In marketing, the term testimonial is used to describe an advertising method in which a person offers positive comments about a product or brand. The aim of a testimonial is to create trust and strengthen brand credibility. That’s the reason why celebrities are often approached to provide testimonials, but other people can also make useful contributions in this form of marketing.
Marketing is all about convincing a potential buyer to make a purchase decision in favor of a particular brand or product. Long before the arrival of the internet and online advertising, it was realized that references had a positive effect on brand credibility and thus on business success. Prominent figures were used in advertising at an early stage – Pope Leo XIII‘s role in marketing a French wine is a good example from the 19th century.
However, testimonials do not necessarily have to rely on the “testimony” of celebrities – even selected customer voices or fictional characters created for marketing purposes can help to boost credibility and brand awareness.
In general, testimonials – especially from celebrities – are more likely to be used in B2C marketing, because domestic consumers often make their purchasing decisions at an emotional level where credibility is particularly important. In principle, testimonials are also suitable for B2B marketing – but here, it’s usually customer voices and opinions that are employed to cast the company and its products in a positive light.
How many types of testimonials are there?
As previously indicated, there is more than one form of testimonial. And although the model that uses a celebrity to endorse a brand or company enjoys widespread popularity, other forms can also be very effective depending on the target group.
The American consumer goods manufacturer Procter & Gamble, for example, ran a TV campaign using ordinary New Yorkers. Whilst blindfolded, they were invited to sample the pleasant aroma emanating from grubby looking furniture that had previously been treated with Febreze smell neutralizer. It was only when their blindfolds were removed that the participants realized the furniture was anything but clean and inviting. Employing members of the public rather than actors made the advertising seem altogether more believable. This form of testimonial is particularly useful for establishing a close relationship with the customer. The potential buyer can identify well with those promoting the product because they are “normal people” with no commercial interest, who therefore appear especially credible. With this type of testimonial, the customer voices are, of course, carefully selected beforehand in order to present product or brand information that’s as positive as possible.
Another frequently used version of the testimonial is based on fictional characters. There are plenty of examples of this form – for instance characters like Mr. Clean or the bee from Honey Nut Cheerios. Though credibility is perhaps not quite as high as testimonials from real customers, this type of advertisement still conveys familiarity and stability because the same character or figure tends to appear for a number of years. In addition, the company has full control over this advertising format, and can decide what information and statements should be included in any testimonial. A further variant of this form uses a testimonial from the owner of the company or an important employee. Instead of a fictional person, a company employee becomes the advertising medium. This makes the company seem more human, more approachable, and therefore more trustworthy. Furthermore, the company is often presented as particularly traditional and customer-oriented in the context of the ad to intensify the effect of this format.
Probably the most frequently chosen form of the testimonial is the celebrity testimonial. Whether as actors, soccer stars, or singers, celebrities evoke emotions and are often regarded as role models, which makes them the perfect medium for this type of advertising. For example, when Natalie Portman promotes a perfume from Dior, or LeBron James endorses Nike, the star’s charisma is projected onto the product, making it just as desirable as the star.
What do you have to look out for with Testimonials?
Testimonials can be a very effective marketing tool – especially online – because many customers are much more cautious when internet shopping. However, to make a testimonial campaign a success, it’s not enough to simply engage any X-factor star or to induce customers to make statements about a brand or website.
As a testimonial is primarily about credibility, the advertising medium and the product or brand must be a good match. The above stars, Portman and James, are classic examples of how to connect a star and a brand wisely. Being an all-star basketball player, James is a perfect fit for the sporting goods manufacturer Nike, and Hollywood diva Portman likewise complements the Dior luxury brand. However, there are other instances where the connection has failed – such as the singer Rihanna, who was intended to promote Nivea, the cosmetics producer. Here, the pop diva’s liberated appearance did not fit the values with which Nivea wanted to be linked: trust, family and reliability. Once the company recognized this, the association was ended.
Even when the advertising medium and the product match perfectly, testimonials can still lead to problems – especially if you engage celebrities. Should the person delivering the testimonial become guilty of misconduct, this can not only affect the impact of the advertising, but can also have a knock-on effect on the company image.
Of course, there are examples of this too – Tiger Woods, for instance, who after his extra-marital affair was no longer a sought-after role model. His behavior also had an impact on Nike, one of Woods’ main sponsors. The sale of Nike products promoted by Woods immediately suffered a massive collapse.
How can testimonials be used for online advertising?
As mentioned above, testimonials are a very effective online marketing tool because online trading is inherently impersonal, making it more difficult to get through to customers with advertising messages. The trustworthy and familiar face of an advertising medium helps to break down this barrier and makes the customer more likely to buy. That’s why testimonials are best suited for landing pages because they can eliminate any last-minute doubts the customer may have.
Testimonials have been a tried and tested advertising measure for many years, and if used properly, can have considerable impact. They are especially effective in e-commerce, as customers are usually much more inclined to research and seek out reviews than they would be in a retail store, for example. Using the customer voice or prominent advertising mediums can help reduce this mistrust, so that a “bail-out candidate” can be converted into a paying customer.
However, it’s important that the advertising medium and the product or brand is a good match. Otherwise, the most important element of the testimonial is destroyed – its credibility.
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