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Entertainment celebrity human brands: the complex role of celebrities' attributes and consumer-celebrity relationships upon consumers' aspirations and buying behaviour

Moraes, Marcela (2016) Entertainment celebrity human brands: the complex role of celebrities' attributes and consumer-celebrity relationships upon consumers' aspirations and buying behaviour. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Societies have always had a need for heroes to define new heights of achievements, new thresholds of ability, endurance, and aspirations. It seems that celebrities have fulfilled modern societies’ need for heroes and role modelling guidance. As a result, celebrities have gained a prominent role in marketing communication strategies.

Celebrities are ‘manufactured’ products of the media industry. They are strategically selected, developed and managed human brands who transmit important cultural meanings. Nonetheless, most of the marketing literature neglects the important cultural and symbolic meanings of celebrities. The issue of why and how consumers establish complex relationships with certain types of celebrities via impersonal exposures through mass media tools is under-researched.

The socially influential meanings that celebrities disseminate have profound consequences on consumers’ identities and buying behaviour. The hypothesised celebrity influence on consumers’ decisions is an area of study which still presents numerous research gaps and offers possible benefits for marketing applications. Hence, this thesis goes beyond the existing celebrity endorsement perspectives and explores the complex relationships that consumers establish with celebrities, and the impacts these relationships have upon consumers’ aspirations and buying preferences. This research explores why certain celebrities’ attributes relate to consumers’ aspirations and buying preferences, which can have substantial implications upon consumers’ choices and, therefore, marketing communication strategies.

This thesis uses a mixed methods approach. It starts with extensive qualitative research, which consists of an exploratory stage (observations and short interviews with people who work in Los Angeles), in-depth interviews with casting agents (based in Perth and Los Angeles); and, finally, in-depth interviews and focus groups with university students. The qualitative research assisted with the refinement of the quantitative instrument and development of the research model and hypotheses. The main research objectives are as follows:

1. Identify the main personality characteristics of influential celebrities’ brands
2. Explore and identify the complex relationships consumers’ develop with admired celebrities.
3. Explore how consumers-celebrities relationships lead to consumers’ celebrity-like aspirations and celebrity behavioural emulation.
4. Understand possible multi-group differences that influence consumers-celebrities relationships (according to gender, age and celebrity type).

The quantitative research consists of a representative sample of students from four Western Australian universities (N=611). WarpPLS (Partial Least Squares – Structural Equation Modelling Software) was used to test the model and research hypotheses. The findings suggest that entertainment celebrities and consumer-celebrity relationships influence distinct areas of consumers’ aspirations, opinions, and behaviours. The PLS-SEM model indicates that different types of celebrities’ attributes have different effects upon consumers’ identities/aspirations and buying preferences. The PLS-MGA (partial least squares multi-group analysis) tested for significant multi-group differences based on consumers’ age groups, consumer-celebrity gender, and celebrities from different fields of expertise (cinema, television, and music). The outcomes of this research provide robust empirical evidence of the important relationships between celebrity influences on consumers’ opinions and purchase intentions. The research findings provide useful suggestions for marketing, researchers, academics and practitioners. The managerial implications are especially relevant for marketing communications strategists.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor(s): Gountas, John, Entrekin, Lanny and Gountras, Sandra
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