Celebrity endorsement and the gullible consumer

Ken’s post below on America’s penchant for inappropriate health advertising brought Jenny McCarthy’s insane and clearly ill-informed crusade against the MMR vaccine hurling to the fore and got me thinking about how receptive the public are to celebrity endorsements. Shampoo, jeans, bags, and now the welfare of their children are the big life decisions being dictated by C-list celebrities and Jim Carrey’s ex-girlfriend.

Celebrity endorsement is not a new phenomenon and as students we became well versed in Grant McCracken’s meaning transfer theory. But it seems a lot has changed since McCracken’s 1989 study and the dawn of the digital age and the 24 hour news cycle has evolved a casually influenced consumer into rabidly fanatic celebrity disciples.

Endorsement deals have always been popular with athletes and A-list celebrities giving products they have an authority on the seal of approval. However now that an individual can secure fame and fortune with very little talent backing it up, it seems marketers flock to sign up ‘celebrities’ whose 15 minutes are quickly expiring for a quick dose of publicity.

Kim Kardashian's $10,000 tweet

Recently this has taken the form of tweeting about brands, with the likes of Kim Kardashian, Charlie Sheen, and Paris Hilton earning thousands of dollars per 140 character tweet sent into the virtual atmosphere. With over 7 million followers, Kim Kardashian banks $10,000 each time she proclaims her love for whatever product she has sold her soul for. In the US, the Federal Trade Commission is looking to fine up to $11,000 for failing to disclose paid reviews or endorsements which just goes to show the FTC knows how vulnerable the public can be to persuasion by the endorsement of a familiar name.

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– Catherine Clifford

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