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Emotion Trumps Celebrities
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Why do brands continue to gamble by using celebrities to push their identities? Are celebrities that powerful, that mystical, that they are worth the risk?

The jury is out, and it is not looking good. Yet brands continue.

Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pistorius, and Tiger Woods are just a few names that have suffered under the limelight. At least for Tiger his "indiscretions" weren't illegal.

Plus, he's winning again.

Lately, though, there's been a resurgence of celebrities partnering up with brands. Beyoncé is teaming up with Pepsi in an effort to define the next generation. Alicia Keys is teaming up with Blackberry (formerly known as RIM, or Research in Motion) as one of its creative directors, and Justin Timberlake joined Budweiser as its creative director for Bud Light Platinum.

The question is: will this work?

The science out there doesn't believe it will. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research done by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the Wharton School of Business indicates that those brands and advertisements that use emotional appeal will connect with consumers more strongly than those that use celebrities. Yes, the writers suggest that consumers connect better when ads show how they should feel about a particular identity, rather than whom they choose to associate with the brand.

This wasn't always the case. Celebrity endorsements were started in the first place because people looked up to them; people wanted to strive to be as successful as the spokespeople. Nowadays, people want to see how the brand fits their everyday emotions and lifestyle.

Though we could argue if that is good or bad, one thing is for sure — it is what it is.


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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