Be it appearing in cola brands or promoting junk food, celebrities have considerable sway when consumer behaviour matters. While it is mutually beneficial to both the business and the celebrities, can celebrities circumvent responsibility, if the product endorsed is found unsafe after tests? Should celebrities be rapped on the knuckles for misleading claims? There is much evidence that consumers buy products whose virtues are touted by celebrities. For as long we can recall, celebrity endorsements have been a staple of the marketing landscape and have served as powerful tools, seeking to reach consumers and persuade them that their products are ones they too ought to own. Businesses have long sought to lure the attention of potential customers that live in a world of ever-increasing commercial bombardment.
Using celebrities increases consumer awareness of the ad and make it more striking, as their image and values get transferred directly to the product, often adding instant credibility that the company would have otherwise been pressed to build their own. If the product can sell on its own merits, why need endorsements? These ads often work at a subconscious level, drawing you into the product without you really thinking about why you are drawn in.
There is a face behind every product we buy, a community impacted by the way that product is created. Michael Jordan (MJ), the greatest endorser, is a great basketball player, but does that really also make him an expert on batteries, hamburger, soft drinks… and other products he endorsed? Does he really use them?
Children see their hero accomplish extraordinary athletic feats on the basket ball court. Nonetheless, they see you seconding products that are jettisoned as unhealthy by their parents and doctors. How can fizzy drinks and junk foods be unhealthy if MJ, the pinnacle of sports, is telling me to buy them? Cricketer Yuvraj Singh’s episode with cancer can make his fans wonder – was this due to soft drinks? You like it or not, kids look up to you. Failure to mend, a health time bomb could explode. We condemn the corporates that pollute our natural resources, yet we glamorise the very people that endorse the product they sell. Junk food endorsement and the industry need to be forced by legislation to clean up its act.
The biggies must be quizzed for patronising the hypocritical strategy. Say, alcohol ad in the guise of aerated/mineral water. If the food/beauty supplement does not fulfill its promise of making you “taller” or “fairer”, all stakeholders are culpable, including the actors/channels. A mandatory disclosure on every ad by the endorser must confirm: “I have used/not used this product/service personally”, distinguishing an advertisement from an endorsement. Can s/he put it on an affidavit? An endorsement must reflect the honest opinion of the endorser and can’t be used to make a claim that the product’s market couldn’t legally make. Law and logic aside, a little ethics…. And why not?