TORONTO (Reuters) - Forget popularity and recognition. Celebrities who are likable and can be trusted have the most influence on what consumers buy, according to a new study.
While actor Brad Pitt and pop singer Britney Spears are the most recognized stars among 200 famous faces tested in a survey, they failed to crack the top five for likability, according to New York-based market research company NDP Group, Inc.
Actors Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Matt Damon, Halle Berry and George Clooney were the most likable celebrities.
Oprah Winfrey's interior designer Nate Berkus and Will Smith topped the chart for eliciting trust, followed by chef Mario Batali, golfer Tiger Woods and chef Paula Deen.
"It's not about fashion and it's not about beauty that's necessarily connecting the celebrity and the product anymore," Marshal Cohen, an analyst with the group, said in an interview.
"It's really more about getting exposure for reasons that go beyond just the glamour shots."
Will Smith dominated the likability list with 83 percent of the 4,500 online respondents saying they liked him "strongly" or "somewhat".
The trust factor - a celebrity's ability to appear believable or authentic when pitching a brand - was also noted as a strong motivator to get individuals buying celebrity-promoted products.
Nine out of the top 25 most-trusted celebrities were chefs, including Batali, Deen and Rachel Ray.
"It's the believability that that person knows what it is they are talking about, which is why so many celebrities in this particular year emerged from the network cooking and crafts businesses because they are the ones who are hands on," Cohen said.
But the rich and famous are not always a perfect fit for product endorsements, the study showed.
Celebrity impact in the fragrance market is beginning to slump for women while some of the most tried and tested endorsements in sportswear are not enough to get consumers into the stores.
"The power of the celebrity, in many cases has really transitioned. Now, what's driving beauty is the doctors and prescriptive cosmetic brands that are more about someone who has a PHD and is warranted in talking about cosmetics and not just a woman with a pretty face."