Celebrities are playing an ever greater role in modern culture and consumption patterns, serving as arbiters of taste, style and public opinion the world over. Their endorsement and creative input enables them to bring attention, credibility and other intangible benefits to a brand in a way that no other type of advertising can. This new global report analyses the ways in which marketers are exploiting celebrity power to create an emotional bond with the consumer and thus increase sales.
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For many people, film and TV stars, athletes, pop stars, the royal family, chefs and business tycoons serve as arbiters of taste, morality and public opinion, thus impacting on buying behaviour.
Celebrities range from globally renowned A-listers to reality TV stars, who sometimes become an overnight success through appearing in shows such as The X Factor, Big Brother, Masterchef or on MTV.
The phenomenal growth of social networking has also spawned a plethora of self-styled celebrities, who have made a name for themselves on video-sharing websites; sometimes without any discernible talent.
Companies exploit the power of celebrities and employ them to advertise just about everything. As famous people are instantly recognisable and attract consumer interest, they can bring attention to a brand in a way that no other type of advertising can.
As long as the celebrity is authentic, he or she can help to lend credibility to a brand and influence the way it is perceived. Many consumers believe that if a product is good enough for a star, it is good enough for them.
While most apparent among the younger generation, celebrity influence exists across all age groups. Tweens and teens idolise the icons of the moment (eg Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift or One Direction), whereas adults tend to admire older, more enduring celebrities.
According to Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list, the most powerful global celebrities of 2013 were show host Oprah Winfrey, singer Lady Gaga, film director Steven Spielberg and singers Beyoncé Knowles and Madonna.
The level of celebrity influence is difficult to gauge. However, it is estimated that while as many as one in four advertisements feature celebrities in the US, the percentage is much lower in Europe. In Germany, for example, the rate is around 16%.
The celebrity culture is widespread in Asia. In both South Korea and Japan, it is thought that as many as 70% of commercials now feature a celebrity. The phenomenon is newer in China and India, where it has gained momentum in a relatively short space of time.
In South Korea, entertainment companies work hand-in-hand with the advertising industry in a unique way. Hundreds of “K-pop” stars are trained from a young age not only to sing and perform in concerts, but also to endorse products and promote corporate brands.
China, as a collectivist society, has in the past put its trust in leaders and elders for guidance. However, under the new socialist market economy model, it is celebrities rather than military heroes who now symbolise knowledge, trust and aspiration in the eyes of consumers.
The actress Fan Bingbing is said to be the most influential celebrity in China, followed by singers Jay Chou and Andy Lau. Savvy Western businesses are also increasingly employing Chinese celebrities to help sell their products in this potentially lucrative market.
Celebrity power has also taken off in a big way in India, and companies are clamouring to secure contracts with the big Bollywood actors, such as Katrina Kaif, Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor.
This report also includes a PowerPoint executive summary document.
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