New Data Highlights the Power of Endorsements

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Vice President, Strategic Marketing & Insights

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The psychology of endorsements was recently taken up in a fascinating new study by Dutch researchers, who found that when people were shown images of products next to celebrity faces, “the areas of their brains involved in processing emotional stimuli were more likely to become activated.”

“In other words,” Dr. Susan Whitbourne writes on Psychology Today, “positive feelings toward celebrities transferred onto positive feelings toward the shoes.”

Voiced endorsements are, of course, older than any particular medium. Long before radio and television, people were making buying decisions based on what they heard from people whom they trusted.

babe ruthSpoken recommendations from our friends and peers hold an enormous amount of weight, and the peers we look up to and admire are even more powerful.  Before Michael Jordan sold Hanes, Mark Twain sold his own brand of flour.

Endorsements come in many forms particularly in our business. There are DJ reads, podcast hosts, sponsored content from bloggers, social media and television. But in all cases, endorsements work best when they feel authentic and trustworthy.

But radio live reads are unique. Most radio hosts may not have the same amount of fame as Michael Jordan or Mark Twain, but that might be for the better. Radio hosts are local celebrities. They’re more accessible, and more down to earth, and data is piling on that shows the value of these irreplaceable values.

In a new case study from Cumulus Media found that live radio endorsements outperformed their pre-recorded competitors by a long-shot.

The goal of the radio campaign for Blue Cross Blue Shield was to reach millennials and elicit a direct response. Ad agency Meers Advertising in Kansas City created a program using a couple of things millennials are known to have an affinity for—texting and popular radio hosts. The ads delivered a call to action asking listeners to send a text message for more information. Those who did received a reply text containing a link to an online form, which once filled out, would inform them how much money they would qualify for under the Affordable Care Act to help them purchase health insurance.

Live endorsements performed 10% better than pre-recorded endorsements, and 40% better than produced spots. In other words, consumers reward content that seems more genuine and human. It’s not just the trusted voice that matters. It’s the authenticity of a live endorsement.

Live endorsements are making a comeback after a revenue slump in 2009 pushed stations to be more welcoming of the format, Inc. reports. It’s good for radio and advertisers, and another case study found that the cost per customer acquisition was anywhere from 30% to 50% less than other kinds of radio advertising.

Radio endorsements even beat out endorsements on social media or television, with many listeners describing their radio host as a “friend who can be trusted.” The advertising format has also gained traction in podcasts, with hosts frequently touting scripted or impromptu endorsements of companies like MailChimp, Squarespace or Audible.

Here at the Altitude Group, we’ve had tremendous success with live endorsements. Here are some examples.

Troy Hughes and Kevin Turner (Dallas/Ft. Worth, DraftKings)
These guys went well above and beyond simply reading copy. They personalized the message and talked about their experiences with the site, and even challenged one another as they both tried to win the big bucks.

Lucy Lopez (Miami, GEICO)
Lucy did a great job of personalizing her spot, making it relatable to her demographic (young families) by mentioning a trip with the kids with the GEICO app.


Marc Bertrand (Boston, Truvia)
In this very strong read, Marc spoke about why Truvia is great for him specifically and is honest about his initial skepticism. This is how endorsements should be: authentic, resonant and entertaining.

One thing is clear: consumers develop relationships with their local radio hosts in ways that they don’t on television or social media. These relationships are powerful tools in connecting with audiences, and shouldn’t be ignored.