NEW YORK: A single facial tick, in the form of a “genuine” smile, can enhance the persuasive appeal of a celebrity endorser and may even improve perceptions of a well-known brand spokesperson whose reputation has slipped.

Such findings came from analysis conducted by Jasmina Ilicic (Monash University, Australia), Alicia Kulczynski and Stacey M. Baxter (both from the University of Newcastle, Australia) and published in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

They tested the impact of a “Duchenne” smile – a “genuine” smile where the corners of the mouth and cheek are raised, the eyelid lowers and “crow’s feet” appear on the external side of the eye – for a celebrity in a print ad for a brand.

Alongside this ad, their sample of 340 consumers were shown an ad with the same celebrity, and for the same brand, but with a “non-genuine” smile where only the corners of the mouth are raised.

“When a celebrity is featured in an advertisement displaying a Duchenne smile, consumers will perceive the celebrity to be more genuine,” the scholars wrote.

“Consumers who have developed prior negative attitudes toward a celebrity will report significantly higher perceptions of celebrity genuineness when the same celebrity is featured depicting a Duchenne smile.”

Further implications that emerged from the paper, which is entitled How a Smile Can Make a Difference: Enhancing the Persuasive Appeal of Celebrity Endorsers - Boosting Consumer Perceptions of Celebrity Genuineness Through the Use of a 'Duchenne Smile' in Advertising, are related to endorsers who become mired in negative coverage.

“It is not uncommon for a celebrity endorser to become entangled in a negative or controversial situation, which can have an adverse effect on the products and brands endorsed by that celebrity,” the scholars observed.

“The findings of this study,” they continued, “suggest that even if things go astray and celebrities fall from grace, careful execution of advertising can counteract negative associations held with a celebrity, meaning that premature dumping and replacement of celebrity endorsers may be avoided.”

How a Smile Can Make a Difference: Enhancing the Persuasive Appeal of Celebrity Endorsers appears as a part of a special “What We Know About Celebrity Endorsement in Advertising” section in the Journal of Advertising Research.

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff