Endorsements and testimonials are modes of advertising in which a business utilizes the statements and /or support of outside individuals or organizations in order to increase consumer interest in the product and /or services it sells. The term “endorsement” tends to be more frequently associated with advertising messages featuring public figures (such as celebrities) and organizations, while the term “testimonial” more frequently refer to advertising campaigns that utilize ordinary consumers and clients. These distinctions are somewhat artificial, however, endorsements and testimonials are treated identically by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in America, which exercises primary regulatory oversight of business marketing `and advertising practices, and the terms are often employed interchangeably. The Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) is the apex advertising, advertisement, and marketing communications’ regulatory agency of the federal government to promote responsible and ethical advertising practice, acting as the conscience of society and watchdog for the consumers; whilst managing the needs and interests of stakeholders in Nigeria’s advertising industry, advertising self-regulation..
Any advertising that features an actual expert, celebrity, consumer, or organization expressing support for a company’s products and/ or services is considered an endorsement. This support can take the form of verbal statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness, or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization. Advertising containing excerpts of reviews by unbiased third parties (such as films, theatre, music, or book reviews) are also regarded as endorsements. Advertisements that clearly feature actors playing the role of consumers or fictional celebrities or organization spokespeople, on the other hand, are not regarded as endorsements.
Endorsements and testimonials can also be used in any medium, from television and radio spots to direct mail business fliers and magazine / newspaper advertisements.
Types of Endorsements and Testimonials
Endorsements and testimonials can be broken down into four primary types:
1. Celebrity Endorsements
These types of advertising campaigns feature individuals who have achieved a certain level of public recognition because of their achievements in the worlds of sport, entertainment, or some other aspects of media. This type of endorsement is most often employed by major companies engaged in multi-million dollar marketing campaigns. But it can also be utilized by smaller companies engaged in local or regional business activities. Celebrities that are typically utilized by these companies are recognizable in the community in which the firm does business, but they do not have as high a profile as celebrities utilized in national advertising campaigns. The services of these “second-tier” celebrities – local athletes, media personalities, people in the news, etc. – can be secured at a much lower expense than individuals that enjoy widespread national recognition.
2. Expert Endorsements
This form of advertising highlights the opinions of acknowledged experts. An expert endorser must have evaluated the process using appropriate techniques, and he /she must be qualified in a relevant area. This type of endorsement should also provide supporting evidence in the form of tests, evaluations, and /or product comparisons.
3. Consumer Endorsements
These endorsements feature actual users of the product or service being sold. Advertising utilizing customer testimonials must reflect the typical experiences of customers and the genuine feelings and findings of the consumer being highlighted.
4. Organizational Endorsements
Endorsements from organizations must reflect the consensus of the organization, and must comply with that organization’s standards formal endorsement. In addition, the organization in question has to be an independent one, rather than one created wholly or partially for the purpose of promoting the advertising firm’s products or services.
Implementing Endorsements And Testimonials
In addition to adhering to existing laws and regulations governing use of endorsements and testimonials for advertising purposes, business experts cite several other considerations that should be weighed by business owners. Some of these considerations are unique to specific types of endorsements (i.e., celebrity or consumer testimonials, which are the two types most frequently utilized), while others are common to all four types.
For example, celebrity testimonials – while potentially valuable in attracting attention to a firm’s products and /or services – also have a higher risk factor. For example, media attention on celebrity athletes, singers, and other personalities can turn negative quickly. In these instances, products or services with which the celebrity is associated can be stained by implication. For this reason, most companies include “opt-out: clauses in contracts so that they can end a business relationship quickly and without penalty if the celebrity’s reputation is compromised.
Moreover, some analysts question the value of celebrity endorsements in increasing public allegiance to a product or service, especially if the public figure in question is of limited stature (generally, the only type of celebrity whose endorsement is within the financial grasp of smaller and mid-size companies). They instead urge companies to consider customer testimonials, which are widely regarded as more honest and believable, and less expensive and time-consuming to create. Testimonials given by satisfied customers are far, far more effective than testimonials given by celebrities because the customer- to -be knows the celebrity is paid for the endorsement. Testimonials are easy to find. They are live, in person, and visit your place of business every day in person, on the phone, or through the mail, fax, or internet.
Another element of consumer endorsements that needs to be addressed is insurance of legality. All types of endorsements need to be specific in written form. But unlike the celebrity, expert, or association forms of endorsement, in which contracts are expected to be long and detailed, consumer testimonials are usually relatively short and simple release forms. A marketing consultant said, “When we originally asked our lawyer for a “release form” he gave us (literally) a five page single-spaced form; that will scare any potential testimony giver, no matter how much they like you or your business.”
Business owners, then, are urged to obtain legal advice that will enable them to adopt and utilize short, easy-to-understand contracts that will not intimidate customers.
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