a live example of how a celebrity brought certain attributes to a product like chocolate.

Actor Sharukh khan has also endorsed diversified products. His endorsement basket is ranging from Hyundai Santro to Sunfeast biscuits on one hand and from Compaq computers to Videocon electronics on the other.

According to Advertising research companies both the actors are doing well and the ad spent on both by the companies is increasing at a phenomenal rate, so does their basket of endorsements. These actors bring reliability and trust in the brand and above all, they help in increasing the sales revenues.

Celebrity endorsements are powerful, has become evident from the above two examples but, why is it so? This power is offered by the following elements, which also creates a 'Top of the Mind Position'.

* Instant Awareness, knowledge about the brand and easy recall.
* Values and image of the brand is defined, highlighted and refreshed by the celebrity.
* The celebrity adds new edge and dimension to the brand.
* Credibility, trust, association, aspiration and connectivity to brand.
* Belief in efficiency and new appearance that will result in at least trial usage.

Understanding Consumer Behaviour

Consumer behaviour is the study of how people buy, what they buy, when they buy and why they buy. It blends elements from psychology, sociology, sociopsychology, anthropology and economics. It attempts to understand the buyer decision-making process, both individually and in groups. It studies characteristics of individual consumers such as demographics, psychographics, and behavioral variables in an attempt to understand people's wants. It also tries to assess influences on the consumer from groups such as family, friends, reference groups, and society in general.

The study and knowledge of consumer behavior helps firms and organizations to improve their marketing strategies and product offerings. Following are the important issues that have significant influence on consumer's psyche and their ability to take decisions:

  • The psychology of how consumers think, feel, reason, and select between different alternatives (e.g., brands, products);
  • The psychology of how the consumer is influenced by his or her environment (e.g., culture, family, signs, media);
  • The behavior of consumers while shopping or making other marketing decisions;
  • Limitations in consumer knowledge or information processing abilities influence decisions and marketing outcome; 
  • How consumer motivation and decision strategies differ between products that differ in their level of importance or interest that they entail for the consumer; and
  • How marketers can adapt and improve their marketing campaigns and marketing strategies to more effectively reach the consumer.
  • Their Age, Religion, Culture, Income, informal group and Referent Group.

Understanding these issues helps us adapt our strategies by taking the consumer into consideration.

Consumer Decision-making process

The given process is very complicated though on first sight it does not look so. Process starts with problem recognition or with an unsatisfied need. Something that a consumer would like to have or purchase in order to attain satisfaction. This need can be Psychological, attitudinal or Physiological but yes it should have the capacity to be fulfilled by consuming a particular product or service.

To satisfy the given need what all are the components that should be taken into consideration and how we can maximize the satisfaction is the next stage. In this stage, we will cover ability to purchase, level of involvement, people whose opinion will count and other relevant details that will help us in optimizing satisfaction.

Based upon information search we will generate various alternatives i.e. which brand or product is affordable for me, where will it be available comfortably and above all in comparison to other brands or products how better or economical it is.

Evaluation stage will look like cost benefit analysis and based upon maximum value or utility per rupee spend, we will decide or shortlist the product or brand. This is the decision and confirmation stage where the consumers prepares himself for the purchase of a particular brand and give preference to one and only one over and above the others.

Next comes the purchase when the consumer will finally go to the market and look for the brand or the product, physically verifies it and purchases it.

Last is the post purchase Evaluation in which the customer wants to justify his consumption or purchase decision. He tries to find out whether his purchase decision was right or not. Companies make lot of effort to tackle this situation successfully and they want the customer to be satisfied with their product.

This stage may result into three situations, first is satisfaction where customer is satisfied and he got expected results but this does not necessitates the repeat purchase by the consumer. Second is dissonance where the consumer is not satisfied as he got less utility or less than expected result from the consumption or product performance. Third is Delight, here the consumer gets more than expected satisfaction and utility and this will assure the repeat purchase and creation of brand loyalty.

