When brands use CEOs and employees as spokespersons: A framework for understanding internal endorsement

Purpose :

The present paper is intended to clarify the persuasion mechanism of CEOs and employees as endorsers of brand advertising and help discern consumer attitudes towards internal endorsement.

Design/Methodology/Approach :

Due to its exploratory nature, the research applied a qualitative approach combining focus groups and face-to-face interviews, which we deemed both meaningful and complementary.

Findings :

The findings suggest that while celebrity endorsement ensures brand familiarity and likability, internal endorsement – embodying the important role of story-telling – contributes towards credibility and congruence. Further, while employee endorsement leads to a process of internalization based on actual-self, CEO endorsement generates admiration grounded in ideal-self. More fundamentally, the study reveals how internal endorsement alters the meaning transfer model and involves a process of meaning translation; this in turn affects the corporate rather than product brand image.

Originality/Value :

The present paper reveals that CEOs and employees can be strong levers for gilding the corporate brand image compared to the celebrities who enhance the product brand image. Moreover, we show that the CEO is a character who can be admired without the threat of upward comparison at the opposite of celebrities. Finally, this research highlights the specific role of employees bringing authenticity thanks to their anchorage in real life.

Keywords: internal endorsement, meaning transfer model, employee, CEO, self-representation, persuasion mechanism.
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