Using Celebrities in Advertising for Brand Success (with Jerome Hervio)

Celebrities and influencers and widely used in advertising in Thailand and other Asian countries. They are used to build credibility and attract the attention of consumers. However, endorsements are expensive. Do celebrities really boost the memorability and impact of brand advertising?

What is the value of celebrities?

TapestryWorks conducted a case study on the use of celebrities in Thailand in collaboration with our local partners Stamina Asia. There are a number of questions to ask about how celebrities can help brands to grow:

  1. Does the celebrity help you reach your targeted audience?
  2. Are celebrity values also attributed to the brand?
  3. Do they increase the resonance of the brand and advertising?
  4. Most importantly, what is their impact in driving sales and/or building brand equity?

Celebrities are also brands, and brands need to understand the implicit associations that celebrities bring to the brand. Do they enhance and complement a brand’s own implicit associations, or do they contradict and diminish them?

TapestryWorks and Stamina-Asia tested a number of ads with focus groups of men and women in Bangkok, in February 2020. The ads covered skin care and smart phone categories, using male and female celebrities. As well as talking to consumers about their reactions to the ads, we collected implicit associations using StoryWorks® visual cards.

Meaning matters

The first rule we discovered was that brands should be clear about what values and associations they want to “borrow” from the brand. While most celebrities can bring awareness and familiarity, grabbing viewer’s attention, they can also overshadow the brand and make the ad about themselves rather than the brand itself.

The celebrity should be likeable. While this seems obvious, celebrity likeability can change over time and, most importantly, fame does not always equate to likeability. Celebrities also need to have credibility in the category. If consumers don’t believe that the celebrity uses the product, they will react negatively. Finally, celebrity personality should be consistent with the brand personality, either by strengthening or complementing key associations.

The second rule is to assess the fit in cultural meaning between brand and celebrity. This is where the use of visual cards to understand implicit associations really helps, as we were able to map associations with brands and celebrities back to a framework. For example, we found that Nadech had similar associations to Nivea For Men and Mai Davika could potentially complement L’Oréal and make the brand more approachable, while Sonny’s image was discordant with perceptions of the Oppo brand.

Integrating celebrities with your brand

The third rule is to ensure a smooth transfer of meanings between the brand and the celebrity. This needs to happen through the whole purchase cycle and across brand touchpoints, by integrating the story of the brand with the story of the celebrity, and ultimately linking this to a user’s experience of the brand.

The fourth rule is to not just focus on a particular ad or campaign, but to take a longer-term view of using celebrities to build brands. Over time, celebrities are not just a device for attracting attention, but become a brand asset, in the same way that golden arches always make us think of McDonalds. The celebrity should immediately remind us of the brand. See George Clooney, and you think of Nespresso. Think of Roger Federer, and you think of Rolex. Does Chompoo Araya immediately remind you of L’Oréal?

This last rule requires time and consistency of advertising. This is the most powerful way that celebrities can build success for your brand. Brands need to think of celebrities as long-term assets and not short-term generators of attention and “buzz”. Start with your long-term strategy, and then decide if a celebrity can complement and enhance the values of your brand. If they do, you are on the way to brand success.

[My thanks to Stamina-Asia for collaborating on the study. If you would like to see a more detailed analysis of the individual advertising campaigns and celebrities and how they worked, please get in touch with or and we would be happy to present the full findings.]

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