Traditional Factors affecting consumer decision making

There are several factors that affect consumer's decision to purchase a brand and a product. These factors though at time are not very much visible but they make an impact and affects sales of a product or brand up to a great extent. The table below shows some of these factors.

Impact of a Brand on consumer purchase decision

Research studies have proven that known products and names are sold more than unknown ones. Therefore, a known brand or an optimally exposed brand will find more recognition and buyers in the market in comparison to completely unknown or unexposed brand. Recognition of brand and its significance along with the traditional factors plays a very significant role in consumer decision-making process.

 More or less every consumer has a brand preference and given the affordability and societal norms, each buyer would like to buy and consume one of the highly acceptable, recognizable, and reputed brands.

The above given model explains the important role that a brand plays in three different stages of consumer's purchase decision making. A consumer start collecting data or information about his favourite brand than he keeps his favourite as one of the alternatives and he evaluate his selected brand against all available options and on finding it suitable or best among all options based upon a qualitative and quantitative evaluation he will ultimately purchase the selected or favourite brand.

The diagram above explains how various traditional factors along with brand preference interact during purchase decision process and finally results into a consumer's final product choice or ultimate purchase.

Celebrity and a brand

Surveys suggest that compared to any other types of endorsers, famous people achieve a higher degree of attention and recall. They increase awareness of a company's advertising as well as help in retention of message in the psyche of the audience. They can also help the company in reducing their expenditure on Media and other forms of publicity. An example will bring more clarity, When S Kumars, a known textile brand entered into readymade garments business they used Hrithik Roshan, then the hottest advertising icon for their launch advertising for TAMARIND, now one of the premium readymade brands. They reckoned that they have spent 40-50 percent less on media due to sheer impact of using hottest star like Hrithik. The Ad recall was as high as 70 percent and the campaign can be termed as a great success.

Celebrities also create positive feelings towards brands, connect user to brand and are perceived by consumers as more entertaining.

Using a celebrity in advertising or for any, other type of communication for brand building is likely to positively affect consumers' brand preference, brand attitude, brand association and purchase intentions. To ensure positive results, however, it is critical for advertisers to have a clear understanding of consumer's reactions and reinforcement of celebrity endorsement. The impact of celebrity endorsement on any brand as well as on consumer's purchase decision is very critical.

Source Credibility

Central goal of advertising is the convincing of consumers and persuasion to purchase, the ultimate objective, though not openly spoken, is to some how attract consumers to the market offering of the company, generating positive attitude, reinforce positive association and ultimately to generate sales, may be a trial purchase. At later stages, the sponsor may work towards creating a brand loyalty but generating initial sales or increasing the existing sales is the primary objective. In this respect, the credibility of an endorser along with advertisement plays an important role in convincing the target audience of the attractiveness of the company's brand and generates sales. Pursuing a celebrity endorsement strategy enables advertisers to project a credible image in terms of expertise, persuasiveness, trustworthiness, and objectiveness.

To create effective messages, celebrity advertisers also have to consider the attractiveness of the spokesperson. Source attractiveness refers to the endorser's Physical appearance, Personality, Likeability and Similarity to the receiver, thus to the perceived social value of the source. This behavior mainly goes back to halo effect, whereby persons who perform well on one dimension example: physical attractiveness or top professional performance, social status are assumed to excel on other levels as well i.e. happiness and coolness. This is evident from the use of Fardeen Khan, modern, dynamic, outgoing and smart personality for Provogue; he translates the modernism of the brand well. Titan uses Aamir Khan in his different avatars for communicating to the public that their watches are as reliable and passionate as Aamir is for films. Both Fardeen and Aamir carry the message well and enhance the credibility of the brand they endorse.

Establishing a Perfect Match

Research proves that a spokesperson especially for a service product or organization (ICICI- First Amitabh Bachchan, now Shahrukh Khan) interacts with the type of brand being advertised. These stars communicate the value of the product and transform an ordinary service into a miracle solution for all problems of an ordinary customer.

