Consumers are suspicious of advertising promises. They discount sales claims as being exaggerated, slanted or down-right fork tongued. He gets more sceptical when times are hard and he has to watch the pennies. The advertiser need then to present his case with all the conviction at his command. He must show beyond question that his product works.
On of the most persuasive ad approaches is the ‘testimonial’. It usually takes the form of a quotation from a satisfies user, with or without an accompanying photograph. The logic underlying testimony is that is Mr. or Mrs. Bloggo living on Blankety Street say that Product X satisfies them, then the vast majority of potential purchasers across the land will want to follow their lead. Strange as it may sound the testimonial appeal often works when handled and delivered in an honest and believable tone.
Forhans owes its success to ‘bleeding gums’ story conveyed through letters from grateful brushers whose gingivitis had been controlled with the toothpaste ‘invent by a dentist’: For years Forhans maintained a file of all published letters and invited the public to inspect their veracity. Testimonials have to carry that ring of sincerity.
The ad for Sheri Louise’s 23-Day Nutritional Programme had a look and feel that makes it almost documentary in presentation. The satisfied customers featured are thoroughly believable and what they have to say sounds as real as a statement delivered across the room. Says Feroz Polishwalla (with a name like that he must be true): “Inspite of not having followed the instructions in full, I have nevertheless lost a little less than 10 kilos in 23 days. And I feel I could have lost a lot more had I controlled myself.” Testimonials can sometimes get away with lack of credibility. Lux Toilet Soap is a case in point. It had a very small brand share in the US when the ‘beauty soap of the stars’ campaign was dreamed up. Nobody really believed that Deborah Kerr and Hedy Larnarr lathered up with Lux, yet crowds stormed the shops for it. The brand zoomed to a number three slot in no time at all. (We don’t believe that Zeenat Aman treats her skin with Lux but that does not take away from the image its created for itself.)
Other forms of personalised selling are the quasi-testimonial and the spokesman. The first category usually portrays a believable Joel Jane endorsing the product story without mentioning their names. That’s because the portrayal of actual users would not necessarily add to the sales pitch. Lots if beauty products in the West feature a beautiful model saying, “I found Soap X perfect for my dry skin.” The girl next-door-approach would not work as well.
Quasi-testimonials have been exploited with flair for Horlicks in the latest TV commercial. A cross section of enthusiastic drinkers from all corners of this great, beverage-drinking nation tell us why they prefer this drink. The people selected are not stock characters from central casting, as feature in the usual run of TV ads. They are fresh, believable and wholly engaging.
A quasi-testimonial can also be tonguein-cheek. A famous ad for a cat-food called Meow Mix showed a pile of letters supposedly received from happy cats.
Headline : Cats don’t just say they ask for Meow Mix; they put it in writing. Copy: At Meow Mix, we’ve received numerous letters about out product from satisfied customers. Most of them from people with cats. Some of them from cats with people.
At least, they’re signed by cats (some even have paw prints).
Cats writing letters?
If that seems unheard of maybe its because, in Meow Mix, they finally have a cat food worth writing home about. Or writing away about.
One cat, who claims to be a gourmet, says she eats nothing but Meow Mix. Another cat (Klondlike, by name) says that when his favourite super-market ran out of Meow Mix, he went on a hunger strike.
Other cats spoke glowingly of the taste of Meow Mix, the convenience, the price and the fact that they could get their three favourite flavours (tuna, liver and chicken) in one package.
They all agree that Meow Mix tastes so good they ask it by name. Practically every time they open their mouths.
There was more, too. Which we won’t go into now. Somehow, it seems that what cats couldn’t put into words about Meow Mix, they put into letters.
Oh, people said some nice things about us, too. But, after all, that’s easy for them to say.