Looking at you: celebrity direct eye gaze influences social media post effectiveness

Jasmina Ilicic, Stacey M. Brennan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to introduce and examine the effect of a celebrity’s eye gaze on self-celebrity connection. A celebrity’s direct (vs averted) eye gaze can be used as a tactic in social media posts to increase self-celebrity connection and behavioral intentions. Examining the effectiveness of a celebrity’s eye gaze is important, as celebrities regularly use social media to manage their brand image and to build a relationship with consumers. Design/methodology/approach: Study 1 examines the effect of a celebrity’s eye gaze (direct vs averted) on self-celebrity connection. Study 2 investigates the role of celebrity authenticity in explaining the effect of a celebrity’s eye gaze on consumer–celebrity brand relationships. Study 3 examines the moderating role of a non-Duchenne smile (fake, social smile) in diluting the effect of a celebrity’s direct eye gaze on self-celebrity connection and the downstream consequences on behavioral intentions. Findings: The findings from Study 1 indicate that a celebrity’s direct (averted) eye gaze strengthens (weakens) self-celebrity connection. Study 2 provides evidence of celebrity authenticity as the explanation for stronger consumer–celebrity connection when a celebrity is featured with a direct eye gaze. The results of Study 3 show that a fake smile in a celebrity’s social media posts can weaken relationships with and behavioral intentions toward celebrities with a direct eye gaze. Research limitations/implications: This paper is limited, as it focuses only on eye gaze and smiles as non-verbal cues depicted in celebrity images on social media. Practical implications: This paper has important implications for celebrities, celebrity brand managers (including digital/social media marketing managers and public relations professionals) and advertisers. Celebrities, celebrity brand managers and advertisers should develop social media posts that can strengthen consumer–celebrity relationships and positively influence behaviors toward the celebrity through: 1) ensuring that photographs are taken with the celebrity looking directly into the camera at the target (audience); and 2) avoiding posting images of a celebrity’s direct eye gaze with a non-Duchenne (fake) smile. Originality/value: This paper introduces and provides evidence of a celebrity’s direct eye gaze–self-celebrity relationship effect. Tactics, such as eye gaze, can strengthen consumer–celebrity relationships, which is crucial in building brand equity and in increasing financial value for the celebrity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3051-3076
Number of pages26
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Authenticity
  • Behavior
  • Celebrity
  • Celebrity brand
  • Eye gaze
  • Self-brand connection
  • Smile
  • Social media

Cite this