According to Friedman and Friedman (1979), a famous relative to a 'normal' spokesperson is more effective for products high in psychological or social risk, involving such elements as good taste, self-image, and opinion of others. Several research studies have examined the congruency between celebrity endorsers and brands to explain the effectiveness of using famous persons to promote brands.

In India, a brand called Reid & Taylor presented its perfect example when they first launched their advertising campaign featuring James Bond fame of the time Mr. Pierce Brosnan along with the tagline 'BOND WITH THE BEST' but the James Bond idea did not worked and the company was not happy with the results.

After the debacle of the first campaign, company introduced a family ad where children are celebrating there parents silver wedding anniversary and they are out with their father to purchase a suit for him. Even this commercial did not work and it was taken off the air. As a last resort, company introduced Mr. Amitabh Bachchan as Reid & Taylor man, a man propagating the brand for special occasion and for very special people in life. The commercial from the initial days got good response and did extremely well as people were able to connect with Mr. Bachchan and the values he was propagating.

 For the masses, there was a perfect match of an ideal Indian family man, a star and a good quality but bit highly priced brand reserved especially for special occasions and for very special people.

Second example that can be quoted is of Vishwanathan Anand, who endorsed NIIT. NIIT adopted a very smart strategy by roping in Vishwanathan Anand an international chess wizard for their advertising campaign. As chess is considered to be a game full of strategies and a game for smart people and when one of the greats of the game is asking people to join NIIT it was suppose to have a positive influence on the people and actually it had. There was complete congruency and compatibility between the celebrity endorser, the product and the message.

Contrary to only favorable outcomes, there are several examples where the product, even the entire campaign collapsed due to heavy weight celebrity as the agency or the ad failed to establish the relationship between the endorser and the product. Keeping the focus only on success, where the product and the celebrity were a perfect match, following are few examples:

Celebrity Endorser

Company / Product

Amitabh Bachchan

    * Dabur
    * Cadbury
    * Reid and Taylor
    * Parker

Shahrukh Khan

    * Santro
    * Videocon
    * Sunfeast
    * Pepsi

Juhi Chawala

    * Kurkure

Ustad Zakir Hussain

    * Taj mahal tea

Aamir Khan

    * Titan
    * Coke
    * Toyota Innova

Aishwarya Rai

    * Nakshatra
    * Lux

Rani Mukherjee

    * Fanta
    * Nestle Munch

Kajol and Ajay Devgan

    * Whirlpool
    * Tata Indicom

The campaigns are not only basking with the glory of success stories, but there is considerable number of failures as well. Assuming that a person just have to be famous to represent a successful brand, however, would be incorrect and may turn out to be a very dangerous preposition resulting into a big calamity for the entire advertising campaign or the brand.

Very well accepted and attractive super stars like Abhishek Bachchan and Amitabh Bachchan failed in turning their endorsements into success i.e. Maruti Versa similarly Virendra Sehwag also failed to deliver Reliance Telecommunication with the master stroke of his cricketing genius.

Among the possible reasons identified by several authors, including overexposure and identification, the 'match-up hypothesis' specifically suggests that the effectiveness depends on the existence of a 'fit' between the celebrity spokesperson and endorsed brand.

Empirical work on the congruency of brand with the celebrity often has concentrated on the physical attractiveness of the endorser. Results show that an attractive spokespersons are more effective in terms of attitude change when prompting brands that enhance one's attractiveness i.e. cosmetics; health drinks or fashion wear.

Primary data states, for celebrity spokespersons to be truly effective, they should be knowledgeable, experienced, mature, and a bench mark in their respective field and qualified to talk about the product.

