Dentists in toothpaste adverts. Chefs endorsing cooking apparatus. Personal trainers sporting premium spandex. We’ve all seen and likely fallen victim to these tactics, being swayed by the presence of an ‘expert’ when making a decision about a brand and/or product. It all stems from the fact that as people we are prone to over-valuing the opinions of experts.

Using authority in marketing is about leveraging our irrational trust in the judgment of experts.

What your doctor would recommend

Crafty brands have been leveraging this practice for almost 100 years. Though it is hard to believe now, cigarettes were once approved by “physicians” with doctors literally lighting up the adverts in publications as early as the 1920s. During this period, Lucky Strike was the cigarette of choice and became the first brand to use the image of a physician in its advertisements – “20,679 physicians say ‘Luckies are less irritating.’” This continued into the 30s and 40s with one of the most famous campaigns of the era: Camel’s ‘More Doctors’ campaign claimed that according to a nationwide survey, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!” They featured doctors in typical settings with the inference that if doctors know what the effects of smoking really are and they choose this brand, it must be ok for you too.

Under the influence

In the present a (slightly) less controversial and equally as effective form of expert endorsement can be found filling your social feeds every day. The use of influencers to promote products has become widespread, with everything from car to make-up brands leveraging the power of influential micro-celebs who are in some instances genuine experts in their field.

Take Tim Ferris for example. The author and entrepreneur puts out a podcast that has had over 300m downloads and has interviewed the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Foxx. As interesting as the content though, is the roster of sponsors the show cycles through. Ferris smartly works with brands that match his fields of expertise; broadly health and business. When you listen to him promote fitness upstarts like Peloton or long-standing supplement partner AthleticGreens, it comes across as more of a recommendation than an endorsement because they fall neatly under the topics Ferris has built a career talking about.

Top tips

  • Identify endorsers in your category who can talk about the benefits of your product in an authentic way – Selling washing up liquid? You need a chef. High performance sports car? Racing driver. Whiskey? A Scot.
  • Don’t fake it – It’s harder work to find the real deal but they will bring an authenticity to your message that pretenders can erode.
  • Ensure the credentials of your endorser match up to the message –  Ainsley Harriott, while perfect for the fun family message of Fairy, would not be your chef of choice for a range of professional cookers.
  • Avoid endorsers – ensures your representative hasn’t jumped on every opportunity placed in front on them, diluting their impact.

This is an excerpt from our latest free report: Applying Behavioural Economics in Marketing

For a short time only we are also offering a free one-hour training workshop to inspire, surprise and expand the minds of your brand and marketing teams on some of marketing’s hottest topics.

By Greg Copeland

Behavioural Strategist