Endorsement of luxury brands by celebrities is not a new phenomenon. The role of celebrities in influencing modern culture as well as consumption patterns is gaining prominence. Celebrities act as arbiters of style, taste and public opinion all over the world. The celebrity endorsement enables brand managers to catch attention, add credibility and numerous intangible benefits to the brand in a way which are perhaps difficult to be attained through any other form of advertising.
The celebrity culture has followers across Asia. In Japan and South Korea, 70 per cent of commercials use a celebrity. However, the phenomenon is picking up in India and China where it has acquired momentum in a relatively short span of time. Celebrity power has taken off very rapidly in India, and firms are vying with each other to secure contracts for their brands with Bollywood actors and sportspersons. The Indian luxury goods market is not only unique but also a challenging one for international luxury brands seeking to establish their presence here. The luxury market was earlier driven primarily by the preferences of these ultra-rich households. However, in the recent past, rising incomes and aspirations have created a new segment of typically upper middle class aspirers who are potential luxury buyers. By launching entry-level luxury brands for this potential segment, luxury brands try to help these consumers move up the ‘consumption ladder’ by customizing the shopping experience. This is a significant opportunity for brands for establishing strong consumer relationships. Celebrities can be perhaps one of the ways companies can use to connect with the customer.
An article from the Journal of Creative Communicationsmakes a contribution to understanding Indian luxury market by exploring the relationship between brand equity dimensions and celebrity endorsements. Brand awareness is first essential step in consumer purchase process. Therefore, the target market has to be made aware of a firm’s brand(s). This can be achieved through advertising or other form of communication. However, a celebrity along with the firm’s brand name will not only improve the likelihood of brand recall but also infuse the brand with charisma of the celebrity.
Managers need to understand that effectiveness of brand awareness is only up to a certain limit beyond which organizations need to build associations which are strong, favorable and unique in the potential customer’s mind so as to ensure brand purchase. This illustrates the importance of marketing of the brand beyond simply awareness and understanding simultaneously the important role of brand associations for building brand equity. Celebrities may, thus, help in generating consumer attention and recall of advertising campaigns if there is an appropriate fit between the brand and the celebrity. A proper congruence between the celebrity and the luxury brand can help not only a brand stand out of the clutter but also in better brand recall.
What inspired you to be interested in this topic? My co-author and I have been interested in the use of corporate websites as a powerful communication strategy for several years. I was mostly interested in the power of visuality and George interested in questions of greenwashing. We had been following the BP website since 2005, as part of a larger project on the use of green imagery by oil companies. A few weeks before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we were ready to submit a paper about BP’s website arguing, in fact, that BP’s commitments offered a novel way through which oil exploration and environmental responsibility could co-exist. We even classified various problems that could have “warned” us about BP’s practices as “accidents.” When Deepwater Horizon happened, our ready-to-be-submitted draft became irrelevant. After the shock we underwent both as researchers and as dedicated environmentalists who had clearly misread the greenwashing signs, we decided to reframe our research question vis-à-vis the disaster to study how a company changes its visual story in times of distress. Our realization that even we could be “hijacked” by the corporate story—the corporate agenda had clearly overflown into our own act of research—forced us to refocus our assumptions and questions. It is in this context that corporate power, enabled through website use, became critical to our investigation as our experience highlighted the dangerous potential of becoming “accomplices” to this power.
Were there findings that were surprising to you? The most “surprising” finding was not only the change in the visual story told but the way in which this new story was constructed on the website. In addition, as noted above, we were shocked by how the “liquid organization” had co-opted us in the telling of its story through our own act of navigating the website, making us potential “accomplices” in the telling of its corporate story. We saw this as problematic for many reasons, but mainly because the co-telling of a story through website navigation could result in (paradoxically) solidifying what Zygmunt Bauman calls “liquid power” or “the art of escape from all forms of social responsibility,” especially in cases of corporate hypocrisy.
