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

Valérie Zeitoun (IAE Paris-Sorbonne, Paris, France)
Geraldine Michel (IAE Paris-Sorbonne, Paris, France)
Nathalie Fleck (Le Mans Université, Le Mans, France)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 12 February 2020

Issue publication date: 2 June 2020



This paper aims to clarify the persuasion mechanism of chief executive officers (CEOs) and employees as endorsers of brand advertising and helps discern consumer attitudes toward internal endorsement.


The exploratory character of the present research required a qualitative approach combining focus groups and face-to-face interviews considered as both meaningful and complementary.


The findings suggest that while the celebrity endorsement ensures familiarity and likability, internal endorsement supports credibility and congruity with an important role of storytelling. Moreover, employee endorsements induce an internalization process based on the real-self, while the endorser CEO induces admiration grounded in the ideal self. More fundamentally, the study reveals how the internal endorsement modifies the meaning transfer model and involves a process of meaning translation, which affects the corporate brand image rather than the product brand image.


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, the authors 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 because of their anchorage in real life.



The authors thank the editor, and three anonymous reviewers for their very helpful and insightful comments. We also want to express our thanks to Bernard Cova and Claudiu Dimofte for their very good advices during the writing of the manuscript. The preparation of this article was supported by the Chair Brands & Values at IAE Paris-Sorbonne, we are grateful for the support of its members.


Zeitoun, V., Michel, G. and Fleck, N. (2020), "When brands use CEOs and employees as spokespersons: A framework for understanding internal endorsement", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 241-264.



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