Abe Sauer makes the astute observation on BrandChannel that celebrity over-endorsement in China is leading to “overlapping shilling” and “mass confusion” among Chinese consumers:
In China, the paradox of this is that the hot celebrity of the moment can haphazardly accrue numerous, simultaneous endorsements. In China, this flood of celebrity pitch people appears to have muddled the message and confused consumers.
The Financial Times, a little cattily, explains the problem laid out by the report: “Actress/singer Jolin Cai, for example, endorses 14 products from McDonald’s to Levi’s – despite the fact that her ability to fit into the latter might be impaired by too much consumption of the former.”
The end result is a marketplace so flooded with familiar faces that, at the end of the day, leaves consumers unable to recall which brand is endorsed by which celebrity.
A chart from the report [see image above] lays out exactly why this is a particularly large problem in China.
Yet, it’s understandable why brands trying to reach Chinese consumers would choose this path. For example, a 2008 study titled “A Comparison of American and Chinese Consumers’ Attitudes Toward Athlete Celebrity Endorsers” found that “relative to U.S. consumers, Chinese consumers are considerably more receptive to ads featuring athlete celebrity endorsers, especially toward the information contained in these ads. Thus, in today’s business climate, China seems to offer a large and receptive market for ads with ACEs.”
Ogilvy and Millward Brown’s new findings aren’t entirely surprising, in this regard. As early as 2009, the China Market Research Group found similar results in a study. Looking at celebrity Liu Xiang, a Chinese star hurdler, the group set out to test consumer recall for Liu’s dozen or so endorsements. Results did not speak well to Liu’s partners:
“Nike was a lock, since people could make the connection between a star athlete and Nike products, but Visa, Cadillac and Yili, among others had single- and low-double-digit recognition rates as brands Liu Xiang represented. Furthermore, fewer than 20% said that an endorsement by Liu Xiang would make them buy products from any of the companies except Nike.”