How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice? Corporate websites are surprisingly under-explored in organization studies, despite the so-called “visual turn.” There are several reasons why website study should feature in our research agenda on management learning: First, websites serve as corporate “storytellers” as they transmit both high-level management messages and the corporate identity to outsiders. Second, , websites differ from other forms of corporate communication since the website user is dynamically involved in the “telling” of the corporate story through his or her navigation act; as such, the user is less a recipient and more a co-constructor of this story. Third, websites, as the most ‘fluid’ of all organizational constructs, may be the most appropriate means through which to study the non-committal, shifting organization of “liquid modernity.” Mobilizing website study in management practice and education can provide a better understanding of “corporate hypocrisy” in a liquid, modern world, especially in times of distress!
[The following post is re-blogged from SAGE Insight. Please click here to view the original post. ]
Article title: How Does the Media Frame Corporate Scandals? The Case of German Newspapers and the Volkswagen Diesel Scandal
From Journal of Management Inquiry
Despite the importance that the media has in regard to influencing people’s perceptions of wrongdoing, organizational scholars have paid little attention to how the media reports wrongdoing. This article starts to address this gap by considering how the media frames corporate scandals. To study the connection between media framing and organizational wrongdoing, authors turn to political and mass communication research. They empirically examine how four different German newspapers reported on the Volkswagen diesel scandal. This article testifies to the importance of cross-fertilization between research on mass communication and political science on one side, and organizational research on the other side and, more generally, it calls for more attention to be given to the media in the study of scandals and organizational wrongdoing.
Despite the importance that the media has in regard to influencing people’s perceptions of wrongdoing, organizational scholars have paid little attention to how the media reports wrongdoing. This article starts to address this gap by considering how the media frames corporate scandals. We empirically examine how four different German newspapers reported on the Volkswagen diesel scandal. We inductively identify the constitutive elements of a general corporate scandal frame. Then, we analyze how each newspaper framed the scandal through combinations of different elements. We identify from our dataset four frames of corporate scandals that newspapers applied: legalistic, contextual, reputational, and scapegoating. Our article testifies to the importance of cross-fertilization between research on mass communication and political science on one side, and organizational research on the other side and, more generally, it calls for more attention to be given to the media in the study of scandals and organizational wrongdoing.
How Does the Media Frame Corporate Scandals? The Case of German Newspapers and the Volkswagen Diesel Scandal
Marco Clemente, Claudia Gabbioneta
First Published February 1, 2017
Journal of Management Inquiry
[We’re pleased to welcome author Murad Mithani of the Stevens Institute of Technology. Mithani recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “Corporate Political Transparency.” Below, Mithani explains the inspiration for conducting this research:]
The idea for this study came during a preliminary investigation of managers’ thinking patterns when they are making campaign contributions. It appeared that regulatory and social implications of disclosure were one of their major concerns. This led me to think if legal enforcement regarding mandatory disclosure of political contributions can make firms fully transparent. Further exploration made it clearer that neither executives nor legislators wanted transparency. They were willing to do whatever was possible to discourage such a regulation, and when that would fail, they were likely to reframe campaign contributions as non-political giving such as charity. In sum, I was expecting that legal enforcement of corporate campaign disclosure may have limited effect. When I found the context of India and compared the ratio of disclosures due to purely legal enforcement and then subsequently when the legal enforcement was coupled with a regulatory incentive, I was surprised by the difference. There was a dramatic increase in the proportion of disclosures suggesting that most firms were unwilling to declare their political ties in the absence of an economic benefit.
I hope my findings can encourage a more informed discussion on the regulatory aspects of corporate campaign contributions. With so much at stake for corporations, legislators and the society, it may be worth discussing the mechanisms that can make it easier for firms to disclose their political choices. Although economic incentives may not reveal all political contributions, the findings of my study suggest that they can be an important step towards transparency.
