Monday, August 13, 2012

Fun to learn : Successes and Pitfalls of Star Power in Advertising

The decision by Coreana Cosmetics to hire actress Kim Ha-neul as a poster girl is paying off handsomely thanks to the tremendous popularity of the hit SBS soap "A Gentleman's Dignity" in which she stars alongside heartthrob Jang Dong-gun. The pink lipstick Kim uses in the drama has become such a hit that 20,000 of the products have sold so far across the nation, which is faster than the company can supply them.

Coreana has had to ramp up production to meet demand. "We paid hundreds of millions of won in modeling fees, but sales of the lipstick alone more than made up for that," said a company staffer.

Businesses are very cautious about choosing models for their products. It may seem that hiring the most popular star to endorse a product would guarantee its success, but things do not always turn out that way. Advertisers must carefully consider the type of product they are selling, whether it goes well with a particular model, how well-known the model is among the target consumer group, and how to differentiate the product from rivals.

From left, Kim Ha-neul, Jeon Ji-hyun and Kim Yu-na 
From left, Kim Ha-neul, Jeon Ji-hyun and Kim Yu-na

One example of a successful pairing of product and model is actress Jeon Ji-hyun and Elastine shampoo, by LG Household and Health Care. Jeon was the poster girl for Elastine from 2001, when the product was introduced, until 2011. Although relatively unknown back then, her fresh appearance and long hair was a perfect match with the product and turned it into an instant hit. Elastine has been the best-selling shampoo since its debut and still holds that position with consumers associating that product with the actress. In turn, Jeon was able to consolidate her fresh image.

But relying too much on star power can lead to the merchandise becoming overshadowed by the celebrity. An example is actor Kim Soo-hyun, who suddenly became a star with the lead role in the MBC costume drama "The Moon that Embraces the Sun." During the first six months of this year, Kim appeared in ads for more than 10 products ranging from coffee, sportswear, jewelry, beer and electronic products. Because he spreads himself so thinly, consumers are often confused.

Now many businesses are trying to avoid this pitfall by turning to popular athletes. They are not only fresh faces but also felt to embody trustworthiness, the spirit of challenge and strapping health. Daewoong Pharmaceutical hired soccer legend Cha Bum-kun, his son and star soccer player Cha Du-ri and his brother to advertise its health supplements, and the ads proved successful.

Figure skating star Kim Yu-na appeared in 136 ads until June this year and raised the brand image of every product she has endorsed.

"Sports stars have a stronger image of trustworthiness than other models, and their personal stories of challenge and success have a positive impact on the product they endorse," said Park Jae-hang of advertising company Innocean Worldwide. "Rather than hiring them for a single ad, it could be more beneficial to form long-term sponsorship deals with them in order to boost the corporate image by giving an impression that the company endeavors to foster sports."

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