Testimonials are statements from people who publicly endorse a product and recommend it. They are used in advertising as a trust-building action to strengthen the credibility of a message.
A typical example can be seen in classic advertising formats such as TV commercials and posters. Famous athletes such as Dirk Nowitzki or Michael Ballack explain their satisfaction with a bank product or a travel provider, a Hollywood diva promotes a new perfume or a cosmetic line.
You will find testimonials in online media and dialog marketing as well. But these are positive customer reviews. Businesses collect specific positive experiences from their customers and make them available online or in advertising brochures in order to raise their satisfaction and promote their product image.
In the case of testimonials, you would first distinguish between known, prominent personalities and non-celebrities. Whether they are real persons or played characters is another significant factor. It is also possible to use drawn or animated characters or avatars for a testimonial. Some examples:
In Fielmann’s TV commercial, various passers-by are asked about their opinion on Fielmann. They appear with a (possibly) real name, but are completely unknown. Unknown people are used for the testimonial to create a feeling of proximity to the target group, the feeling of “people like you and me.”
Captain Iglo is a fantasy figure that is firmly linked to iglo GmbH and its brand. The white-bearded figure with a captain’s hat has been used for almost 30 years and thus creates trust and continuity, although the nameless performers behind it have already been replaced several times.
Claus Hipp is the managing director of the food and baby food producer Hipp and regularly appears in various advertising media. “I stand for this with my name” is the slogan you associate with this prominent person. He creates trust and gives the impression of a family-run company whom you are willing to entrust your baby’s health.
Ronald McDonald has been promoting McDonald’s fast food chain since the 1960s. As the name patron of various charitable institutions, especially for children, the character, which is inextricably linked with the name McDonald’s, gives the brand a more human look.
Thomas Gottschalk has been Haribo’s strong advertising face for over 20 years. As a celebrity, he automatically makes every commercial interesting for certain target groups.
Credible testimonials are able to convince potential buyers about a product. The knowledge that others have already had positive experiences with its use and positively evaluate the product due to a high joy of use or good brand experience automatically makes it more favorable for prospective customers. A similar principle can be observed in the acquisition of Facebook Likes. Growth is often sluggish for unknown fanpages with only 20 or 50 Likes. The user inevitably asks why the site has so few Likes. For pages with several thousand or even ten thousand likes, many users no longer hesitate with the expression of their goodwill.
Sales can be sustainably increased if testimonials are used in the context of sales letters or sales landing pages. The ideal placement, scope, and impact of testimonials may vary depending on the offer. A / B testing can be used to test the ideal application.
Advertisers using well-known personalities to present their product in a positive way also take a risk. A person with a positive image would usually be used for this. But if the person suffers any damage to their image, such as in the case of an athlete by a doping scandal, or in the case of a singer by the flop of a new record, the statement of the personality may also be devalued. If the brand of a product or company is strongly linked to the respective advertising personality, scandal-like dimensions can even result in a loss of image for the respective company.
The credibility of a testimonial can also be a problem. In order for an experience report to be realistic, the product must fit as well as possible to the person reporting. A good example is the advertising campaign of Weightwatchers Germany from 2012. The company made actress Christine Neubauer, who reportedly had just lost 10 kg with this program, its poster child. If a testimonial is not credible, however, the effect can even be the opposite and cause negative publicity for the company.
Fictitious testimonials are cheaply and quickly obtainable, but are also a risk factor. If the false positive evaluations and experience reports suddenly get exposed as such, it will leave a bad taste in any potential customer’s mouth. The impression that the company is not able to capture real positive customer voices due to a lack of product or service quality will be created. Testimonials should therefore always derive from natural sources. A good time to ask a customer for a testimonial is, for example, directly after completing an order. The customer must declare his/her consent that not only his/her statement is published, but also his/her name and possibly the name of his/her company/employer.
There have been legal restrictions imposed in the past, especially regarding the use of testimonials in the medical field. In particular, if medicinal products, medical procedures, treatments or articles were advertised outside of specialist circles, testimonials could not be used according to the German Medical Products Advertisement Law. This ban was abolished in 2011 by the jurisprudence of the ECJ. The German Medical Products Advertisement Law was revised in October 2012. Since then, the use of testimonials has been permitted outside of professional circles, unless they are misleading or abusive.
Testimonials can also pose legal problems by the fact that it can border on surreptitious advertising. The consumer must be able to recognize at any time that the statement is a testimonial made for payment. Whereas this is obvious in the case of television advertising or ads in magazines, in various Internet media, for example, social networks. It is a legal gray zone, which can lead to expensive warnings from competitors or consumer centers.