A new study just published by a market research company called the NPD Group analyzed the effectiveness of 86 celebrity endorsements featured in ads last year. Ty Pennington, a home improvement guru, finished at the top of the list and Anna Nicole Smith, brought up the rear.
To me, this is a big ho hum. Who cares if Tiger Woods, James Earl Jones or Donald Trump are endorsing a watch, cell phone or credit card? The vast majority of research shows that celebrity endorsements rarely break through, nor do they influence a buying decision. Most critically, though, few consumers are able to make the connection between the endorser and the product he or she is shilling for. Case in point: the NPD study showed that only 17 percent of respondents correctly linked Trump with a Visa commercial he appeared in. Fourteen percent thought he was pushing American Express instead. Talk about pouring money down the drain.
In these days of information overload, scandals in every sector of society and a near total lack of role models, it’s no surprise that celebrity endorsers aren’t what they used to be. As consumer opinion gains increasing influence in the buying decision, he or she depends less and less on "star" power" to influence a decision. Today, it’s all about word-of-mouth and credible third-party sources of information, the kind generated through public relations.
While I know some PR campaigns still depend on celebrities to create buzz, here’s hoping digital technologies and the citizen blogger will continue to erode the once important spokesperson roles played by the Hollywood set.