Application of source credibility model on celebrity endorsements

By Priya Chetty on December 26, 2019

Branding is the process of christening a product with a name and a unique trademark. As the history of celebrity endorsements goes, celebrities have been found to have played different roles for the purpose of brand advertising.

Branding is defined as a name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors

American Marketing Association

Branding is an integral part of the marketing function as it is a highly effectual differentiator in an intensely competitive scenario. It allows marketers to refract the competitors’ strategies. Also, branding nurtures trust, confidence and dependability amongst the consumers which in turn create perception, beliefs and values around the brand. Over time, brands become a part of the lives of the consumers when they make repeated purchases of the same brand and many a times brands become synonym for products (Saxena, 2009).

Advertising and celebrity endorsements

A celebrity is an individual who is well known to the public. Sport figures, actors, entertainers are known to be celebrities as they have attained a public figure with the aid of sheer achievements in their field of expertise (Smith, 2012). The concept of celebrity endorsements originated from the benefits associated with advertising through trustworthy sources. Trustworthy sources are often associated to expert sources. Thus any kind of recommendation coming from the expert source is considered to be true and more impactful on the receiver. Furthermore, physical attractiveness of the celebrities who take part in advertising is said to generate favorable responses from the consumers (Nicol, 2017).

Celebrity endorsements have provided testimonials, played as endorsers, actors and even spokesman (Zhou & Whitla, 2013). Testimonials are usually in the form of attesting to excellence or superior quality of service or product based on personal experience. Celebrity advertising has been utilized by marketers for ages. However, the technique of using celebrities for product promotions has changed with the progress of time (Park & Yang, 2010). Celebrity endorsements have now taken forms of different formats so that the fame and fan following of the celebrities can be utilized in the best possible for higher sales. According to Mukherjee (2009), celebrity endorsements are successful when the celebrity helps to develop consumers’ trust. In doing so, marketers believe that the sales rate shoot up as the consumers tend to develop a positive impression about the product or service (Pughazhendi, Ravindran, & Sudharani, 2012).

According to Biswas et al. (2009), celebrity endorsements are considered essential for brand value development. A product that has a good brand image is said to be easily spotted in supermarkets. So, brand image is certainly an important aspect that enables consumers to select branded products of personal choice.

Source credibility of a celebrity-endorsed advertisement

One of the most researched parts on the subject matter of communicator message and communicator relationship is the concept of “source credibility”.

Source capability can be defined as the development of attitude toward a source of communication that can be held at any given time or receiver.

Elger, Raab, Neuner, & Weber, 2011

It can also be defined as “the effectiveness of a message depends on the perceived level of expertise and trustworthiness of an endorser” (Hovland and Weiss, 1953). But this depends on the celebrity and not everyone thinks the same way about celebrities. Therefore, consumers who make purchase decisions assume that celebrities are credible.

Dimensions of source credibility

As per literature associated with psychology, there are three main dimensions of source credibility. These are trustworthiness, attractiveness and expertness (Wiener & Mowen, 1986). Furthermore, nearly four decades later, Ohanian (1990) had proposed the effectiveness celebrity endorsement is dependent on two factors i.e. perceived attractiveness and perceived credibility of the celebrity among the existing and prospective consumers.

15-Point Source Credibility Scale (Ohanian, 1990)

The three dimensions which were thought to be important within the source credibility model are defined in the figure above. There are three main dimensions within the model, and each of these dimensions has been sub-divided into 5 sub-scores. Combination of consumer perspectives around each of these factors enables the researcher to examine the overall credibility level of endorser.

The impact of celebrities on consumer attitudes

Celebrity endorsement is an omnipresent aspect of modern technique of advertising. Based on the image of the celebrity, the advertisement can have both positive and negative impact on customers. Furthermore, previous studies have pointed that based on the rating of the endorser in terms of trustworthiness and expertise, with respect to source credibility model, the consumer attitude and purchase intention is influenced (Hsu & McDonald, 2002; Annadurai Pughazhendi & Ravindran, 2012). Celebrities are able to draw the attention of the consumers and also at the same time generate favorable attitude towards a product and induced purchase activity. Although not much information is found associated with attitudes toward celebrity endorsements. Keel & Nataraajan (2012) say that there are several antecedents for instance:

  • ad credibility,
  • credibility of the celebrity endorser,
  • attitude toward the advertiser,
  • attitude toward advertising in general is considered.

According to Amos, Holmes, and Strutton, (2008) credibility of source if high can bring about positive changes in attitude and even stronger behavioral changes towards the advertisement and product which the consumer may have ignored in the past.

Room for improvement in the source credibility model

Further, one can conclude that credibility of sources with high involvement among the consumers can lead to high confidence in brand, lesser need for persuasion, and low resistance to change in comparison to when there is no involvement. However, there is room for improvement in the source credibility model, which can improve its prediction capability. Firstly, instead of using semantics to define the trustworthiness, expertise and attractiveness of the endorser, positive adjectives should be used. Secondly, in order to test the general reaction with respect to purchase decision, the perception should be judged on general level rather than limiting it to a particular celebrity. Furthermore, aspects like; liking, similarity, familiarity can also be added to the model for better evaluation.

Celebrity endorsements are basically an effective way to ensure a brand to get noticed. According to Mahoney (2010), celebrity endorsements make a huge impact on the consumer mindset through the aid of TV commercials. The positive perception of consumers for brands endorsed by celebrities significantly impacts their purchase decisions. Thus, celebrity endorsement has evolved as an inevitable part of present day advertising (Rengarajan & Sathya, 2014).


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