In this season of marathon shopping, I started wondering why I buy what I buy. There are millions of choices when it comes to our cosmetics and cars and food and OTC meds and clothing and shoes and TV series and movies and furnishings and technology, and travel and education.
So why do I scan the shelves and pick out one sneaker among the many sports shoes for sale?
We think we have the power of choice, but we are bedazzled by influencers. Psychologists say that we are especially motivated by celebrity endorsements that suggest we can acquire good looks, wealth, friends and celebrity itself by buying the car that George Clooney drives or wearing the athletic shoes that Selena Gomez wears or drinking the Coke that LeBron James, Penelope Cruz or Michelle Kwan drinks.
Various media put enormous money into advertising campaigns that feature celebrities touting their products. For me, it’s a waste of their time and money. When a celebrity flogs a product, my avoidance mode kicks in. I love Matthew McConaughey, but I’m not buying a Lincoln because he looks dreamy sitting behind the wheel in the TV commercials. I am not buying Gwyneth Paltrow’s skin cream thinking it will make me look like her.
I mean, why would I buy a Dior product because Charlize Theron is their public face? She’s a gorgeous 8-foot-tall South African beauty. My life, inside this body of mine, bears no resemblance to her existence. Dior face cream will not help. I resist.
I’m crazy about Reese Witherspoon and I love Crate & Barrel products, but I’m not buying a new couch because she’s their “brand ambassador.”
I can’t argue that celebrity endorsements don’t work, because apparently they pay off big time, or companies wouldn’t seek out famous people to push their products. I just don’t think it works for me, and I would urge others to look at their prospective purchases in a clear-eyed way, setting aside the celebrity glam factor.
Drew Barrymore has associated herself with Crocs. What the heck? Should I buy a clutzy shoe because she tells me to? What does she know about shoes or me or the value of her product? As for the Kardashians, well, how much time do you have? Who are they, exactly, and how many of them are in the public eye, and what is their skill set?
They endorse various hair products, and I imagine their pitch is to young people, but why? They are the most famous people who are famous just for being famous.
Epic flops and scandals have haunted the celebrity endorsement industry. Kanye West recently unraveled with his nonstop antisemitic rants. He lost Adidas, Balenciaga, Foot Locker, Gap, and others. Michael Phelps was dropped by Kellogg’s years ago, after a photo circulated of him smoking marijuana. Today, with a net worth of some $80 million, he can boast associations with Intel, Subway, Under Armor, Beats and Visa. The weed factor is passe.
Years back, according to E-News, Madonna landed a one-year contract as the celebrity spokesperson for Pepsi. A two-minute family-friendly ad premiered wherein the singer revisited her eighth birthday. But the next day, Madonna’s video for “Like a Prayer” debuted. The video featured burning crosses, and stigmata. After an outcry from religious groups, Pepsi canceled its ad.
My friends are my greatest influencers. I buy what they tell me to buy; I watch the TV that they suggest; I read the books they send my way.
I also take seriously consumer reviews from reliable websites. I have found new doctors by reading online reviews.
I have one friend whom I love who has mysterious powers over my purchasing decisions. When we’re together, we sometimes shop. I find myself buying what she tells me to buy — even the outsized blouse with a geometric print that makes my eyes burn. Sometimes there’s a pricey item I don’t need, but if she tells me I need it, boom, it’s in the shopping bag. I don’t know what it is. My only defense is not to go shopping with her too often. Because if she tells me I need the striped balloon pants in neon green, it’s circus time for me.
As we go about our Christmas and Hanukkah shopping, it might be wise to consider who is influencing our purchases. One of the oldest and longest-running celebrity endorsements was launched by Jell-O in the early 1970s, when they hired a 37-year-old actor named Bill Cosby. Presumably Jell-O has wiggled onward without him.
Copyright 2022 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.