Long recognized as one of the premiere lighter manufacturers in the world, it is fair to say that Zippo knows a thing or two when it comes to being a success in business.
Having remained in the trade for over 85 years, their reliance on an effective marketing strategy has been prevalent throughout their operations.
One of the key components to their promotional efforts over the years has been to use social proof to sell their lighters.
For examples of this, look at the three classic advertisements below:
Diving right in with the social proof
When it comes to Zippo’s approach, they didn’t beat around the bush.
The opening headline for each of the above advertisements specifically mentions the celebrity that supports their case that, yeah, Zippo lighters are great. In big, bold letters that stand out and draw eyes in, you have the names of popular figures of the time mentioned alongside the Zippo brand.
Not only does this instantly provide a level of credibility for the lighter giants, but it also helps to pique the interest of the casual viewer. ‘Why is Lou Little being mentioned in a Zippo advert?’ they will have asked. And as they ask that question to themselves, they will have delved further into the flier to seek the answer.
Both the reference to a well-known figure and a demonstration of the Zippo lighter's durability make this powerful headline.
The moral of this facet of the advertisement is: if you have a popular figure supporting your cause, don’t let them fade away into the background. Get their name up in lights, and show you have some social proof that will grab the attention of your potential customers.
Now, I understand that most businesses aren’t going to be able to obtain a recommendation from a popular public figure.
Although this will hinder the effectiveness of the endorsement to an extent, it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t get in on this form of marketing.
A glowing testimonial that supports the supporter
If you’ve got someone on-board – prominent figure or otherwise – to support your business, the next step is to get a quote from them that adds authority to your business and the products it offers.
You see, a business can go on and on about how their products are amazing and why the customer needs to purchase said items.
But then again, it’s a given that they would back their own product – they are not exactly going to slate what they are selling. And the customer doesn’t have to be a savvy shopper to know that.
That’s why some form of testimonial from an external source is important to provide a second opinion. It gives the potential customer that extra level of assurance that your product/business is the goods, and they are more likely to shop with you as a result.
Perhaps surprisingly, none of the Zippo adverts supporting this article have any direct quotes from the endorser in question. But you will have seen examples of this in virtually every area you look.
For instance, your typical ecommerce business will have a small sample of testimonials from customers, highlighting traits – such as customer service, product quality and competitive pricing – that paint their outlet in a good light. Or a new movie or video game that put quotes from journalists and reviewers on the front of their marketing material and even in the trailers.
The next point, however, will explain how Zippo got around the testimonial aspect in effective fashion.
The alternative to a testimonial: a case study
If you're unable to obtain a character reference that promotes your business, all is not lost. A case study of some sort could be the next best answer.
If you once again look at the Zippo fliers, you will see that they make great use of case studies. Take the Ernie Pyle-led advert for example. Sadly Mr. Pyle was not around at the time to provide a testimonial, but the well-known war correspondent was a popular name in America.
So instead of an endorsement, Zippo instead told a short story. This short story intertwines with the promotion of the Zippo lighter and, in a more subtle way than a direct quote, promotes the product successfully.
As shown by that example, you can fit in a short story with a minimal amount of words that can still engage the reader. Quotes aren’t everything and some customers can see through them if they’re overly positive. As a result, the more indirect route with a case study might be the option for your business when it comes to endorsements.
Since Ernie Pyle had died by the time this advert made, instead of a testimonial a story is told instead. There are many ways that you could use this type of model when it comes to telling a story about how your product or service helped a client as a way of an “endorsement”. Just make sure you get their permission first though.