When we’re brainstorming ideas for an ad, one of the old “standbys” is to use some sort of testimonial. Now, for those of us creatives who regard ourselves as “original thinkers” (whether we really are or not is highly debatable, but that’s a topic for another blog), the idea of a testimonial usually sends shivers of horror down our spine.
You see, it’s been done so many times before – and often so badly – that we shudder at the very thought of admitting we couldn’t come up with a better way to present our client’s product or service than with a testimonial.
Can testimonials be effective? I guess so – millions of ads of various kinds have used them in various guises, including the “I’m not a real person but I’m pretending to be one,” and “I’m a celebrity who would probably never use this product but they’re paying me well so I will,” and the classic “I liked the product so much I bought the company.” You would think that if testimonials DIDN’T work everyone would have given up on the idea long ago.
But this morning I came across two uses for testimonials that I hadn’t thought of, and both relate to digital marketing. The first was to use testimonials as a way to get inbound links to your website. The basic principle is to offer a testimonial to a company you do business with in hopes that they’ll post your kind words on their website, with a link back to your site, thus increasing your numbers in the quest for the holy grail of inbound links.
The second was from a company in Chicago called Marshall Wolf Automation. They sent out an email to their customers and vendors encouraging them to blog, tweet or post something about their experience with Wolf Automation in exchange for a Starbucks gift card. Now of course the more skeptical of you might reason that a tactic like this is just this side of bribery, but it is a way to get social media mentions from what you hope is your loyal customer base.
So is the testimonial dead? Of course not. It’s taken on new life, in fact. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to see about that Starbucks gift card I just earned . . .