Why would you subscribe to T-Mobile because Catherine Zeta-Jones recommends it? Don’t fall for the celebrity effect

On a recent visit to Israel, our group visited the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947. It’s a fascinating story. 

There’s a nice, modern visitor’s center on site. On my way to the bathroom I had to walk through the gift shop. (I deplore tourist gift shops; bladder control is one of the only reasons I enter.) I glanced down at one of the advertising displays and saw this picture of Mariah Carey. I was amused, surprised, and reminded once again of the idiocy of being influenced by the celebrity effect. 

Mariah has been hired as a spokesperson for Premier Cosmetics Laboratories, an Israeli cosmetics and skincare company that manufactures its products using mineral components extracted from the Dead Sea. I smiled at the tagline “I call the shots and I think I know the best.” (See this webpage for more information on this debacle.)

It’s sad that our culture is so infatuated with famous people that we succumb to advertising campaigns that exploit our naivety. I sort of understand the connection between Michael Jordon and Nike shoes, but when Roger Federer poses as a coffee machine expert and Jennifer Aniston promotes Smartwater, we should recognize the disconnect. 

The celebrity effect is the ability of famous people to influence others. Companies use that star power and influence to boost their own products and services. 

No doubt, it works. When Chanel signed Nicole Kidman in 2003, global sales of the perfume they promoted increased 30%. When Nike and Tiger Woods inked an endorsement deal in 2000, Nike’s market share went from 0.9% to 4% in six months.

The celebrity effect is used in about 14-19% of advertisements aired in the U.S. 

Let’s resist.