Everyone Wants to Stand Under Rihanna's Umbrella, but Why?

The Times Gets All Cerebral to Explain Product Endorsements

By Published on .

When you spend enough time talking about who's shilling for what vodka or who's got their own sparkly line of signature umbrellas, you'll inevitably hear one response: "Why would I care what kind of fruit juice Lil Mama drinks in the morning?"

It's a reasonable question, because, deep down, we all think we're too savvy to believe that the imprimatur of Puff Daddy makes Ciroc taste good. This weekend, The Times published a substantial overview of the celebrity endorsement industry and provided a scientific explanation for why we're still vulnerable to them.
"As consumers, we see over 3,156 images a day. We're just not conscious of them," says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of the consumer research firm NPD Group. "Our subconscious records maybe 150, and only 30 or so reach our conscious behavior. If I have a celebrity as part of that message, I just accelerated the potential for my product to reach the conscious of the consumer."

Even savvy, skeptical consumers who understand that stars are paid to support a product may still rely on an endorsement and buy the brand anyway, says Robert Cialdini, a professor of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University.

"We've used our cognitive capacity to build a sophisticated informational and technological environment," he says. But overloaded with information and stimulation, shoppers' brains revert to a more primitive, raw association of celebrity and product, Mr. Cialdini explains.
We were a solid C student in high school and college science, but here's a common-sense translation: When it comes time to pick our shampoo, we're probably not going to remember that Madonna was in a Sunsilk ad. But there's a subconcious rub-off effect between how we feel about the two brands, and if an ad can successfully link the two and we have positive feelings about Madonna, then some of those feelings are going to transfer to Sunsilk. Later, when our conscious mind is feeling around the shampoo shelves and we're not really sure what to make of all the packaging, some of those subconcious associations can leap out and lead our fingers to the Sunsilk bottle.

That's the idea, at least, and the reason why 14% of the ads on TV last year featured celebrities. For a humble brand like Totes, operating in a segment that's hardly celebrity-saturated, getting Rihanna's blessing and involvement in a new line of umbrellas is a game-changing endorsement. And having an all-permeating smash single with Jay-Z explicitly referencing your product doesn't hurt either, I guess.

[New York Times]
Most Popular