It is fair to say that celebrity culture has become a part of everyday society and functions as a form of entertainment. From watching films featuring your favourite actors to following pre-eminent musicians or sportspeople on social media, celebrity culture can manifest itself in a number of ways.
But in recent years, celebrity culture has gone beyond simple entertainment and is now having a direct influence on the fabric of society. In fact, the ‘celebrity effect’ can impact consumer buying behaviour, political preferences, health choices and even what happens after you die.
Take David Bowie, for example. After his unexpected and poignant passing, which was marked with little fanfare during a direct cremation, several people looked into the possibility of not having a funeral at all.
Here’s how the celebrity effect impacts a number of other things we do…
Consumer buying behaviour
Far from being a modern phenomenon, the practice of using celebrities to advertise goods and services has been happening for centuries, with the first celebrity endorsement dating back to the 1760s.
By vouching for or promoting a brand’s product, celebrities are able to increase awareness, establish familiarity, build trust, and improve recall – all important variables in the purchase decision-making process.
The statistics around celebrity endorsements reinforce their effectiveness. Marketwatch reports that a simple announcement from a brand signing a celebrity or athlete can cause stock prices to rise and increase sales by 4 per cent on average.
Celebrity endorsements have also been commonplace in the world of politics for quite some time, with notable examples including Rat Pack members Sammy Davis Junior and Dean Martin supporting John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Barack Obama’s “Celebrity Army” during the 2008 US Presidential Election.
However, an argument could be made that political celebrity endorsements don’t have as much weight as they once did. Several members of the public reject celebrity opinion based on the belief they only have their own interests at heart.
This was especially evident during the Brexit campaign, when the public went against the stance of most celebrities. Political science also suggests that celebrities who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 emphasised wider divides.
One area of society, where the outspoken voice of celebrity culture could make a positive difference, is health. The choices of people we see on TV and in public life can have a significant impact on our decisions and behaviour in a pattern coined the “Angelina Jolie effect.”
In an emotive piece for the New York Times in 2013, Angelina Jolie talked about how she inherited a ‘faulty gene’, which gave her an 87 per cent chance of breast and 50 per cent chance of ovarian cancer. In the 15 days that followed the publication’s release, there was a 64 per cent rise in US women undergoing the test for BRCA (Breast Cancer 1 and 2) genes.
Then again, increasing awareness of health issues is often more open and explicit, with certain celebrities acting as ambassadors for charities and campaigns. For instance, Princes William and Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge are mental health ambassadors for the Heads Together campaign.
Celebrities have more influence on our lives than perhaps even we realise – impacting nearly everything we do.