Testimonials

I have for long believed testimonials in advertising, the way they are done, have lived its course.

There seem to be 3 types of testimonials

The first is celebrity driven: A sport star or a movie star talks about a brand they use. Many big brands follow this plan. Here I refer to celebrities that have no connection to the brand beyond the advertising. I have seen film stars advertise ball point pens, mobile phone services, etc. This strategy usually works to create quick brand awareness. I am not very sure if it translates into brand preference.

The second is more linked to the business itself: So you could have a celebrity or an actual user talking about the brand and its attributes. It is possible to believe that the featured person actually uses the product she or he is advertising. This of course does the job of awareness and preference building. Where does this work for credibility though? Or empathy? Especially in the b2b space, typically testimonials are from larg corporations and they result in the belief that these are expensive products or solutions and suited for large companies alone

This is where the third and most important type of testimonial advertising kicks in. The ‘average user’. This is not a famous person or from a famous company. This is the average Joe or Jane who talks about the product he/she uses and how it benefits him/her. This kind of communication is not geared towards creating brand awareness. Rather towards brand preference and trial.

I think route one is the easy way out. It’s flash. Companies rich with money but low on ideas tend to go towards those.

I personally believe two and three are the way to go depending on the bank balance and the specific objective.

Of course one doesn’t need to advertise testimonials. Advertising itself has a bit of a credibility issue. The belief that for a some of money anyone will say anything in favour of a brand. There is the element of ‘good words for cash’ syndrome.

So getting testimonials in what is seen as fair media would be a great place to be. Which brings in editorial media. Testimonials in this environment is infused with far more credibility than in advertising.

With the arrival of the web though I believe there is a great opportunity to build a bank of testimonials at little to no cost.

On-line reviews.

As we all know now, people love to talk about their experiences. Good or bad. And they will post it really anywhere they like. Their own blogs. Review sites. Facebook. etc

Why not channel that to your own site?

Brands should create opportunities for their customers to express their views on the brand’s web site.

Many tourist hotels, have been doing this for years, by their guest book section of the website.

One of the biggest successes is Amazon. The book reviews by the user. Perfect testimonials with extremely high credibility.

People believe other people. Especially if they think/know that opinions have not been paid for.

And don’t forget what I said earlier, everything on-line, or rather nearly everything is viewed with great credibility.

So my advice to brands is to open the gates on their websites for customers to post their comments. Yes there will be bad feedback. But that strengthens the credibility. Who is going to believe you, if people only had good things to say.

Get the interactivity going. Encourage people to give you their feedback. Besides it working as a great ‘word of mouth’ medium it will be a cheap way to do some market analysis based on who and what they say.

I found this blog where a company had a 70% increase in sales by using testimonials. Yes the data there is just for a week. But it is still useful.

So testimonials work. How they are used will determine whether they are successful for you or not.

Just my 2 cents on the subject.

Harish

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