The Trouble with Ray…

So Charlize Theron is getting sued for not wearing her Raymond Weil watches. The lawsuit is worth $20 million.

Would you buy a watch from this woman?

Would you buy a watch from this woman?

What I don’t get, is why people still buy into celebrity-endorsements. Raymond Weil PAID Theron to wear their merchandise. Let me say that again: they paid her. She didn’t buy the watch. She didn’t spend money on it. They gave it to her – along with a fat cheque –  to walk around on the red-carpet wearing the watch.  So she’s hardly likely to say anything negative about the brand. It’s the live-equivalent of a 30-second commercial.

Would you buy hair-colour from an actress or a model? Would you buy health insurance from a rugby player or a soap-star? Do any of these people even use the products they’re endorsing, let alone pay for them?

Where am I going with this?

I believe that contemporary endorsements (endorsements by every-day people) are even more powerful than celebrity endorsements. Basically because paid-for celebrity endorsements just aren’t believable.

Let’s use another example with Charlize Theron. Currently, she’s the star of Sun City’s latest above-the-line campaign: a sumptuously-shot, movie-trailer-esque commercial. Now when Charlize stays at Sun City, I’ll bet her experience is vastly different to mine (I’m hardly likely to host a photoshoot in the lobby or arrive on chauffeured Bayliner). So believing that Sun City is all that because Charlize says so? Not buying it. But if a buddy of mine stays at Sun City and he tells me it sucked/rocked/whatever I’ll believe him. In fact, I’ll even believe a complete stranger over a celebrity anyday. Why? Because these people aren’t being paid to talk up the brand. They’re believable.

In fact, in a recent Harvard Business Review Ideacast, Scott Cook (the Cofounder & Chairman of the Executive Committee, Intuit) revealed that in a survey of  Amazon.com customers, it was discovered that the 95% of purchase-decisions were based on reviews by fellow Amazon customers. Check out the podcast on iTunes – very interesting stuff on user-contributed content and contemporary endorsements. It’s episode #113.

 And while Playstation and other similar games-makers make use of celebrity endorsements to great effect, (like the Tiger Woods PGA Golf series) the consumer’s purchase decision is (more often than not) based on a contemporary endorsement by folks who’ve played the game.

PS – just so you know I’m not hating on celebs,  here’s the killer celebrity-endorsement: if I had seen Charlize Theron in a jewellery store forking over some over her own cash for a Raymond Weil watch, I might be curious enough to at least check out the watches – if not buy one. And that’s the only way a celebrity endorsement can work.

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5 thoughts on “The Trouble with Ray…

  1. As more and more people turn off their brains when they see a commercial (or flip channels when the their show cuts to commercial), you will see more and more celebrity product endorsements. I would expect that the advertising industry moves back to in-show live endorsements, similar to what we saw in the early days of TV and radio before they figured out how to deal with programmed commercials.

  2. Hi Tim

    Thanks for the comment.

    “In-show Live Endorsements”?
    Do you mean direct pitching by the actors or subtle product placements?

  3. phr0ggi, I was thinking product pitches at unscheduled times so that TiVo’s and the like couldn’t be used to avoid them. But I can also see product placements working on TV’s as well.

  4. I see where you’re going with this. That would be very exciting if they could pull it off, although I still believe that as consumers become more educated and sophisticated, the believability factor of a celeb suddenly segue-ing into a product pitch will suffer.

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