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Tech spokespeople: Choosing the human faces of device makers

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | May 24, 2011
From Beyonce to Ashton Kutcher to the 'Verizon Guy,' millions of dollars ride on marketing campaigns of tech companies.

Building this type of campaign can be difficult, because the company starts with no dedicated fan base. However, at the same time this type of campaign offers a lot more flexibility, because companies are free to do what they wish--they don't have to conform to the image or style of a celebrity to keep the campaign believable.

Relatively unknown model Carly Foulkes replaced celebrity endorser Catherine Zeta-Jones as T-Mobile's spokesperson in 2010. According to Jack McKee, Ace Metrix's vice president of sales and marketing, T-Mobile's "T-Mobile Girl" campaign has been surprisingly successful, considering its nature. McKee says that comparison ads are usually better in terms of communication, but aren't generally as likeable as other types of ads. The "T-Mobile Girl," however, seems to be an exception.

McKee says spokespeople must be relatable, whether they're famous or not. Perhaps being attractive also helps.

According to Rohin Guha, noncelebrity campaigns are where new media can play a significant part. Techniques such as releasing dynamic, interactive content (videos and the like), as well as fostering genuine interaction with customers via social networks, are crucial to building up this type of campaign. Of course, Guha notes, you can't force this type of phenomenon, making it "go viral"--all you can do is gauge your target and leave the rest up to chance.

Does It Work?

Knowing that Ace Metrix has found that celebrity endorsements aren't necessarily better than noncelebrity endorsements, you might be asking: Do endorsements of any kind have an impact on the market?

Guha thinks so: As noted earlier, he believes that endorsements from "real" people are important when consumers are purchasing expensive products that they see as investments. Jervøe agrees, and mentions that Intel makes products--chips--that are a part of people's everyday life. The key for Intel's relationship with is therefore not necessarily direct dollars, but the ability to create an emotional connection, through a "brand ambassador," with its consumers.

In the end, a successful spokesperson can mean different things to different companies.

And even the most successful spokespeople don't live forever. The "Verizon Guy" is a good example of a solid brand ambassador with a simple message ("Verizon's voice network works"). But messages change. After nine years, Verizon is retiring the "Test Man" commercials featuring "Verizon Guy" Paul Marcarelli.

As for the "T-Mobile Girl," well, we hope she finds another gig after AT&T finishes swallowing up T-Mobile sometime next year.


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