Do you like Snickers? Well, after this week I know that Katie Price and Rio Ferdinand do, because they’ve been paid by the company to tweet about it. It seems like a bit of fun, but can celebrity endorsement go too far?
I don’t think I’m more likely to buy something because a celebrity likes it. But then perhaps I’m naive – after all, I’d buy something on the recommendation of a friend, so why not a famous person who I trust and admire?
Celebrity endorsement has been around for a while – even Charlie Chaplin attached his name to things in exchange for cash. And if I’m honest, I suspect it wouldn’t be done if it didn’t make money for the company.
From chocolate to cash
Of course it’s easy to say that it doesn’t really matter – after all, a chocolate bar isn’t a massive investment. But it’s not just chocolate bars.
We recently shone a spotlight on over-50s plans; financial products designed to pay out a lump sum to your estate when you die. Our investigation showed over-50s plans to be really poor value, and not the sort of product any Which? staff would want to endorse. But Michael Parkinson does – and so does Gloria Hunniford.
Under-50? No problem. You might want to take out a secured personal loan with FirstPlus, as recommended by Carol Vorderman. (Note: we don’t actually recommend you do this – secured loans can be very risky and were on our 2010 list of top 10 useless financial products). Oh, and FirstPlus had a whopping 86% of PPI mis-selling claims against them upheld by the Financial Ombudsman in the first six months of 2011.
Or if you’re claiming PPI back, and you’d like to use a claims management company (something else we’d advise against) then who better than to recommend one than former professional boxer Joe Calzaghe?
Don’t blind me with glamour
I used to work in sales (boo, hiss) and I was always taught to pitch the customer both a feature of the product and a benefit: ‘Buy this because it does X, and that means you can do Y.’ But by telling a customer the product is also endorsed by a celebrity, you’re telling them nothing more about the product – just giving them a friendly face to sit alongside it.
The idea is that the more a customer can identify with the celeb, the more likely they are to buy the product. Which is fine when it’s a bar of chocolate, but when it’s a huge financial risk it just seems crass.
I think less of companies that need to attach their product to a famous face. It might get you some exposure (in the case of Snickers, whose brand name I’ve been irritatingly compelled to mention) but when it’s something potentially life-changing, I’d want it to be sold on merit.
Tell the customer about your product – sell your product. But don’t use celebrity endorsement to attach some fake feeling of trust or identity. I’m sorry, but unless Johnny Depp is going to come round to my house and sign the paperwork himself, sticking him on your ad seems at best irrelevant and at worst manipulative.
What do you think? Are there any celebrities you’d trust to endorse products or, like me, are you sceptical of ads with added glamour?
Do you trust celebrity salespeople to endorse products?
No - I'm sceptical of products backed by celebrities (93%, 201 Votes)
Maybe - it depends on the celebrity (6%, 14 Votes)
Yes - a celebrity endorsement tells me it's a good product (0%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 216