Abstract: The main purpose of this study is to find out whether celebrity endorsers’ behaviors, such as large endorsement contract and multiple product endorsement, will influence consumers’ correspondence inferences on those celebrities’ genuine attitudes towards the endorsed products in print advertisements and how such attributional inferences will differ according to the perceived level of product congruence with the endorser. For meaningful analysis and interpretation, the differential effects were examined in terms of correspondence bias and suspicion of ulterior motives. The bias refers to people’ attributional inference tendency to relying on other persons’ dispositions; whereas, the suspicion of ulterior motives accounts for people’s suspending such inferential tendency to the bias. The moderating roles of individual need for cognition and implicit theory of personality were also scrutinized along with the inferential process. Lastly, the mediating role of correspondence inference to attitudinal and behavioral measures of advertising effectiveness was tested.
Results support the differential effects of suspicion by perceived product congruence on persuasiveness of celebrity endorsement advertising. Consumers did bias their correspondence inferences when the product was not perceived to be highly congruent with the image of the celebrity endorser; however, consumers did not bias their correspondence inferences when they were highly suspicious of the endorser’s ulterior motives whether the product is perceived to be highly matched with the image of the endorser or not. Those effects were also found to be moderated by consumers’ level of need for cognition, but not the implicit theory of personality. Irrespective of their suspicion levels, low need for cognition consumers did bias their correspondence inferences whether the product was perceived to be highly matched with the image of the endorser or not. An additional investigation on the mediating role of correspondence inference confirmed its positive effects on consumers’ attitudes toward the ad and the brand, and behavioral intentions. Based upon the empirical findings from the experiment, theoretical and managerial implications as well as limitations and suggestions for future research are discussed.