Hollywood Foreshadows Death of Testimonial Marketing

Hollywood Video

Though I’ve been part of the Netflix community for years, I still occasionally go into a traditional video and DVD rental store just for the retro experience, and last night I popped into the brand new Hollywood Video here in Colorado, just to check it out.
Walking around, looking at all the boxes of the new DVD releases, it struck me rather forcibly that the marketing types at movie studios have made reviewer testimonials so omnipresent that they no longer help sell movies. I was looking at some movies that I thought were just awful, truly appalling films, and they sported upbeat, enthusiastic, “best film of the year” testimonials just like the superb films next to them.

If critics can be quoted as saying a terrible film like Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events are truly brilliant movies, can we trust critics at all any more?
Of course, then there’s Sony Studios, whose marketing team pushed just a tiny bit further than everyone else by actually inventing its own critics and quoting them in its advertising (see: CNN, for example). Pretty appalling, but, really, how different is it than studios who scrounge and scrape to find someone, anyone, who has something positive to say about a movie? When they’re quoting an unknown film reviewer from a media outlet you’ve never heard of, you know that’s because there weren’t any more visible reviewers with anything kind to say.
This really spawns a lot of interesting discussions, one of which tilts at a popular marketing strategy of testimonials. Ask anyone in marketing, and they all say that customer testimonials are worth their weight in gold, that good testimonials can significantly increase sales. Heck, I’ve said so myself, and if you peek at the new Web site for my book Growing Your Business with Google, you’ll see that I have my own set of testimonials too.
But aren’t testimonials dying because we can no longer trust the veracity of any source in the digital age? Sony didn’t do anything that other studios haven’t considered, and even the infomercials on TV late at night have actors pretending to be the people whose testimonials are being cited (read the small print during the next infomercial with “simulated testimonials” and “actor portrayals” to see what I mean).
Of course, what we’re really talking about here is popularity again, aren’t we? Testimonials are valuable if they’re from famous people, well known personalities, and when they’re not, well, then they might as well be fictitious or heavily edited to fit. Popularity is a hot topic in the blogosphere too, and many bloggers have been trying to get a handle on whether there is an “A list” and if so, what it means.
I think that because every movie marketer can now find someone, anyone, who has something positive to say about even the worst dreck, the marketing value of testimonials are dead in the movie industry, and probably dying as a general marketing tool too.
What do you think?

2 comments on “Hollywood Foreshadows Death of Testimonial Marketing

  1. I have always used testimonials as a negative index of whether or not I wanted to see a movie, read a book, or buy a product. The more an item was praised in the quotes in the ads, the less likely I was to enjoy it or spend my money on it.
    And the more famous the quotee, the less I trusted his/her taste and veracity.
    So if blurbs and testimonials go the way of the dodo, I shall simply continue to rely upon the opinions of those whom I know personally, ad whose tastes I know well.

  2. Good comment, Mike. I now recall that Roger Ebert famously once said that the quality of a movie was inversely proportional to the number of star photos on the marquee poster… same basic idea, yes?

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