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Brand Personification through the Use of Spokespeople: An Exploratory Study of Ordinary Employees, CEOs, and Celebrities Featured in Advertising

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ABSTRACT

Personifying a brand through the use of a spokesperson is a strategy that some companies use to humanize their brands. Three of the ways that such personification is accomplished in advertising is by ads featuring celebrities, “regular people” (such as everyday consumers or persons employed by the brand), and company founders or CEOs as spokespeople. Using a sampling of representative print ads as stimuli, this exploratory qualitative research probed consumer thinking and perceptions regarding these various approaches to brand personification. It was found that celebrities could magically transport consumers to an idealized place, provided there was congruence between the celebrity and the brand. Ordinary people as spokespeople, when genuinely perceived as “one of us,” could be particularly effective in humanizing a brand and eliciting empathy. Famous CEOs and company founders were revered by many respondents who viewed them as aspirational models: they are ordinary people with an extraordinary story. The implications and limitations of the research were discussed, and some directions for future research were provided.

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