Endorsement Marketing: What it is.

Endorsement marketing is a really basic idea. Endorsement marketing is literally the idea of getting the word out about your product or service by letting other people gush about your stuff instead of you.

Because, let’s face it, happy customers or trusted experts singing your praises is WAY more believable and effective than you telling me directly. And with communications being what they are now, endorsements can fly around faster than ever.

There are three important kinds of endorsements that matter.

One, endorsements from actual friends, family, colleagues or anyone that you actually know in some interpersonal level. Those are the most trusted kind.

For example: Your neighbor raving about the fish tacos at the new tacqueria in your neighborhood. Your dental hygienist mentions how much she liked “Juno”. Your colleague gushing about her new Prius. See how easy and obvious this is?

Two, you can get an endorsement from a stranger, and those matter too, so long as they are deemed to have credibility. Think about the reviews you’re read on TripAdvisor or maybe Yelp where you don’t necessarily know the reviewer, but you detect that they are not acting in a self-interested manner, and are giving you their most honest opinion on a place. Those are also trusted.

For example: The butcher raving about the marinated flank steak to the customer in front of you. The guy on the plane next to you playing with his iPhone. The woman proudly clutching her Coach shopping bag.

Three, endorsements come, tacit or otherwise, from complete strangers who possess some form of suasion over followers. Think Oprah talking about a book. Or Robert Parker mentioning a wine he likes. Or Michael Arrington gushing about a cool new widget. Or when a radio station DJ talks about the new bed that they like. Oh, wait. That’s paid for. Forget that.

Which reminds me, there’s a very simple and yet incredibly important and powerful book written by Andy Sernovitz called, get this, “Word of Mouth Marketing.” It’s incredibly accessible, to the point, and Andy makes his ideas come to life with examples, and more importantly actionable things you can do to kick-start word-of-mouth about you amongst your customers. This is a book anyone interested in marketing should pick up and read.

For example : See that? OK, so I’m not Oprah, but there you go. If you weren’t paying attention, you might have missed it. Trust me, it’s a good read.

So which endorsements are the most effective?

In general, the more you trust or empathize with a particular person, the more powerful that person’s endorsement is. Hearing a stranger on the street rave about a nail salon means less than the other mom in your playgroup.

The difference in value can be attributed to the authenticity and purity of intent underlying the endorsement. Paid shills are too easy to spot as phonies. So think of the value of an endorsement as directly correlated with the authenticity of the endorsement.

Let me say it another way. What makes an endorsement trustworthy, is the actual purity of the authenticity of the endorsement. When a paid celebrity spokesperson talks about a product in an official capacity, consumers mostly can see right through that and often will dismiss the message as being un-credible. If someone mentions something because they love it and want everyone to know about it, it’s a whole different ballgame.

To make the point, think about product placement in TV and movies these days. We are now so hyper-sensitized to commercial messaging that when we see Bud Light featured in a reward challenge on Survivor, it comes across as contrived, and loses some effectiveness. But, when Karen yodels “Yahooooooooooooooooooo” after Grace quips to Will that he couldn’t find a woman’s g-spot if it were listed on Yahoo Maps, well, that cuts through the clutter.

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