Toward a Process-Transfer Model of the Endorser Effect 

31 Dec 2019


Wong, Vincent Chi, Henry K. Y. Fock, and Candy K. Y. Ho  

Published in Journal of Marketing Research April 2020 

Why has someone like Paris Hilton — a person who has endured low popularity/credibility, who is controversial and may even carry negative symbolic meaning for some — proved successful in her endorsement of Rich Prosecco? (Sales increased from seven million to ten million cans in the first year of her endorsement.) 

To answer this question, Dr Vincent Chi Wong, Assistant Professor of Marketing and co-authors propose and find a novel process-transfer model of the endorser effect. Existing endorser-effect models pertain to the transfer of valence—either the overall valence (e.g., likeableness, credibility) or valence in terms of specific attributes (i.e., symbolic meanings)—of the product. These models do not consider the possibility that the way consumers evaluate the endorser (i.e., the nonvalenced evaluation process) may also transfer to the evaluation of the product.  

The proposed process-transfer model suggests that this transfer may have occurred in the Paris Hilton endorsement. As the heir of the Hilton Hotels Empire, Paris Hilton may activate a cognitive strategy to emphasize “who one is” (i.e., the origin) to evaluate a target. Such a “who-one-is” evaluation process may carry over to drive consumers to evaluate Rich Prosecco by relying on its origin. Because Rich Prosecco is made from a white grape that grows only in Italy, a respected country of origin, the who-one-is process may lead consumers to evaluate the product favourably.  

The findings provide strong managerial implications for marketers. Specifically, the endorsement contract between a firm and an endorser often involves quite a long time span (e.g., several years) and a considerable endorsement fee, with a high cost for the firm to change the endorser for premature contract terminations. Although firms typically sign an endorser for positive symbolic meanings and consumers’ favorable affective reactions, unexpected incidents may occur during the contract that leads to unfavorable perceptions.  

“Our findings suggest that it might not be necessary for the firm to immediately terminate the contract with such endorsers,” says Wong. 

“Instead, the firm may change its strategy by inducing a process transfer in the endorsement rather than continually capitalizing on the transfer of affect, credibility, or symbolic meanings.”