Real people are the best marketers

It’s called social proof – the belief that if someone you identify with and trust likes something, it must be good, even in the absence of real data. Money magazine once called third-party endorsements “one of the most powerful forces in the universe for anyone marketing a product.”

In a just-completed CRN International poll of brand marketers and ad agency decision-makers, it came as no surprise that 93 percent said they were very pleased with the results of radio campaigns that employed testimonials from everyday people. Additionally, a new CRN consumer research report confirms consumers’ interest in listening to real people and an increased likelihood to considering or buying the sponsored product.

Real-people testimonials can be much more impactful, influential and downright believable than testimonies of out-of-reach celebrities or the conventional advertising on which companies spend millions of dollars each year.

Smart broadcast advertisers understand that when real people talk about their real use of products, their stories and recommendations motivate and persuade shoppers. Too often, however, well-intentioned commercial creators will source, manage, edit and shape real people to the point where they sound like professional voiceover talents in slickly overproduced spots, basically defeating the purpose and turning consumers off. Or worse, they hire actors to portray real people.

It is our belief that the spotlight in marketing should be on the power of human influence, and that radio is an ideal real-person medium. Here are some basic guidelines for successful real-people marketing:

  1. Comfortable and natural. With radio, there are no distracting stage sets, makeup artists, wardrobe racks, lights or cameras. Comfortable settings with people in their own environment and clothes combined with unobtrusive microphones will yield a more natural story or conversation.
  2. Make sure they are consumers. The real people need to experience the product, preferably at their homes and for an extended period of time, long enough to create real stories. Encourage them to share.
  3. No scripts or “copy points.” You want real people to use their own words, pauses, “you knows” and bungled grammar, and all. This is how people speak. They need to be the ones telling their stories – not the copywriters.
  4. Choose a very competent interviewer. The interviewer must truly be skilled in interviewing, and should listen and draw out the best. Try a focus-group moderator, reporter or a talk show host.
  5. Think local. Your friends, family and neighbors wield a great deal of influence on you. Local people reflect the entire community in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. It may be a regional accent or turn of phrase or a local reference. Local people will create true authenticity that translates to influence.
  6. Extend their stories to other media. Repurposing real-people testimonials is a must, particularly since the work to generate these stories has already been done. Extend them to the web, social media and product brochures, as well as to radio stations’ own digital and social assets.