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Taking it to the streets: A multimethod investigation of street credibility and consumer affinity toward street credible endorsers

Delancy H. S Bennett, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Celebrity endorsers are featured in 10 to 20 percent of commercials in the United States (Agrawal and Kamakura, 1995). While firms have invested significant capital in celebrity endorsers, they traditionally shy away from those who have been involved in illegal or immoral acts (Briggs, 2009; Creswell, 2008). However, the rules of endorser selection appear to be changing. Recently, a new type of endorser whose celebrity is built in part upon criminal activity or violent history has emerged. These celebrities, often rappers, successfully endorse major brands such as Vitamin Water and Chrysler. They are frequently described as having another form of credibility--street credibility (Spiegler, 1996). Patrick (2005) suggests that the street credible celebrities will replace athletes as the most important product endorsers. Therefore, it is important to determine the nature of street credibility, who has it, and how is it gained. As well, we need to understand how diverse consumer groups relate to these endorsers. The first essay of this dissertation develops a definition for the construct of street credibility, outlines its antecedents, and investigates its attraction to different consumer groups. To do so, existing ethnographic, anthropological and sociological studies regarding street culture (i.e. Bourgois, 2003; LeBlanc, 2003) are consulted. A modified form of grounded theory using "extant theory and ethnographic studies" is employed to build a foundation for this emerging construct (Burton, Cherlin, Winn, Estacion, and Holder-Taylor, 2009). Next, theoretical sampling (Glaser and Strauss, 1967) is used to select interview respondents in two U.S. communities. The first community represented inner-city consumers and the second represented consumers outside the inner city. The results from this study indicate that street credibility is based on one's ability to thrive within the streets' culture of terror with street smarts and the creation of a tough persona. This form of credibility is increased as one gains financial, physical, and sexual power within street culture's context. This study suggests that the inner-city consumers' affinity toward the street credible celebrity is rooted in their similarity to the endorser while non-inner city consumers' affinity is based on the celebrities' ability to evoke fantasy. A second set of in-depth interviews with respondents who were inner-city minorities, inner-city non-minorities, non-inner city minorities, and non-inner city non-minorities were conducted. The purpose of this study was to buttress the findings from the earlier studies, further delineate how diverse populations view street credibility, and to gain insight as to which products and brands are best represented by these endorsers. The findings here were in line with the previous interviews and also indicated that non-inner city minorities are attracted to these endorsers based on their shared histories as minorities. Additionally, in terms of product match, street credible celebrities were reported as being able to endorse non profits as well as low priced "street" themed or high price-premium products, but not those products that are mid-tier. The second essay of this dissertation provides a review of literature on endorser credibility, endorsers as reference group members and source persuasion. This essay then provides evidence that consumer affinity for the street credible endorser, in spite of his or her association with negative information, is inconsistent with the "traditional" models of credibility and endorser effectiveness. Building on McCracken's (1989) Meaning Transfer Model, this essay posits that consumer affinity for the street credible endorser is based on his or her meanings and uses. This is further delineated in a proposed model of "Relationship, Feelings and Fantasy and Experiential Consumption Model." This model posits that consumer affinity for street credible endorsers is based on the endorser's ability to provide the consumer escape from the stress of daily life through transformational fantasy. Here, street credible endorser's association with certain scandals authenticates their street credibility and in doing so adds to the fantasy these celebrities evoke. This model resolves the anomaly of affinity for endorsers tied to negative information. Moreover, this model answers Amos, Holmes, and Strutton's (2008) call for research that provides insight into attraction to celebrities who are bankable endorsers despite their negative actions. The purpose of the third essay of this dissertation is to provide further understanding the role that fantasy plays in consumers' affinity for street credible endorsers. As scale measures for neither the construct of street credibility nor that of fantasy type has yet to be developed, a series of studies using Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Analysis are first conducted. These studies yield two separate reliable and valid scales, one for each construct. Next, the basic assumptions of the Relationships, Feelings, and Fantasy and Experiential Consumption Model are tested. Here, Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Analysis indicate that the brand personality scale (Aaker 1987) accurately measures celebrity brand personalities. The relationships between celebrity type and fantasy generation are explored using MANOVA. Results from these studies indicate that street credibility and cool are different constructs. In addition, an analysis of the data suggests that street credible endorsers are less cool and hold brand personalities that are less sincere and exciting than traditional endorsers. However, street credible endorsers are more able to evoke transportation fantasies and less able to evoke identify fantasies than their traditional counterparts. We find that each endorser group's ability to evoke fantasy is mediated by the consumer similarity to the endorser. In agreement with the model, these findings suggest that the exotic nature of street credible endorsers do indeed contribute to this his or her ability to evoke transportation fantasies.^

Subject Area

Marketing|Social psychology|Mass communication

Recommended Citation

Bennett, Delancy H. S, "Taking it to the streets: A multimethod investigation of street credibility and consumer affinity toward street credible endorsers" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3615398.