Under the Influence: Celebrities in the Sales Process

“Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement, and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.” –Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo, 1955–1984)

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Captain Kangaroo understood that parents are the “ultimate role models.” What he didn’t say was that for millions of us—three generations of kids—he was almost as influential as our own parents.

One of the most important attributes any person can possess is the ability to influence others. Certainly, influence is even more essential for anyone who works in sales, and its effect is magnified exponentially for any person who plays the spokesperson role in television ads.

But what dynamics make one spokesperson more influential than another? And how can these attributes be identified and evaluated in the context of a celebrity’s ability to truly resonate with the public?

Based on decades of experience in matching celebrity spokespeople with products and services, combined with an understanding of consumer perceptions revealed by the InterMedia Entertainment (IME) DR Star Index®, the following are key considerations in selecting a celebrity brand ambassador:

  • The celebrity’s fit with the target demographic and psychographic profile
  • A potential spokesperson’s alignment and connection with the brand
  • The compelling storyline that can be built around this association
  • The ability to generate trust while being believable and credible
  • The spokesperson’s ability to truly sell the product or offer

In addition to the above, direct response marketers should strive to find a brand ambassador who has previously influenced the target market in a positive manner.

No. 3 Influencer, Henry Winkler helps sell prospects on the idea of a One Reverse Mortgage.

More than any other characteristic, Influence is most closely linked with the ability to sell. Influence is the common denominator in all successful celebrity-based campaigns; if a celebrity cannot influence and therefore motivate the target market, nothing else matters.

No matter how influential a celebrity appears, if he or she can’t close the deal, that celebrity is of little use—especially in the DR space. This talent requires a specific mindset: First, the celebrity must be willing to sell; second, he or she must have an inherent ability to connect with consumers.

Prior to signing a celebrity, IME always breaks bread with the person and his or her manager or agent. We make a face-to-face assessment of whether they truly want to do the deal, have passion for the prospective relationship, can get behind the brand enthusiastically, and understand that one of the demands of an effective salesperson is to ask the consumer for the order personally.

Ranked by Resonance
Of the close to 1,000 celebrities that the DR Star Index tracks, Betty White is the top-rated celebrity overall, based on her high scores in the Index’s six key criteria: Likeability, Attractiveness, Trust, Influence, Relevance, and Recognition. What separates the former Golden Girl is her unsurpassed ability to resonate, and ultimately influence, a full spectrum of consumers, from millennials to Baby Boomers.

One of the demands of an effective salesperson is to ask the consumer for the order personally.

Since its inception, the DR Star Index has placed added emphasis on the celebrities who are currently lending endorsements on television. The accompanying chart (“The Influence Factor,” page 13) lists the top celebrities who are currently working as advertising spokespeople and have been evaluated by the public in the Index. When looking at the top performers in this category, the overall top-rated celebrity is Jennifer Lopez, who represents Children’s Miracle Hospital.

Infomercial favorite George Foreman currently lends his top-five Influence to lead-generation ads for InventHelp.

However, the No. 1-rated celebrity—tracked purely from an Influence perspective—is Adam Levine, who recently jumped from No. 9 on the list to the top slot, and has been an excellent spokesperson for Guthy-Renker, LLC’s Proactiv brand.

On the flip side, actor and ex-Senator Fred Thompson—last on the active spokeperson list—brings up the rear in all attribute categories with the exception of Recognition, where he ranked 23rd of 26 celebrities tracked. Other examples of celebrities who scored lower than average for Influence are Larry King (Omega XL) and Sharon Osbourne (Atkins).

Parents may be the most important influencers, and therefore role models, in their children’s lives. However, as evidenced by the list of celebrity spokespersons who perform best in their roles, the ability to influence consumer behavior is measured by sales chops—and it’s Levine and Lopez, Foreman and the Fonz who excel.

The Influence Factor: Top Current Celebrity Spokespeople

Spokesperson Brand Category Overall Index
Overall Index
 1  Adam Levine  Proactiv Health&Beauty 63 9 123.83 2.41
2 Jennifer Lopez Children’sMiracle Hospital Charity 7 1 138.44 2.39
3 Henry Winkler One Reverse Mortgage Financial 26 3 129.60 2.36
4 Alyssa Milano UNICEF Charity 79 11 121.80 2.32
5 George Foreman InventHelp Consumer Services 58 8 124.25 2.31
6 Joan Lunden A Place for Mom Senior Care 110 13 116.81 2.31
7 Alex Trebek Colonial Penn Insurance 19 2 130.95 2.30
8 Cindy Crawford Meaningful Beauty Health&Beauty 32 4 128.41 2.30
9 Jack Hanna Cosequin Supplements 141 16 113.66 2.30
10 Florence Henderson Medical Guardian Senior Care 49 7 124.85 2.29
11 William Shatner Priceline Travel 38 5 126.64 2.28
12 Valerie Bertinelli Meaningful Beauty Health&Beauty 89 12 120.04 2.26
13 Marie Osmond Nutrisystem Diet 68 10 122.84 2.24
14 Cal Ripken Jr. New Day USA Financial 211 20 107.66 2.23
15 Julianne Hough Proactiv Health&Beauty 287 23 102.46 2.19
16 Dan Marino Nutrisystem Diet 179 18 110.24 2.17
17 Edie Falco ASPCA Charity 360 25 98.86 2.17
18 Sharon Osbourne Atkins Diet 46 6 125.27 2.15
19 Alan Thicke Optima Tax Financial 148 17 113.08 2.15
20 William Devane Rosland Capital Financial 258 22 104.74 2.13
21 Chuck Woolery Willow Curves Pain Relief 224 21 106.88 2.11
22 Brett Favre Copperfit Pain Relief 202 19 108.19 2.09
23 Montel Williams Money Mutual Financial 133 15 114.34 2.06
24 Larry Kind  Omega XL Supplements 112 14 116.55 2.05
25 Joey Fatone Bosley Health&Beauty 332 24 99.88 2.04
26 Fred Thompson American Advisors Group Financial 363 26 98.72 1.91

Hunington Sachs is vice president of Business and Legal Affairs at InterMedia Entertainment (IME), the celebrity acquisition and intellectual property development arm of the InterMedia Group of Companies, headed by president and CEO Robert Yallen. IME Publishes the DR Star Index and provides custom research for advertisers pursuing a celebrity strategy for their marketing efforts. Contact Robert Yallen and Hunington Sachs at (818) 995-1455 or via email at [email protected] and [email protected].