Have you ever thought how celebrity endorsements of products are actually shaping your thought-process and railroading you into making a decision?
Endorsement by celebrities is a very common but one of the most efficacious marketing strategies all over the world. Brands pay a hefty amount of money to the celebrities for endorsing their products/services. Consequently, they endorse almost anything they are being offered money for.
Of late, celebrity endorsement for different brands and business entities has turned into a cause célèbre in Bangladesh, especially after the Evaly fiasco. The role and association of renowned actors such as Tahsan Khan, Rafiath Rashid Mithila and Sabnam Faria with a controversial e-commerce site has been put into question and engendered controversy among different quarters. This is not the first instance where a celebrity has found herself/himself in the line of fire after endorsing a product/service.
Now, the question is - can the celebrities duck out of their social responsibility or abnegate the ethical duty they have towards their fans who (at least those from rural backwater) count on whatever they say blindly?
Let me explain - brands rope in celebrities including renowned actors, actresses, sportsmen and even artists because they want to capitalise on the affective feelings of mass people. This is called experience economy, a term coined by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore who are authors with international repute and have contributed significantly to popularising this new concept of economy.
This notion is largely driven by consumeristic frenzy. Brands or marketing mavens orchestrate events/narratives (through advertisements) for their target consumers/customers so that they feel tempted to experience the same transformation that the product/service can offer. This is about some kind of psychic gratification, which influences a viewer unconsciously to strive for some kind of amelioration in life by using a particular product or availing of a certain service.
This is what the brands cash in on. As people somehow idolize celebrities, they want to emulate their lifestyle. Such a social tendency often takes them to a stage when they also cherish a desire to wallow in the same luxury as the celebrities do.
Moreover, celebrity endorsement is often a trick to align the personality of the celebrity with the image of the brand and establish a correlation and association between the celebrity's glamour, beauty and fame, and the brand's product or service. It has a knock-on consequence. Owing to such association, whenever a celebrity spares a few tropes in favor of a product/service, his/her fans go gaga over it, loosen the purse strings and consequently, jump on the buying bandwagon.
The problem with such endorsement is celebrities really don't know about the real quality of the products or the authenticity of the service they are touting. Simply put, they are doing it to make money. When you are luring people into buying a thing without even informing them about the details and its quality, you are actually pulling wool over people's eyes. For celebrities it is much more relevant, because it is actually their face value that is being sold in the form of a product/service.
Take for example the case of Evaly. Celebrities including Tahsan and Mithila endorsed this e-commerce business and many people, I am sure, have felt convinced after seeing their association with Evaly to plow their hard-earned money into this e-commerce site. Their fans actually banked on them.
But, what happened finally? Hundreds of people are now left in the lurch. Who is to blame for this – don't these celebrities have any social responsibility that will dictate whether they should be endorsing anything or not? Will they share some responsibility for dishing out fabricated facts and recklessly endorsing this e-commerce site?
Similarly, celebrities often endorse different products, ranging from toothpaste, powder milk to mineral water. My question is – can they vouch for the quality of these products in the truest sense? If not, why are they doing it? Just because they are being paid a large sum of money? If so, it means there is something seriously wrong with their moral compass and the way they are doing mala fide abuse of their position and image.
Celebrities in other countries are already setting examples in this regard by turning down offers by multinational brands. Indian actress Sai Pallavi hit the headlines back in 2019 for her refusal to endorse a skin whitening cream brand despite being offered a whopping amount of endorsement fee as she does not believe in putting on makeup for beautification. By doing so, the actress has not only sent a social message, but also fulfilled her moral obligation towards her fans.
Our celebrities also need to do some soul-searching and ask themselves whether they are ready to do their bit when it comes to staying true to their moral and social obligation. Just like they enjoy the fact of being followed by thousands of fans and take pride in huge fan-following, they should also adhere to some shared responsibilities so that their fans don't bite the bait being cajoled by their words.
There are two solutions to this problem. First, the celebrities should stop endorsing products/services indiscriminately, which is actually a pious hope. Because the moment there will be an ad hominem attack on them, they will wash their hands of their association with that particular brand.
Last but not least, we have to be wary of their words and avoid being reeled in by the celebrity talks. Cross-sections of people need to get it in their heads that celebrities are no saints and they are not telling the truth always. They are partaking in commercials for money. The viewers must remember that the brands and the celebrities are preying on your conscience and weakness in a very cynical manner so that you cough up a penny to buy their products/services.
So, next time you think of making any decision related to product/service, don't go by the image or face value of the celebrity, judge for yourself and make informed decisions after considering every nook and cranny.
Md Morshedul Alam Mohabat is a philomath who likes to delve deeper into the human psyche with a view to exploring the factors that influence it.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.