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The Power of Testimonials – "We are Marshall" Case Study

December 19, 2006

Power of Testimonials - Rotten TomatoI was interested to see what critics had to say about the movie “We are Marshall” since I’m going up to Huntington, WV to visit my wife’s family over the Christmas holidays. Their town is all fired up about this movie that pays homage to their football team which died in a tragic crash some years ago and celebrates the school and town’s resurgence. I use as my default movie search since they aggregate the reviews of many critics into one metric – the Tomato-meter. (On a side note, remember that the world of aggregating, not publishing (Google, Myspace, etc.) is where the most profitable and scalable business models are.). Unfortunately the movie did not fare that well with the critics, which is a bit unusual given that it is about a tragedy. Usually critics give a movie good reviews at least out of that “don’t speak ill of the dead”-type of obligation.

Bonus Lesson About Testimonials

Looking through reviews of particularly bad movies did remind me of the power of testimonials, though. Most critics of major publications roundly pan the movie. However, there were a couple movie reviewers that had a distinctly different outlook on the film…

Conspicuously Distinguishing Testimonials

“We Are Marshall rates as one of the best sports movies ever made. This is a masterful triumph from the director McG that will make your heart soar in joy at the end.” – Gary Brown, Houston Community Newspapers
  • Are journalists of minor publications more optimistic (newer on the job, perhaps)?
  • Did Gary just love the movie (I’m sure many will)?
  • Did Gary understand that nearly every critic would not like the movie, and by being such an outwardly-spoken advocate of the movie, his review would appear featured on the page.?
  • Did Gary consider that every fan of Marshall (or of the story itself) would probably read his review?
Perhaps Gary understood that people do like to read works of people that generally agree with them. After all, it’s a cliche that rarely agree with movie critics who often seem to only like a film when it is foreign or weird 🙂 and when they find one… they might just bookmark his page. Hopefully their newspaper tracks web traffic and when their movie critic is showing up as one of their most viewed pages… Of course this is just my journalistic cynicism cropping up, but hey – if Mr. Brown meant to do it or just lucked into featured billing on a major world-wide website he deserves credit either way. Since I’m not a mind reader, he gets the benefit of the doubt. Giving testimonials is not just about giving credit where it is due. Testimonials can also be about finding one’s fan base. Perhaps we might even get a link to our website or a mention of our company. Some journalists or marketers explore the “dark side” the power of third-party assessments by being one to criticize a person, product or work. They say negativity sells much more that positivity. That may be true, but I believe positive reinforcement will build your brand over time whereas negative testimonials may bring you a spike of traffic that eventually dies off when they find the next bo grumpus.

Notes about Using Testimonials for Public Relations

  • Remember that people purchase based on emotion. A movie trailer is a perfect example. I love going to see the trailers – especially if “movie guy” is doing the voice-over for it.
    “In a world where men are men and women are…
    We then use facts such as critics reviews or friends’ opinions to justify our emotions. Testimonials from a real live person instead of a ream of statistics provide both – facts (the product/service works) with emotion (this guy/gal loves this product/service enough to send a note)
  • Who makes products or services that you like that are loosely related but not directly competitive with yours?
  • Can you write a believable testimonial and get it in the hands of the owner?
  • If they don’t have testimonials on their site, maybe you could even suggest that they take yours and others and sprinkle them around. The latter suggestion is a bit more forward and a bit more “PR-whoreish” (if whoreish is a word) but if you can pull it off in good taste.
  • How about trading testimonials with your suppliers and customers who own businesses?
  • When you put testimonials on the websites, be sure to have an active html link that search engines can follow.
I forgot to mention the last part about testimonials. It’s just a nice thing to do 🙂 I’m one of those guys who outwardly says that I don’t care what other people think… but you know that’s a bunch of bull. I work in marketing for cryin’ out loud. All I do is care about what other people think. I care that you made it this far in this article to the point that I just might hug you if we weren’t separated by these computer screens. Write a testimonial because you like what “X” company has done for you. That positive feedback may mean they will improve that product or make more of it. That feedback may encourage another person to improve their life by using said service or product. Just keep it positive, and keep it real. ————————- If you are tired of the coporate rat race in major metropolitan areas? Do you make a good salary, but lose most of it to high costs of living? Consider a move to the Charleston area. Local Charleston, SC real estate agent Joe Klingensmith will help you find the perfect home for your family and help you select the perfect area of Charleston that will meet your needs.

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