Celebrity and Spokes-character Endorsement in Taiwan

Written by En-Chi Chang.

Image credit: Ximending, Taipei 台北,西門町 by Andy Enero/Flickr, license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I started my day by putting on my Uniqlo LifeWear coat endorsed by Vivian Hsu. Then I headed out and stopped by 7-Eleven to buy a cup of City Coffee endorsed by Gui, Lun-Mei (桂綸鎂) for breakfast. Then, rushing to the MRT station, I used Open-chan(Open將) iCash card to take the MRT train to work. Though I do not have an ASUS ROG 5 designed by Nyjah Huston, my ACER endorsed by GBOYSWAG (鼓鼓) was just fine for work. After work, I decided to treat myself to a nice dinner at Eatogether endorsed by Accusefive (五告人). Then I went home and treated myself with a round of massage on my Fuji Massage chair endorsed by Ariel Lin (林依晨) while playing the game ‘Lineage II’ (天堂II) endorsed by Takeshi Kaneshiro (金城武).’

The above narrative could be a typical day for a nine-to-fiver in Taipei and show how frequent celebrity endorsement ads appear in Taiwanese routines. Celebrity endorsement is ubiquitous in Taiwan. One can hardly escape from the influence of these celebrity-endorsed ads without finishing a day. There are so many that we might even overlook some unless our favourite celebrities are inside.

Theoretical backgrounds of celebrity endorsement

There have been several theories explaining how and why celebrity endorsement works. To begin with, the utilisation of celebrity endorsement might be encouraged due to the transferred affect from an opinion leader to the endorsed brand. These opinion leaders exert their influences based on who they are, what they know, and their social locations. The most adopted theory in marketing research is source credibility theory, which posits that highly credible sources induce greater persuasion than low credible sources. The source credibility is based on ‘’trustworthiness,’ ‘’expertise,’ and ‘’attractiveness.’ An extended line of research on anthropomorphic characters also considers likeability influencing endorsement effectiveness. Another theory is the dual entertainment path model. This theory explains that celebrity endorsement affects fans and nonfans in different ways.

Besides the factors mentioned in the extant celebrity endorsement literature, culture might also affect ‘consumers’ attitudes toward celebrities and endorsed brands and the subsequent consumer behaviour. For example, consumers in a collectivist society are more likely to be influenced by celebrities endorsing brands. This is because these celebrities are considered opinion leaders and even role models. Therefore, brands and products endorsed by celebrities in a collectivist culture, e.g., Taiwan, could be better perceived than in an individualistic culture, e.g., the US.

Manifold endorsers

Celebrities in ads in Taiwan are of plurality. This diversity is reflected not only in types of endorsers but also in endorsed products and services. Thus, a celebrity could endorse a product, a service, and even a government policy.

The types of celebrities in ads could be human vs non-human, domestic vs international, an individual vs a couple, a show biz star vs professional.

One of the ‘celebrity’ endorsers in the opening narrative, Open-chan, is a spokes-character created by 7-Eleven ’ ’Taiwan’s marketing team and has developed itself into a celebrity. The other famous non-human celebrity is Doraemon from Japan. Many Taiwanese, including me, grew up with Doraemon and have been fans of this robot cat. Due to this familiarity, the cat has won many endorsement opportunities in Taiwan. His latest endorsement is Uniqlo’s sustainability mode. Finally, another group of spokes-characters, who show up almost at any corner of Taiwanese life, are LINE FRIENDS.

Nationalities of celebrity endorsers in Taiwanese ads are diversified. Although most celebrities are local, we also see international faces. Some examples are Fabio Julien Victor Grangeon (法比歐) endorsing head & shoulders, Megan Fox endorsing Acer U7, and Korean star Park, Seo-Joon endorsing Gong Cha (貢茶).

Celebrity endorsement in Taiwan is not limited to an individual celebrity promoting a brand, a product, or a service. A celebrity couple can work together to promote a brand. The target group of celebrity couple endorsement is families or buyers of household products. One example is the celebrity couple, Hou, Chang-Ming (侯昌明) and Tseng, Ya-Lang (曾雅蘭), endorsing Kia. The other couple is Xiu, Jie Kai (修杰楷) and Alyssa Jia (賈靜雯) endorsing LIXIL.

Most celebrities in Taiwanese ads are singers and actors from the entertainment industry. Nevertheless, the popular talk show, “‘Hello” Doctor’ (醫師好辣), and other similar talk shows for health and well-being have created a group of healthcare professional celebrities. They are active in ads for toothpaste, nutrition supplements, milk powder, skincare products, and other healthcare products. Because of their expertise, the ads, which they are in, could be more persuasive.

In discussing celebrity endorsement, we should not ignore a group of new celebrities, i.e., social media influencers. Because of these ‘influencers’ popularity and personal brand awareness, they are advertisers’ new favourites. The influencer endorsement also provides advertisers with a new channel, i.e., social media, for promotion. Some famous influencer endorsers in Taiwan are Tsai, A-Ga (蔡阿嘎), Chien-Chien (千千), Ray Du English (阿滴英文), and Li Ke Tai (理科太太). Celebrity influencers in Taiwan are not limited to humans. For example, a group of cats, Fumeancat (黃阿瑪的後宮生活), led by a cat called A-Ma, have attracted over one million fans, and endorsed various brands in Taiwan.

What’s next?

The landscape of celebrity endorsement in Taiwan keeps changing, and the nature of celebrities in ads keeps evolving. The latest trend emerging is Vtuber endorsement. These online celebrities are anime-like virtual avatars initially appearing from Japan. They are mainly active on Youtube, Twitch, and Bilibili. An example in Taiwan is Lumina (璐米娜) of Chunghwa Telecom. Since Taiwan always follows the pop culture trend in Japan, it can be expected that more Vtubers will appear in Taiwanese ads. However, virtual (influencers) celebrities like Lil Miquela, based in the US and Ayayi from China have not been seen in Taiwan. In the international market, these virtual influencers have attracted increasing attention, and some have even endorsed international brands. Since Taiwan is swift in catching the global trend, these virtual influencers could soon appear in the Taiwanese market.

En-Chi Chang, PhD, currently works as an adviser at Allmarketing Digital Marketing & Design Company, Taiwan. Her work encompasses providingadvice on the client’s digital marketing strategy, content marketing, SEO, and SEA. Before working in the digital marketing industry, she taught different courses in Marketing on-campus and online. She has also been active in research and publication in Consumer Behavior, Online Marketing/Digital Marketing, and Retail Marketing.

This piece was published as part of a special issue on Celebrities.

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