Many communications do not use a source beyond the company itself. Others use known or unknown people. Messages delivered by attractive or popular sources can potentially achieve higher attention and recall, which is why advertisers often use celebrities as spokespeople. Celebrities are likely to be effective when they personify a key product attribute. Catherine Deneuve’s beauty did this for Channel No. 5 perfume, and Paul Hogan’s Aussle ruggedness did this for Subaru Outback wagon. On the other hand, using James Garner and Cybill Shepherd to sell beef backfired: Garner subsequently had quintuple bypass surgery, and Shepherd proclaimed she was a vegetarian.
What is important is the spokesperson’s credibility. What factors underlie source credibility? The three most often identified are expertise, trustworthiness, and liability. Expertise is the specialized knowledge the communicator possesses to back the claim. Trust worthiness is related to how objective and honest the source is perceived to be. Friends are trusted more than strangers or salespeople, and people who are not paid to endorse a product are viewed as more trustworthy than people who are paid. Likeability describes the source’s attractiveness. Qualities like candor, humor, and naturalness make a source more likable.
The most highly credible source would be a person who scores high on all three dimensions. Pharmaceutical companies want doctors to testify about product benefits because doctors have high credibility. Anti-drug crusaders will use ex-drug addicts because they have higher credibility. Before his death, Dave Thomas, who had folksy appeal and inherent credibility, did over 800 Wendy’s commercials in his trade mark red tie and short – sleeve shirt.
A well-chosen celebrity endorsement can catapult even the most unlikely product to stardom.
Salton was a little known manufacturer of oddball appliances that gained temporary fame in the 1950s with its Salton Hot Tray, a must have item for every bridal registry at the time. In the early 1990s, the company came up with an indoor grill that seemed destined for obscurity until two-time heavyweight champ George Foreman choose to not only endorse it but partner with the company to sell it. Foreman and his Lean, Mean, Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine proved to be a match made in hamburger heaven. Foreman, now presented as a lovable lug, was renowned for his love of cheeseburgers. A year after the launch, he went on home shopping channel QVC to sell the grills. The camera caught him in an unscripted moment while presenters were chatting, leaving George with nothing to do except look at the sizzling burgers. He looked at a roll, grabbed one, started eating, and the phone lines began to buzz. Foreman has helped Salton sell more than 40 million grilling machines since the mid-1990s, and because he gets a share of the proceeds, he has earned more than he did as a boxer – over $150 million. While the overall house-wares industry expands only 7% annually, Salton has grown more than 46% a year since 1995.