Companies sometimes use spokespersons to promote a product. They often choose a well-known or famous person that exudes good and moral behavior. Typically, a celebrity or athlete who is often in the limelight captures a wide audience. The audience begins to feel as if they know a specific spokesperson, which translates into a form of trust. If a celebrity is promoting a product, then fans of that celebrity will likely try that product based on the trust factor. However, spokespersons sometimes prove risky for companies.
Spokespersons prove risky at times for companies because companies rely on those spokespersons to represent a product or brand. But the human factor plays a big role. Spokespersons are in the public eye and must maintain good standing with the public at large. When spokespersons lose good standing, then the public often associates any indiscretion with products or brands that spokespersons try to promote.
Indiscretions include all kinds of human behavior including profanity; voicing opinions that go against the public norm; physical, sexual, and substance abuse; and any other form of misconduct deemed inappropriate in the eyes of society. Some notable spokespersons who lost big endorsement deals include Paula Deen, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Kate Moss, Michael Phelps, and most recently, Jared Fogle with Subway.
In all cases, the companies using these celebrities as spokespersons dropped them in an instant. As they should. If they didn’t, they would receive major backlash from consumers for promoting misconduct. Or at least that is how many people would perceive it. In return, consumers would not buy products or brands because they would associate the misconduct with the company who owns the products or brands.
In many cases, companies use spokespersons for a short time. However, Jared Fogle was the face of Subway for 15 years. While he did not play as prominent of a role in the later years, his role was profound. In fact, Subway’s sales more than tripled during the years Fogle was the spokesperson, increasing from $3.1 billion in 1998 to $11.9 billion in 2014. Subway is likely to rebound, but it may lose some consumers for life based on their perceptions that Subway may not have done a good enough job to ensure their spokesperson was in good standing, especially due to the nature of Fogle’s indiscretion. Further, it can take a company tremendous time, publicity, and even expenses to reassure consumers that a spokesperson’s behavior is separate from the company. All of this does not include the embarrassment factor over the negative publicity. In such cases, companies have to work even harder to find another way to promote themselves in a creative and positive way.
While spokespersons can provide great value in the promotion of products and brands, they can still prove to be a risky endeavor. Companies that create their own spokespersons, such as the Little Caesars pizza man and Geico’s gecko, are less likely to risk human behavioral issues that reflect negatively on a company. But for some consumers, these types of spokespersons may not be taken seriously. These are issues companies must consider when using spokespersons to promote products or brands.