Wolverine beats Hugh Jackman in brand endorsement battle

Thursday, 8 November 2018


New marketing insights have revealed that on-screen personas are more successful brand endorsers than their real celebrity counterparts.

Researchers Ms Amanda Kennedy and Associate Professor Stacey Baxter from the University of Newcastle, found that consumers were more inclined to purchase the brand when advertising featured a film persona rather than a celebrity as the endorser.

Their research also revealed that endorsed brands are protected from the negative side-effects of celebrity misdemeanours if they are featured as their film persona instead.

As part of three studies on more than 500 people, Ms Kennedy said participants who were exposed to a mock advertisement featuring the film persona, Wolverine, reported greater purchase intentions than those who were exposed to the same ad but with Hugh Jackman as himself.

“Our research showed that the associative links in our mind, referred to as ‘nodes’, which are tied to a celebrity and film persona differ,” Ms Kennedy said.

“The nodes tied to a celebrity are generally broad, including factors relating to their personal life and any misdemeanours, while the associations tied to a film persona are tighter and are specific to that character or film.”

“More effective endorsements have a smaller amount of associated nodes, so that the consumer links the endorser more closely with the brand.”

Participants were shown an image of Orlando Bloom and his film persona counterpart, Legolas, from the Lord of the Rings, to test the impact of celebrity indiscretions on endorsed brands.

After learning negative information about Orlando, the attitudes and purchase intentions of participants who viewed the ad with Legolas remained unaffected, whereas those who viewed the ad with Orlando reported decreased intentions to purchase.

Ms Kennedy said the research has important implications for advertisers across the world, influencing their strategic approach and execution of advertisements featuring celebrities.

“Celebrities are not immune to tarnishing their reputation, which can in turn have disastrous impacts on the brands they endorse. Film personas, on the other hand, are infallible and pose much less risk to brands,” Ms Kennedy said.

“In light of this new research, advertisers can still reap the many benefits of using celebrities as brand endorsers, while not putting the brand at risk if the celebrity misbehaves.”

The research was carried out in collaboration with Monash Business School, Monash University’s Associate Professor Jasmina Ilicic and was recently published in the journal of Psychology & Marketing.