I will start this post with an old story. CEO of Sunbeam Corp., Albert Dunlap, known as an expert in turning around troubled firms and selling them for a profit, was sued by the SEC in 2001 for accounting fraud. He was eventually barred from serving as an officer or director in any company, plus ordered to pay investors defrauded money in a class-action lawsuit. Albert Dunlap was clearly someone in need of flattery, not just money, as he had the classical flattery-sickness symptom of a book written to celebrate his successes (see also his picture!). How he managed things internally in each firm he led is disputed, but much was said about his intimidation of other managers, who probably would conclude that a lot of flattery and ingratiation might help their career. Of course, managers still did better than employees, because his signature move in turning firms around was mass layoffs.
An interesting detail of his downfall was that managers around him were quick to release information that helped the investigation, which is distinct from the many firms with management teams that do all they can to deter and obstruct investigators. Is there a systematic reason for this difference? Possibly. A recent article in Administrative Science Quarterlyby Gareth Keeves, James Westphal, and Michael McDonald looks at what happens when managers ingratiate their CEO through flattery and other tools. Their findings are interesting. First, managers who flatter lose their liking of the CEO. Somehow when people artificially put others on a pedestal they also start looking down on them.
Second, managers who flatter may go on to undermine the CEO. The light-handed version of this is to undermine the CEO’s messages to journalists, as this research showed. The heavy-handed version is what happened to Albert Dunlap. Among other events, his comptroller reported that he had been pushing for accounting practices that crossed the legal boundary, and sales people were quick to report “channel stuffing.” Channel stuffing is to sell too many goods and selling them too early, which is not illegal in itself (the sales channel can return unsold goods, so it is safe for them), but it is illegal when the sales are accounted as if they were final. Those were practices that the SEC (and some investors) suspected, and that meant that what looked like a turnaround in sales and profits was actually a fraudulent scheme.
Seeking flattery is never thought of as a good thing. What we now know is that it also triggers undermining, and for those who have real weaknesses – like a CEO engaged in fraud – that undermining can be very consequential.
We examine how directors’ political ideologies, specifically the board-level average of how conservative or liberal directors are, influence boards’ decisions about CEO compensation. Integrating research on corporate governance and political psychology, we theorize that conservative and liberal boards will differ in their prevailing beliefs about the appropriate amounts CEOs should be paid and, relatedly, the extent to which CEOs should be rewarded or penalized for recent firm performance. Using a donation-based index to measure the political ideologies of directors serving on S&P 1500 company boards, we test our ideas on a sample of over 4,000 CEOs from 1998 to 2013. Consistent with our predictions, we show that conservative boards pay CEOs more than liberal boards and that the relationship between recent firm performance and CEO pay is stronger for conservative boards than for liberal boards. We further demonstrate that these relationships are more pronounced when focusing specifically on the directors most heavily involved in designing CEO pay plans—members of compensation committees. By showing that board ideology manifests in CEO pay, we offer an initial demonstration of the potentially wide-ranging implications of political ideology for how corporations are governed.
Kogut’s primary interest is corporate governance and, secondarily, its role in economic development. Earlier work by economists had suggested that the primary route to development was a system of free and open markets, underpinned by an active capital market, strong legal protections of shareholder rights, and effective monitoring of management. Although liberalization and privatization occurred worldwide over the past four decades, Kogut argues that nations responded to these forces in very different ways. The outcomes they experienced, however, at least in terms of their ownership and director networks, were often very similar. In other cases, virtually identical levels of liberalization and privatization led to very different outcomes. Kogut’s goal in the book is to account for this convergence and divergence. To do this, he employs two approaches. The first, which he calls “comparing the comparative statics,” involves examining groups of countries that experienced a similar “structural break,” or what is usually termed an exogenous shock. The second, which he refers to as “Can you grow it?” (a phrase from the field of complex systems), involves the examination of network change through simulations, in particular the “rewiring” of the connections among units.
Kogut lays out these arguments in an extensive, wide-ranging introductory essay that is simultaneously an exegesis on organizational, economic, and sociological theory (with a dose of philosophy of science), punctuated with a didactic essay on social network analysis. This chapter, running 50 pages of densely packed text, is by itself worth the price of the book.