Startups — Time to Rethink Celebrity Endorsement

Chris Herbert
Feb 14 · 3 min read

I was watching an early episode of “You” on Netflix and enjoyed the character of the gluten-free millennial CEO selling “healthy soda”. His demise seemed especially fitting as he was tricked by his assailant on the guise of securing a celebrity endorsement for his Soda brand. While in real life, entrepreneurs rarely get hit by a hammer when pursuing celebrity endorsements, they rarely see any benefit to these sponsorships as they remain part of a different age in marketing. In my own experience, endorsements by celebrities are rarely successful and while many successful companies have utilized celebrities, their success is rarely attributed to it.

Changing Consumer Habits

How consumers are discovering new products and making purchase decisions have shifted dramatically over the last several decades in 2 ways: The information available at the time of purchase & the scale of peer recommendation.

Changing Shopping Habits

Back when I was growing up, a trip to the mall was a highlight. The mall had all the coolest stores to check out and if you wanted anything, that’s where you had to go. It had the widest selection and was a great place to view products and compare prices, aka shop.

The latest articles from last Christmas season make it apparent that the mall experience is coming to an end in America. People are now shopping primarily online. While there are many things that change in this new shopping experience such as a much larger selection & different discovery process, a core element of the shopping experience has changed — the packaging information.

Limitless Information

Back in the mall shopping experience, the packaging was all the information the customer could look up on the product. There was no smart phone to price compare. There was no easy to access billboard of all the press reviews. There was just the packaging.

In this world where the packaging is the only information available to the consumer, every word and graphic matters a great deal. Having a picture of a well liked celebrity with a nice quote can dramatically increase the trust & perceived value of the product.

However we now live in the post amazon world and we have limitless information when we are shopping online. We can view every single competitive product. We can look up every single press review. We can look up all the different coupons and deals. We can read the reviews of others that have purchased. And now we can even do a quick post to see what our friends think about the product in real time. While knowing that a Kardashian likes a certain make up brand is nice, having customer reviews and your friends recommendations matters more in this context.

Celebrity Sponsorship in Limitless Information

Celebrity & influencer sponsorship does have value. I love podcast advertising. Celebrity and influencers have large followers but their recommendation for a product is equally or less valuable than the recommendation of one of your closest 50 friends. The price for these endorsements no longer delivers equivalent value due to limitless information availability at the time of purchase.

View Part 2

Chris Herbert

Written by

Surfer, Kiter, Entrepreneur. Currently CEO of Shine. Previously Founder of TrackR.