Healthcare Marketing: The Age of Celebrity Endorsements Over?

Red CarpetThe brand is more important than the endorser. 

In recent months, we’ve seen the passing of several high profile celebrity endorsers. With it, perhaps an era of celebrity endorsement is passing too. Within just a few days prolific and long time product endorser, Ed McMahon, the beautiful and sexy starlet, Farrah Fawcett and the king of pop, Michael Jackson passed away. Even Karl Malden left home without it. And even though more of a pitchman than an endorser, Billy Mays also died. Instead of pitching products because he was famous, Mays became famous because of his product pitching.

Each of these leave behind memories of on camera time endorsing and pitching an array of products. Who benefited the most? The celebrity or the product? It’s hard to say. The research is conflicted.

Some studies indicate the right match between celebrity and product can be effective. Other research indicates the celebrity is remembered but not the brand. Several studies have indicated that a strong majority of consumers state that celebrities do not influence their purchasing decisions. But we know consumers don’t always tell or even know the truth when responding to surveys.

Hospitals have sometimes used celebrities to promote their brand. Pat Summerall, former NFL payer and broadcaster, has a separate business that aggressively seeks hospitals to pay a rather large sum of money for him to endorse a hospital.

Whether you think celebrity endorsements are effective or not, one thing is true – it all goes back to how strong the brand is. A celebrity can endorse a hospital or healthcare service but if the brand does not deliver satisfactorily to the customer, then money and effort is wasted.  A celebrity cannot make a bad brand good. Neither can a celebrity make consumers like an inferior brand.   

Maybe in some cases a celebrity can bring attention to a product, but most importantly the brand experience must be positive and deliver. There is no substitute for a brand that delivers. If your brand doesn’t deliver, a celebrity can’t overcome the weakness.

 We have lost some very famous and memorable product endorsers recently. But there are other celebrities busy pitching all manner of products, including hospitals. What matters is whether your brand delivers a positive patient experience that will build credibility and loyalty.  If it does, then the brand becomes the true celebrity.

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