Transferring the Meaning

After watching an advertisement the consumers try to find the meaning of the advertisement and associate the same with the endorser and eventually transfer to the brand. To understand this phenomenon Mc Cracken (1989) suggested a comprehensive model known as Meaning Transfer Model. This three-stage model suggests how the meaning associated with the famous person moves from the endorser to the product or the brand. Thus, meanings attributed to the celebrity become associated with the brand in the consumer's mind. Finally, in the consumption process, the customer acquires the brand's meaning. The third stage of the model explicitly shows the importance of the consumer's role in the process of endorsing brands with famous persons.

In contrast to anonymous endorsers, celebrities add value to the image transfer process by offering meanings of extra depth and power, what is complemented by their life style and personalities. Therefore, to transfer the correct meaning to the consumer the company should select a celebrity that will produce the most favorable response for consumers and for the purpose the celebrity should have, the appropriate set of characteristics and the public should be able to visualize and comprehend the same. The company should consider the consumer's needs while developing their communication strategy and selecting an appropriate celebrity to transmit the same, i.e. Kurkure used actress Juhi Chawala with the punch line 'Masti Bole To Kurkure' and the actress on screen and off-screen personifies the masti and helps the brand in communicating the same easily.

Compatibility of the celebrity's persona with the overall brand image is very important, as a celebrity imparts credibility and inspirational value to a brand and his or her image should perfectly match the brand's image. A good brand campaign idea and an intrinsic link between the celebrity and the message are must for a successful campaign.

Certain elements that generate a perfect match or compatibility between the celebrity and brand image are:

* Celebrity's fit with the brand image along with celebrity-target audience match.
* Celebrity associated values and celebrity-product match.
* Costs of acquiring the celebrity and his or her popularity along with controversy risks associated with the celebrity.
* Credibility, availability and physical attractiveness of celebrity.

The above points can be put to perspective by using two examples, first Kapil Dev's 'Palmolive da jawaab nahin' and second Nakshatra's brand recall due to its endorser, the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Both brands have edged out and carved out their niche in consumer's mind due to image and credibility of their endorsers. These were the cases of perfect match between the brand image and the image or persona of the celebrity endorser.


A brief assessment of the current market situation indicates, that celebrity endorsement advertising strategy can under the right circumstances indeed justify the high costs associated with this form of advertising. The use of celebrity for endorsements create a very favorable impact on the consumer and it creates a connect which forces a consumer to purchase a product. However, as several failures show, it is essential for advertisers to be aware of the complex processes underlying celebrity endorsement.

It has been proved from the discussion that celebrity endorsements are a powerful and useful tool that magnifies the effect of a campaign but the word of caution to be followed seriously; celebrities alone do not guarantee success nor does a great advertising campaign or the best possible product. It is the combination of several factors and elements that work together for the success of a brand and its acceptance in the minds of consumers as well as for its market offering.

Modern day consumers are well educated and smart, they know celebrities are being paid for these endorsements and this knowledge makes consumers rather more cynical about the product and celebrity endorsements. Majority of the consuming population also knows what is advertising and how it actually works and this knowledge of consumer makes the task of celebrity endorsement all the more difficult and challenging for the advertising companies and the sponsors. Indian companies both advertising and product offering companies have top make an effort to overcome this ever-mounting challenge.


* Aaker, David A. (1996), Building Strong Brands. New York, NY: The Free Press.
* Daneshvary, Rennae and R. Keith Schwer (2000), "The Association Endorsement and
* Consumers' Intention to Purchase," Journal of Consumer Marketing, 17 (3), 203-213.
* Friedman, Hershey H. and Linda Friedman (1979), "Endorser Effectiveness by Product Type," Journal of Advertising Research, 19 (5), 63-71.
* McCracken, Grant (1989), "Who Is the Celebrity Endorser? Cultural Foundations of the Endorsement Process," Journal of Consumer Research, 16 (3), 310-321.

Vivek Joshi
Supreet Ahluwalia
Senior Lecturers
Department of Business
Manipal University Dubai Campus
Block #7 International Academic City Dubai
United Arab Emirates

Source: E-mail January 3, 2008


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