How a presenter's perceived attractiveness affects persuasion for attractiveness-unrelated products

Sandra Praxmarer

Universität der Bundeswehr München

Objective of the study

This paper studies the effects of a non-celebrity presenter's attractiveness on persuasion for attractiveness-unrelated products, and tests whether or not these effects depend on receiver sex and product involvement. Attractiveness-related products are bought with the intention of enhancing their users' physical attractiveness, while attractiveness-unrelated products are not. Examples for attractiveness-unrelated products in previous research are pain relievers, home computers, and pens. Examples for attractiveness-related products are lipsticks, acne concealers, and treadmills.

The beauty match-up hypothesis suggests that physical attractiveness is relevant when advertising attractiveness-related products, but should have no effect for attractiveness-unrelated products because only for attractiveness-related products the presenter's attractiveness functions as an associative link and product argument (Kahle & Homer 1985; Kamins 1990; Koernig & Page 2002). However, several studies report positive effects of a presenter's attractiveness on persuasion for attractiveness-unrelated products and suggest that the assumption, that attractiveness only works for attractiveness-related products, does not hold (Caballero & Pride 1984; DeShields et al. 1996; Patzer 1985; Till & Busler 2000). Building on that, the first aim of this research is to demonstrate via which paths a presenter's physical attractiveness affects persuasion for attractiveness-unrelated products, and to test these paths simultaneously. The paper considers the main possibilities that may explain singly or jointly why attractive as compared to less attractive non-celebrity presenters are more persuasive. The presenter's attractiveness may influence persuasion via perceived presenter expertise, perceived presenter trustworthiness, and liking of the ad. In addition, a direct effect of attractiveness on persuasion may occur. Previous studies have separately analysed the effects of a presenter's attractiveness on perceived expertise, trustworthiness, or liking of the ad, and have not controlled for the other potentially relevant effects. Therefore, they could neither support the relevance of the different paths unambiguously, nor could they test a potential direct effect of a presenter's attractiveness on persuasion. Persuasion is a favourable shift in beliefs and attitudes in response to a persuasive message (Rossiter & Percy 1997, p. 224). This study deliberately uses a mainly cognitive persuasion measure (receivers' brand benefit beliefs), because Till and Busler (2000) report (for an attractiveness-unrelated product) that the presenter's attractiveness influences liking of the brand but has no influence on brand beliefs. The authors conclude that, owing to an attractive presenter, consumers did not believe that the pen worked better, but their sympathy for the product was greater. However, the theoretical explanations for the attractiveness effects presented here should hold for brand beliefs.