The role of body image in advertising effectiveness of healthy food products
Endorsement has been an important communication strategy for companies in order to convey favourable associations about their products. In fact, there is a large body of literature reporting the positive impact of endorsers on consumer attitudes towards advertisements and brands, consumer purchase intention, as well as other measures of effectiveness (e.g. Amos et al., 2008; Kaikati, 1987; Goldsmith et al., 2000). Choosing the appropriate endorser to promote a product has always been a challenge both for academics and for practitioners. Several studies have measured under which conditions endorsers are appropriate for products and positively impact advertising effectiveness (e.g. Agrawal and Kamakura, 1995; Tripp et al., 1994). A common empirical approach has been based on the match-up hypothesis. This theory suggests endorsers to be more effective when there is a fit between the endorser and the endorsed product (Till and Busler, 2000). In the case of healthy foods, and in line with the match-up hypothesis, an effective endorser should be one perceived as healthy. This is the most common practice of companies advertising their health brands. However, there have been successful cases where companies promoted their health brands using non-healthy and less attractive endorsers. For example, the Danish dairy company Arla used to promote one of its pro-biotic yoghurt Cultura by using a less-attractive and un-healthy endorser. This sequel of advertisements met lots of success and received great popularity among Danes. The target group for health foods is not only healthy people but those who want to improve their health status and, therefore, not being healthy enough. According to the social comparison theory, individuals will make some inferences concerning the endorser, which leads them to feel pressured to conform to those with whom they compare themselves (Festinger 1954). In other words, an advertisement using a healthy endorser may not be effective by the un-healthy target group. In fact, this raises also the question of whether such advertisements can act as interventions to improve the population’s healthy eating standards. This study aims to provide a better understanding of this phenomenon and explore under which conditions a food product could be effectively advertised by a less-healthy endorser. The objectives are: a) to explore the effect of perceived body image as a surrogate measure of perceived endorser’s healthiness on advertising effectiveness; b) to explore the moderating role of perceived product healthiness on advertising effectiveness and c) if these effects vary across consumer groups of different levels of health motivation and other measures of healthiness (e.g. Body Mass Index). For the purpose of the study an experiment is used based on measuring the effectiveness of advertisements that vary on the endorser’s body image (slim vs. overweight) and the food type (a perceived healthy product – milk vs. a perceived un-healthy one – sausages). The study is currently in progress and the data are being collected in Denmark. The results of this study will lead towards both managerial and theoretical implications. In relation to the former, it provides useful directions to food companies in relation to which endorser may be more effective to increase the effectiveness of their advertising when to promote their healthy food products. In relation to the later, it contributes to the theoretical development of endorsement advertising effectiveness by providing further understanding of the processes under which both underlined theories work, especially when it comes to the promotion of healthy food products.
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16th International Conference on Corporate and Marketing Communications, 2011